Squabbling with Amazon

April 29, 2023 • 1:00 pm

In the past, one advantage I found in dealing with Amazon is that you can actually talk to a human rather than a bot. Well, you could get to a human quickly. Now it’s almost impossible to do that.  (This of course is a perpetual beef of most of us.)  I call companies like Amazon only when I have a problem that REQUIRES a human being to resolve, but of course you have to keep stating your problem to a bot, and the bot can never grasp an issue that’s not absolutely common. (So much for the Turing test!)

Today I called Amazon because I ordered something with free shipping but, at checkout, they told me I had received a membership in Amazon Prime—something I don’t want (it costs like $15 a month). This was AFTER I’d already rejected Amazon Prime earlier in the ordering process. This is now what you see just before you press the “order” button.

I don’t fricking WANT “prime FREE for 30 days!”So I called the company to get that “free 6 months membership” off my slate, because after that month they start dunning you.  And of course the bot couldn’t deal with that.

After shouting “REPRESENTATIVE!” a gazillion times into the phone (I bet you’ve done that!), I got Mariana from Guatemala on the line, and she also proved unable to solve my problem, either. I finally realized how to fix it myself by realizing that they’ve simply added a second offer of Amazon Prime (they always offer it while you’re ordering it) but have disguised it as if it were an automatic membership that comes with your order. If you get that at the final check-out, click the “Try Prime” box at the upper left and you can opt out of it.

Mariana told me that I could eliminate these come-ons from Amazon myself, and she’d send me an email showing how. This is what I got (note what I’ve put in bold); my solution was supposed to be in the part in bold.

Hello,Amazon places ads on third-party websites to help our customers discover products and services they will like. Although we may have shown an ad we think will be of interest to you, we have not shared information about you, such as your purchase or browsing history, with the site on which you saw this ad.You can find more information in our Interest-Based Ads notice here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=GLVB9XDF9M8MU7UZIf you’d like to stop seeing interest-based ads from Amazon, you can update your Advertising Preferences in your Amazon account here: https://www.amazon.com/adprefs. Please note that if you choose not to see interest-based ads from Amazon you will still see ads, but they will not be based on your interests.For more information about how we collect and use data, please see the following pages:• Privacy Notice: https://www.amazon.com/privacy-notice• Cookie Notice: https://www.amazon.com/cookiesWe hope to see you again soon.

Best regards,
Mariana S.

Ha! Nope, no way to eliminate the annoying prime box, which they apparently now add (along with the other one) at the final step of checking out. Further, look at this (italics are mine):

Please note that if you choose not to see interest-based ads from Amazon you will still see ads, but they will not be based on your interests.

What good is that? I don’t want to see any ads! At any rate, I solved my own issue, but the Amazon human was of absolutely no help, and Mariana was unable to tell me about me the simple fix I figured out for myself.

But trying to get anyone on the phone was the most annoying part. Even when you want emergency road service from AAA, you are unlikely to get a human. I guess bots are not cheaper, but in the old days, if I had an Amazon issue, I could get a human on the line within a minute, and they’d revolve the problem equally quickly.

I am SO tired of calling a company and being given ten options, each associated with a number to press on the phone, AND NOT ONE OF THEM INVOLVES TALKING TO A HUMAN. Sometimes you can get a human by pressing “0” (they won’t tell you that); at other times you can scream “REPRESENTATIVE” to the phone (I find it helps one’s well-being to yell it as loud as possible), but sometimes you can’t get one at all.

Get off my lawn!


41 thoughts on “Squabbling with Amazon

  1. I used to get books via Amazon mainly from other suppliers, sent to work when I was at the RNTNEH library, which was fine, but since I left 3 years ago Amazon have lost me as a customer. I may use them again for hard to get books, but most things I getr from my local book shop. Like you I have no interest in watching tons of crap TV.

    All I would say is, avoid them.

      1. Try Bookfinder.com. Their list includes abebooks as well as other discount and second-hand listings. You can combine all listings for a particular book.

        1. Bookfinder.com is very good. You will often see listings of the same copy of a book from different sources– Amazon, Abebooks, or the actual seller. You can choose the price or venue you prefer. Usually, books direct from the seller are slightly cheaper.

          Abebooks, probably due to its origin among actual booksellers, is generally less obnoxious than Amazon, even after the Amazon takeover.

          Half Price Books has a large general selection, and their own website and chain of bookshops.

          For natural history books, new and used, Buteo in the US and NHBS in the UK seem to have the best selection, and both have their own websites to order from.


  2. This is very annoying and certainly vexing to many (especially to those of us who are no longer young), but resisting it is as futile as Canute’s (apocryphal) attitude towards the tides. Three decades ago, Witold Rybczynski wrote a fascinating book entitled Taming the Tiger, a historical look at cultural struggles with new technology.

  3. As a result of Amazon pushing their exorbitant Prime service constantly, I use them only as a very last resort. So far, I have been sucked in only once for a short while and have managed to find my way around (or canceled immediately) without resorting to the phone. eBay often is to be preferred IMHO

  4. PS use of the phrase ‘get off my lawn’ – surely ‘enough, already’?!

    PPS Comfort yourself with the thought that your dosh is helping Blue Origin compete against Musky’s rocket.

    1. I really hate big corporations. That is why I still have no so-called smart phone.

      Mocrosoft, Apple, Amazon, yes EBay too, grrrrrr! Thhey can advertise till the cows come home, I will not buy things I do not want or need. For example, I probably have enough sockage & trouserage to last me until I lay me doon & dee!

      1. Did I say that?! I certainly did not! What does it mean then? I assumed it was about trespass. How do you mean it here?

      2. I don’t think Dom was saying don’t use ‘get off my lawn’. I read it as adding the further exasperated sentiment ‘enough, already’ to it, which is a concurrence with Jerry’s opinion of Amazon. It was neither a disagreement in substance, nor an exhortation to change the method of expression, but his own way of supporting Jerry’s expression.

        (For those perhaps unfamiliar with the Americanism ‘get off my lawn’, it refers to a usually older person expressing disapproval of some change for the worse, and is often used in a mildly self-deprecating manner.)


  5. My own experience with the can’t-avoid-Prime checkout was that at least the free one-month trial period was indeed free, and they sent me a link to opt out several days before I would have been charged. Of course the link didn’t actually work with my Firefox browser with various privacy filters running, but I was able to open it with a different browser. All in all not a good experience — although I did take advantage of their free shipping during the trial month.

  6. I hate it when you finally do get through to the representative option only to be told that the estimated wait time to actually speak to a representative is over an hour! (Or sometimes even two). But stay on the line because your call is important to them.

  7. As a longtime Amazon Prime member, I’ve been very happy with them. Joined when I had a broken ankle and found what turned out to be a wonderful device— the iWalk, a hands-free crutches replacement. Would have taken a week and a half to get from anyone else, got it in two days from Amazon. They’ve mediated two minor disputes, and a major one with a credit card, always been able to talk to a live person within a few minutes.

    With every other big company I’ve been increasingly forced to deal with, and all took 20-30 mins each to reach a human. Chats have been installed to discourage calls from anyone but the truly committed or desperate. By the time I reach a human, I am in a rage.

    Last chat promised me I would be transferred to a live representative sooner, if only I would go through the chatbot first. It lied. I ending up yelling “representative” and pounding on the 0 button on that one.

    1. I too am fully immersed in the Amazon ecosystem. I buy just about everything from them because living in the countryside, it’s far easier plus being so busy with work and dog, I don’t have a lot of time to hunt things down. Even getting peanut butter from them is faster and cheaper than the gouging grocery store chains.

      Instead, I spend my time fighting with banks and a local pharmacy.

      1. Me too. Prime easily pays for itself, and more, given how much we purchase and make use of the video and music access that comes with it. I’ve also got an Amazon credit card and it earns 5% back on Amazon and 2% everywhere else.

        A recent disappointment though, Amazon has discontinued their Smile program, where you can choose what organization you want to contribute too and they contribute a percentage of everything you buy to that organization. For the past 10 years or so a percent or two of all the money I spent on Amazon went to Doctors Without Borders, but no more. They’ve axed the program as a cost saving measure.

        1. I considered the credit card too because so many of my transactions are on Amazon it would probably make a big difference in getting the savings.

    2. I’ve been a member nearly 20 years, joined when I only had a few days to buy Christmas gifts. It was cheap then, just about shipping, not all these extras. Plus one got four other memberships with the price, and while I managed the memberships, everyone used their own address and credit card. Then around 2015, it was changed to only one shared membership in the household with one credit card. My four were grandfathered in under the old rules, and so long as I remain a member, they get free shipping, but only I get all the benefits like the movies and TV shows.

  8. It has been a while since I ordered from them, but I do remember seeing those big splashy signs about Amazon Prime, while the button that said ‘no, I do not want to free shipping with Amazon Prime’ is in [tiny print].

    1. Yes, sorry to say, but abebooks.com is owned by Amazon. Instead, try bookshop.org, a nonprofit that benefits independent booksellers. If you want, you can select a specific bookstore to receive some of the proceeds from your purchase at bookshop.org.

      Bookshop.org is selling “How to Resist Amazon and Why” by Danny Caine, owner of an independent bookstore in Lawrence, KS. We all know we shouldn’t be buying from Amazon, right? But sometimes it’s impossible to find an item anywhere else–because everyone buys from Amazon and puts competitors out of business. Caine’s book is full of other reasons to avoid Amazon, which I consider to be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse: Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Zoom. And now there are five: Twitter.

      1. I will always remember author Caitlin R. Kiernan’s comment that Twitter was a ‘Chaos Engine’ and that the world would have been a much better place if it had not been created.

      2. I tested bookshop.org, looking for recent books from Harvard UP and other academic publishers. They had some of the books I looked for. Compare Bookfinder.com, which is not a non-profit, but will enable you to find a considerably wider range of titles, including a good range of out-of-print books, and some foreign-language books.

      3. What is the problem with Zoom? The alternative is generally Microsoft Teams, which seems even worse from a “who’s behind it” point of view.

        And Twitter’s been a cesspool for years. Musk has just adjusted the odor, not eliminated its stench.


  9. Abebooks can be trash since Amazon bought it. I was searching it a few weeks ago for academic press titles that are still in print. For any given title, half of the used offerings cost more than it would to buy the book directly from the publisher. I don’t know if that is lazy booksellers simply looking up what other booksellers are charging and then doing likewise without regard to whether the charge is sensible, or whether it might be Amazon creating an overpriced used market so that they can sell more new books.

    I almost always buy direct from the academic publishers now instead of using Amazon. (Alas, I don’t qualify for those so-called “examination” copies.) The service is far better; I have always talked with a human being when calling customer service. And the packaging is generally superb–packed by people who apparently care about books. Of course, my shelves are now full of titles I don’t have time to read, but those 30%, 40%, and 50% off deals are hard to resist!

  10. Gethuman.com is my goto when I need to speak with a rep and don’t want to navigate the bot mine field. Type in the company name and they’ll tell you the most direct way to reach a real human being on the phone. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, just thought you might find it a useful tool when this happens. Cheers!

  11. Been a happy Prime member for years. Have ordered a lot of stuff simply not available at local stores. Not sure, but I believe the Prime membership pays for itself in shipping costs if you order fairly regularly, and I find that the then free Amazon Prime Video has a substantial number of content worth watching. There are other benefits to a Prime membership which can be valuable.

    That said, shopping at Amazon can be a challenge. They push profitable stuff at you hard, but shopping, leaving, and then returning can get you deals that didn’t appear easily before. It’s a bit of a minefield, but can save you a lot of money.

    Their return policy also works well, if you can navigate it. Overall, few complaints and a ton of money and time saved.

  12. Corporations have basically outsourced their routine business operations to their clients or customers, so the time we spend waiting for a rep on the phone is money in their pocket,i.e. salaries they dont have to pay a real person. My equally big gripe is with businesses offering subscriptions at a discount but which automatically renew you at the end of the trial period, thus making people responsible for cancellation unless they make the effort (and remember to respond) This is despicable at its core.
    So I reject special offers of publications unless they specify that
    I will not be enrolled or billed after the trial period ends. Additionally you are lucky if you find a phone rep anywhere who can speak comprehensible clear English. They read from a script and it is almost impossible to get in a word edgewise or respond unless you firmly interrupt them and get their attention. In addition their script is never clear anyway. Many are the times I have to request to speak to a manager or supervisor because the rep cannot speak clearly, slowly or accurately. These phone reps, often in India or Asia, are the bottom of the job heap, employing people who dont require an education and are basically phone slaves. It is rare to find one who speaks good English. Much of this is just lack of qualifications but enhanced by the pandemic where people worked at home and had no supervision at all. Since the pandemic started, everyone has gotten sloppy, lazy and just indifferent. It’s like the old Soviet Union; we are no longer a first world country. No responsibility, no accountability.

  13. At 52 I’m kind of old school. I don’t use Amazon. I’ve had a friend order maybe 3 things in the past decade from them for me.
    Mostly I buy on ebay. It is always cheaper I find and I’m not an Amazon hater, but I don’t want to contribute to it personally.

  14. Oh do I feel this one!

    I recently had to try to talk to SOMEONE at two different companies/banks regarding weird charges on my bank ledger.

    4 hours spent without being able to talk to a single human being. All the same problems you detail. Never could get it solved.

    I’ve more recently read that this has become entirely deliberate. Companies really don’t want you to be able to contact them. They don’t want to deal with complaints and of course it saves them money if they don’t need people to deal with customers. So they make the “contact us” scenario so awful and useless, that people will just give up. It sure makes sense out of the experience they now offer.

    This is one reason I still stick with Apple products. It is the ONE company that I can still always, every time, and without much wait, get a human being on the line to help me. Even for products that may not be under warranty or apple care anymore. And they cheerfully, patiently work until the problem is (usually) solved. Just that level of customer service is worth paying for, IMO.

    1. My experience with Apple has been precisely the opposite. I don’t remember ever having a satisfactory contact with their “customer service” and on at least one occasion I was flat lied to. My Apple-loving friends are generally surprised by this, and routinely tell me I’m an outlier, but there it is.

      1. That is pretty weird. I’ve completely lost count of how many times I’ve phoned apple over the years and can’t remember one time where I didn’t get excellent service. I’ve phoned probably 4 times in the last month or two (given various set up and other questions we’ve had for family apple products)

  15. When I first signed up with Amazon back in 1999, I used my work email, which is a UK academic address ending in .ac.uk. I no longer use that address on my Amazon account, but Amazon clearly remembers that I once did, because during every d*mn purchase, it asks whether I want to sign up for a student Prime account. Not sure whether to be annoyed, or to laugh out loud because Amazon thinks I’ve been a student for the past 24 years.

  16. Another annoying trend with big corporations these days…Once you get past the bots and are waiting for a human to respond, they give you ads for products while waiting, instead of hold music. Not only are they using your wait to make money off those advertisements, but you have to pay attention to it to determine if the new voice you hear is the human customer service representative or another ad for another product you have no desire to purchase.

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