One of the many perks of shopping on Amazon is the company’s fairly lenient return policy. If you’re not happy with an item you purchased, you can typically return it without much hassle. But what you might not know is that if you are too trigger-happy when it comes to returns, you might end up with a lifetime ban without any warning at all.
The Wall Street Journal reports that multiple Amazon customers have received emails telling them that their accounts have been closed due to an overabundance of returns. In many cases, the customers were eventually able to restore their accounts, but that’s a surprisingly extreme measure for a company known for its great customer service to take. Imagine suddenly being shut off from all Amazon services just because you returned a pair of headphones.
“We want everyone to be able to use Amazon, but there are rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time,” Amazon told the WSJ. “We never take these decisions lightly, but with over 300 million customers around the world, we take action when appropriate to protect the experience for all our customers.”
After reading some of the stories from affected customers in the piece, the primary concern seems to be less about the fact that Amazon is banning account, but rather than the bans often come without any heads-up. While Amazon does occasionally send out email alerts about return activity, not everyone receives them first.
Former Amazon managers tell the WSJ that accounts can be terminated for “behaviors including requesting too many refunds, sending back the wrong items or violating other rules, such as receiving compensation for writing reviews.” In most cases, algorithms will surface the problematic account, at which point the Amazon employee will decide whether or not action needs to be taken against the customer in question.
Being shut off from Amazon as a digital storefront is rough enough, but as Paul Fidalgo of Saco, Maine discovered, the ban can affect more than just your shopping habits. “It was dizzying and disorienting,” he said. “You don’t realize how intertwined a company is with your daily routine, until it’s shut off.”