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Make service a 'Prime' concern.

Make service a 'Prime' concern.

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Peter Funt

Peter Funt

Dear Jeff Bezos:

Here’s what Amazon emailed me after a relatively small matter developed into a giant headache: “Your feedback is helping us build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.”

That’s a heck of a line, and until now I thought it was true.

I’ve written columns praising your company for its top-notch customer service when, for many businesses, it’s a lost art. Ever try to reach a human being at Facebook? I did after my account was pilfered by Vietnamese hackers, and it took two months to get it back. There’s simply no way to speak to anyone at Facebook and, frankly, I think they prefer it that way.

Amazon, on the other hand, is one of the few mega-businesses that actually seems to care. Yes, I wish you paid your warehouse workers a little more, but as I wrote at the height of the pandemic, Amazon’s quick and efficient deliveries really saved us. My job is to write about things I run across — good and bad, big and small — not so much for my own satisfaction but to alert readers and, occasionally, bring about change.

So, here’s what happened. For my son’s fiancée, Sally, I ordered an Echo Dot smart speaker and a one-year Amazon Prime membership which, as you know, includes music she can access with the Dot.

Alas, I forgot that Danny and Sally already have Prime, and the last thing they need is another $128 subscription. I tried to cancel online but couldn’t. I phoned customer service and spoke with “Edi” and “Christine” and “Suzanne” and “Amber” and several managers, each time being told, “We can’t cancel or refund a Prime gift membership.”

Wait, what? Danny and I each have Prime memberships, we don’t need a third. The gift won’t even be “delivered” by email from Amazon until Sally’s birthday in three days. All you have to do is cancel it and reverse the charge to my credit card, after which I’ll happily order something else.

The more I asked your otherwise kind folks to explain why this bit of rocket science couldn’t be accomplished the more they insisted, “We just can’t do it.”

As you know, Mr. Bezos, Amazon takes back all sorts of things, no questions asked, as part of that customer-centric stuff. In this case, we’re not talking about a physical item, like a tennis racquet, nor are we dealing with a third-party vendor. This is just digital code from your own company! You “can’t” undo that three days in advance?

Last year I wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “Before the pandemic I would have made a Saturday-morning project of driving to Griggs Nursery to buy tomato plants and a variety of herbs such as basil, sage and parsley. The other day they arrived, no worse for the wear, in a carton from Amazon. Delivery was free, as it was for my bicycle seat cover and the 8.7-ounce bottle of Shout Advanced Ultra Concentrated Gel Set-In Stain Brush Laundry Stain Remover.”

I lavished praise on your company for fast and efficient service during sheltering, when we needed it most. (Okay, I blanched at finding that three rolls of toilet paper went for $38, but that was quickly corrected.)

You’re the largest e-retailer in the nation, with close to $386 billion in sales last year. It’s embarrassing for those of us who support Amazon to find you being petty and close-minded.

I’m tempted to close by threatening to take my e-business elsewhere, but we both know I won’t stop using Amazon. (Besides, you sell my new book, “Self-Amused.”)

Just fix this for me and millions of other customers who truly want to believe Amazon is customer-centric, not egocentric.

Yours in responsible retailing,

Peter Funt

Peter Funt’s new memoir, “Self-Amused,” is now available at CandidCamera.com.

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