Trouble Comes In Threes – Part Three: Amazon

OK… so having been left with a dead printer in the wake of the complete fiasco of Microsoft’s recent Windows Update, I needed a replacement. A check of Amazon’s various offerings and the shortlist narrowed to an OfficeJet 8210 (basically the latest version of the unit that had just died). Now, in fairness, you might be wondering: hang on, if you’ve just had one HP printer trash itself under very suspicious circumstances, why would you throw more money at HP? Are you mad?

Well, yes. I did quite a bit of research, looking at offerings from Epson, Canon and the closest I could get in terms of specification was the Epson EcoTank ET-4500. On the positive side of things, it comes with vast ink tanks – and the ability to buy bottles of ink that top up the tanks at an extremely reasonable cost. As a bonus it has a good quality epson scanner – even with a paper feeder – built in. On the down side it is not cheap [£350], but the clincher was that it has a reputation for poor print quality, where the HP is always super-crisp.

Do I print so much that the economy of the Epson would make a big difference? No. Do I need the scanner? No. And the clincher was that I could buy five of the HP printers for the price of one of the Epsons… Even if the HP died at a year old… it would still work out cheaper than if the Epson lasted 4 years…

OK, decision made, I ordered one, from a very well-reviewed Amazon reseller, at 11:19am on Sunday 18th March.

At 09:42 on Monday 19th March [the next day] I received an email to tell me that the printer had been dispatched by Royal Mail and was expected by Thursday, 22nd March.

Thursday came round. No printer.
Friday. Nothing.
Saturday. Zip, zilch.
Sunday. Nada.

OK, time for a polite check with the reseller… I dropped them an email to ask if I might have the Shipping Number from Royal Mail, so I could trace the printer. I received a reply within 30 minutes, to say that there was nobody in the office on Sunday [the message picked up on a mobile phone] but that I would have a reply first thing Monday. Well, can’t argue with that…

At 10:32 on Monday 26th March I received an email from the reseller which read,

Thank you for your recent order. However, the following items are on Back Order with our Suppliers and not due in for another month.

I a very sorry regarding this.

1x D9L63A#A81 – HP OfficeJet Pro 8210 Printer Instant Ink Compatible

Are you happy to wait for these to come back in to stock, or would you like to me to locate an alternative for you? If you prefer, I can refund these items for you. If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

Wait, what? I got an email exactly one week previously, telling me that you had shipped this printer. Now I ask you where it has got to, you tell me that you never had it in the first place? What the #### is going on? I was properly angry. It’s not the first time I’ve had an issue with an Amazon reseller – and although I’ll never be able to prove it, I have a suspicion that what some do is to claim shipment [to get Amazon to pay them], order the goods from a wholesaler, then ship them out once they arrive. Easy and requires no up-front cash. OK, time to complain to Amazon.

I wrote Amazon quite the snot-o-gram, mainly because I was angry with them for allowing this dubious practice and for deducting money from my credit card when they had not received any evidence from the reseller to show that the goods had actually shipped. I received an acknowledgement from Amazon [not a copy of my email] at 12:10 on Monday 26th.

At 13:44, I received another email from Amazon, telling me that I had asked for a refund and that in so doing, my comments had been, “Did not receive full order, after dispatching and charging why you said the item is due for another one month, hence filing for a full refund.” Except: I had not asked for a refund – in fact my note to the reseller had asked them to explain what they proposed to do to rectify the issue – and I most certainly had not written the words attributed to me in the Amazon email….

What the #### was going on?

I immediately wrote a brief note to the reseller to let them know that I had not initiated a refund request – that this was all Amazon’s doing – and that I was still waiting to hear from them…

At 14:40 on Monday 26th, I received a full explanation from the reseller, which reads,

Apologies it was marked as dispatched by Amazon, they do not have access to our tracking therefore they estimate and assume.

Would you like to cancel the order or are you okay to wait?”

Wait, what? Are you telling me that Amazon just “decided” that the reseller had shipped the printer, and decided to bill me anyway? Yes, apparently. That is exactly what the reseller was telling me.

Stop and think about that for a moment… Amazon handle the order, pass the details to the reseller – and then, entirely by themselves, decide when they think the reseller will ship the goods – and then they bill the customer for the goods. They have absolutely no evidence that the reseller has in fact shipped the goods. But, by billing the customer’s credit card, they grab the money and put it in their bank account immediately.

Then, at some point [and it isn’t clear to me how or when this happens] Amazon gives the reseller the value of the order, less the commission they [Amazon] take from the sale. So why would they operate like this? They communicate the order details to the reseller, surely they have the means to allow the reseller to log in to a page and confirm shipment?

No.

And here’s why. When you think about the number of orders placed with resellers every single day, the sums of money must run to tens or hundreds of millions of pounds [and dollars, euro’s, yuan, yen and so on]. By taking the money from the customer – and then perhaps not paying the reseller for a couple of days – Amazon get the opportunity to “overnight” that money. What does that mean? It means that they put it up as collateral [it’s not their money – no risk to them!] for overnight loans, likely facilitated by their bank and most likely using something like LIBOR [the London Inter-Bank Overnight Rate]. In other words, if a bank or major borrower needs short-term liquidity, they can borrow money literally for one night. The duration is short, but the size of the loans are so huge [to balance the books] that a worthwhile amount of interest can be charged. Exept, of course, that anyone offering the money for a loan is going to earn a nice little bit of interest. Amazon would be able to earn interest on other people’s money.

In Summary
Amazon are ripping everyone off. They are sending emails as confirmation of shipment, yet doing so with no evidence that goods have been shipped. They are taking money from clients.

Section Two of The Fraud Act of 2006 notes that Fraud can occur by false representation:-

2  Fraud by false representation
(1)A person is in breach of this section if he—
(a)dishonestly makes a false representation, and
(b)intends, by making the representation—
(i)to make a gain for himself or another, or
(ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

(2)A representation is false if—
(a)it is untrue or misleading, and
(b)the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.

(3)“Representation” means any representation as to fact or law, including a  representation as to the state of mind of—
(a)the person making the representation, or
(b)any other person.

(4)A representation may be express or implied.

(5)For the purposes of this section a representation may be regarded as made if it (or anything implying it) is submitted in any form to any system or device designed to receive, convey or respond to communications (with or without human intervention).

So: when Amazon tell you that goods have shipped – and charge your card – with no knowledge of whether or not that has happened, are they committing fraud? You be the judge.

Bastards. Utter, utter Bastards.