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Tread carefully if you return a lot of products to Amazon

If you’re an Amazon shopper who returns a lot of orders, then watch out. You might get banned.

Some customers have been complaining of having their accounts shut down without warning after returning items to the company on several different occasions, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Even worse, in some cases they’re banned from opening a new account.

While the company declines to mention in its returns policy that excessive returns can result in being kicked off the shopping site, it does offer a broad warning that it has the right to terminate any Amazon account.

The Journal cites a number of cases, including that of a New York City-based woman who spends thousands of dollars each year on a range of items from Amazon’s online store. She said that on some occasions she has to ask for refunds on orders of clothes and shoes because they were damaged or different from what she ordered.

Earlier this month, Amazon closed her account without prior notification, telling her it had done so because she “reported an unusual number of problems” with her orders.

In some cases, Amazon will tell the customer explicitly that excessive returns was the reason for the account’s closure. The message reads: “We have closed this account because you have consistently returned a large number of your orders. While we expect the occasional problem with an order, we cannot continue to accept returns at this rate.”

Former Amazon managers told the Journal that in the first instance, an algorithm flags up accounts exhibiting what may be suspicious behavior. Human evaluators then examine the case more closely before a decision is made on whether to close the account.

With this in mind, it seems that excessive returns may, in some cases, be an indicator of underhand activities. The news outlet mentions how some people order items simply to write reviews — for which the writer will be compensated by a third party — before returning them, a practice the company is trying to stamp out.  In other instances, Amazon’s user policy sometimes allows customers to receive a replacement even before they return an item, but some miscreants end up holding onto both items and selling one of them.

“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,” an Amazon spokesperson told the Journal. “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.”

It’s fair to say that while Amazon’s account closures are evidently part of an effort to protect its enormous business, it appears that the system for flagging up issues requires some fine tuning to avoid upsetting regular customers.

Amazon added that if you feel your account has been shut down without good reason, you should contact it at the earliest opportunity to resolve the issue.

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Trevor Mogg
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