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Amazon Has Lost its Mind (and Ethics, Apparently)

Posted by susabelle at 6:35 AM on January 5, 2012

This morning at 5 a.m. when I was checking my email, I had a strange missive from the Amazon Kindle store.  It told me I was being subscribed to the “Kindle Compass” for a “14-day free trial,” and that after that time, I would automatically be charged the usual subscription fee, to my credit card ending in **** which is on file with Amazon (they used the numbers of the credit card on file in my account).

Really, Amazon?  Now you auto-subscribe people to newsletters for our Kindle, without asking first if we even want it?  The ONLY way to keep from getting it (and paying for it) is to opt out on our account page?  Worse yet, there is no indication anywhere about how much we will pay for the subscription once the “trial period” is up.

Pardon me, Amazon, but have you lost your mind?

I’ve been an Amazon customer for probably fifteen years.  The first thing I ever bought online was from Amazon, and it was a book.  In those days, that’s all Amazon sold.  I have gone on to buy many things from Amazon over the years; not just books, but CD’s, MPs (that I can download), clothing, toys, special coffees, maple syrup, and yes, books for my Kindle.  In all that time, I’ve never seen them operate this way.

Of course I was suspicious, because this didn’t really seem like something Amazon would do.  But the email address was legitimate and when I hit “reply” it was an Amazon address that came up in the “to” box.  The links in the email (to the “manage my subscriptions” and “Kindle Support” areas on Amazon) were legitimate and took me to those destinations.  They were not spoofed, and neither was the email.  And the subscription to this new newsletter, the Kindle Compass, was on my list of subscriptions.  I immediately canceled it, and got the confirmation email that I canceled it.

Then I got on the phone to my mother in Florida (yes, at 5 a.m.) and made sure she checked her email while I was talking to her, and helped her to unsubscribe.  In her case, the email from Amazon ended up in her spam filter, where she may have never seen it in the first place.  I also posted on my Facebook account, catching all of my friends who have gotten Kindles recently, so they could take care of it as well.  But how many others are not going to be notified, or think the notification is spam and ignore it.

And even if the subscription ends up being free, and no one is charged anything, just the fact that Amazon would do this in the first place is more than disturbing.  It is appalling.  In this day and age, when we have a million choices online to buy products and services, Amazon just made one of the biggest faux pas I’ve ever seen!  The Amazon customer service forum is in an uproar this morning, and it’s not even daylight yet.  How many people, like me, are waking up to the same email?  How many hundreds of thousands, or should I say MILLIONS of Amazon users are waking up to the same email?

Shame shame shame on you, Amazon.  I thought you were better than this.  Of all the sneaky, underhanded, low-ball ways to do business…

Do you want to let Amazon know how you feel?  Customer service can be reached at 866-321-8851.  You can also see what people are saying on the Amazon Kindle customer support forum, you can visit http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle%20customer%20service%20q%20and%20a?_encoding=UTF8&ref_=hp_kindle_ss_csforum

17 Comments

  1. From Clinton at 9:53 am on January 5, 2012

    Interesting. I haven’t received any such email and there does not appear to be anything in my Kindle subscription settings about this Compass. I’ll keep an eye out. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. From Kathy Detweiler at 10:10 am on January 5, 2012

    I posted your article on Amazon’s Facebook page and the Kindle Facebook page. I was so mad when I got an email saying that I had been subscribed to some magazine without my knowledge or permission. Thanks for posting this!

  3. From Paul Sylvester at 10:36 am on January 5, 2012

    I posted this on my website in to help make people more aware of this situation. I still don’t know what it supposed to do!

  4. From Grimby at 10:41 am on January 5, 2012

    It’s funny that you never contacted Amazon to find out if this was real, but instead clicked on links in an email you suspected of being malicious or fake. In fact, I still don’t see in the article where you’ve contact Amazon for comment or clarification on the issue.

  5. From susabelle at 11:04 am on January 5, 2012

    I did not contact Amazon yet today. Phone lines are totally taxed, I imagine due to higher than normal call volume. As for taking the links, yes, I did, because they were not spoofed nor malicious. They went straight to my account with Amazon and straight to my Kindle management page, or I wouldn’t have taken them in the first place. I’m not that stupid.

  6. From Blaze at 1:16 pm on January 5, 2012

    The lines were “Taxed”? So Amazon’s phone system tells you how many people are in queue? Yet you still had time to post this article?
    If you would have called like others (meaning be patient) or even sent an email, you would have seen that there is no charge. You’ll continue to get the membership at no cost after the 14 days. “Shame on you, I thought you were better than this.”
    Interesting that you didn’t call but you left the information for everyone else to do that… using the power of the internet eh?

  7. From susabelle at 1:18 pm on January 5, 2012

    Have tried to call twice, while sitting each time for more than ten minutes on hold, I had to hang up and move on to other things. Email? Just to receive an auto-response?

    I stand by my article and my opinions. This was a very poor decision on Amazon’s part to handle this the way they did.

  8. From Nate at 1:23 pm on January 5, 2012

    Just checked my email, spam folder and subscriptions – no sign of anything regarding Kindle Compass.

  9. From Kathy Detweiler at 1:23 pm on January 5, 2012

    The not charging is all well and good, but the email was so poorly worded that anyone would think that they had been signed up for a magazine subscription that they would be responsible to pay for, why else call it a 14 day trial???

  10. From Dudefella at 1:52 pm on January 5, 2012

    The email clearly states that the subscription will be billed at the astronomical fee of $0.00

    How does this kind of poor reading make its way into so many blogs…

    So no, not shame on Amazon. Shame on you for spreading foolish, misinformed and baseless vitriol towards a company that offered you a free service to keep updated on new features of your device. Lost its ethics my tits.

  11. From Keith Thompson at 2:05 pm on January 5, 2012

    Can you show us a copy of the e-mail?

    Even if the newsletter is free, signing people up for it and requiring them to unsubscribe is not acceptable. It’s called spam. A single message offering an opt-in subscription would be ok (though some might argue about that).

    And why would the message mention your credit card number?

  12. From Keith Thompson at 2:15 pm on January 5, 2012

    On

    http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdThread=TxD8E5M8V47M9H

    somebody has posted a copy of the message. Some noteworthy things about it:

    * The “Current Price” is $0.00 per month. There is no indication of what that price will be after the “free trial”.
    * It mentions a “1st Billing Date” and a payment method, clearly implying that there will be some charge.
    * Several commenters in the forum discussion say that there would be a non-zero charge; I can’t confirm any of that.
    * It’s quite possible that no money will ever be charged for this newsletter, but the quoted message implies otherwise.

    I suspect somebody at Amazon just did a very poor job of handling this.

    (Is the newsletter delivered by e-mail, or just on the Kindle? If the latter, perhaps it doesn’t actually qualify as spam.)

    Quoted message follows:
    =======================================
    Hello from Amazon.com,

    Your free trial to The Kindle Compass (bi-weekly) has started – you can begin reading on your Kindle. If you enjoy your free trial, do nothing and your subscription will automatically continue at the monthly subscription rate.

    Subscription name: The Kindle Compass (bi-weekly)

    Current Price: $0.00 per month

    Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

    Start Date: 01/05/12

    Free Trial Length: 14 Days

    1st Billing Date: 01/19/12

    Payment Method: Card ending in xxxx

    To change your payment method, cancel your subscription or see further subscription details, please visit http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindlesubscriptions

    If you have any questions or require assistance, please visit http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport
    Thank You. We hope you enjoy your Kindle subscription to The Kindle Compass (bi-weekly)

    Best regards,
    The Amazon Kindle Team

    Note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only e-mail address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply directly to this message.

  13. From d1val at 2:23 pm on January 5, 2012

    Shame on GNC, a blogger who doesn’t read before posting. I mean, I wouldn’t mind if starbucks comes to my place and give me a free morning coffee.

    Apparently most people had $0.00 written too.

  14. From Blaze at 2:33 pm on January 5, 2012

    Wow! 10 whole minutes? I’ve waited much longer for Credit Card companies.
    Email response: “Hello, I’m sorry to hear about the trouble you had. Your patience and understanding is highly appreciated in this matter. Please be informed that, The Kindle Compass is an editorial magazine designed to help our longtime customers get the most out of their Kindle reading experience. It is delivered wirelessly to Kindle devices, free of charge. You will not be charged even after the free trial period. We are currently delivering the magazine to a random subset of Kindle longtime customers. Customers who wish to unsubscribe from The Kindle Compass can do so from a link in the last section of the magazine, or from the Manage Your Kindle Subscriptions page at http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindlesubscriptions Please note that, At this time we are not able to subscribe additional customers, but we look forward to making The Kindle Compass available to more customers in the future. After reading this information, If you’d still like to cancel the “Kindle Compass.” Please do write back to us from the URL below, I can assure you that, We’ll cancel it right away.”

  15. From susabelle at 3:31 pm on January 5, 2012

    Sorry, the email from Amazon listed NO PRICE and when I went over to unsubscribe, it ALSO had no price. I believe Amazon may have fixed this later in the day, but when I got the email at 5 a.m., it most CLEARLY had no price at all attached to it. No zeros, no $19.99, no nothing. No pricing indicated at all, and a search of their site turned up nothing with the keywords “Kindle Compass.” I don’t make assumptions, I do investigations, and trust me that when I post, it’s because I’ve done what I needed to do on the front end.

  16. From susabelle at 3:35 pm on January 5, 2012

    This is the email I received, in its entirety, with headers removed. The email arrived in my email box at 12:54 AM 1/5/12, at the email address I had given to Amazon when I became a member 15 years ago. This information (for me) has never changed.

    Hello from Amazon.com,

    Your free trial to The Kindle Compass (bi-weekly) has started – you can begin reading on your Kindle. If you enjoy your free trial, do nothing and your subscription will automatically continue at the monthly subscription rate.

    Subscription name: The Kindle Compass (bi-weekly)

    Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

    Start Date: 01/05/12

    Free Trial Length: 14 Days

    1st Billing Date: 01/19/12

    Payment Method: Card ending in **** [NOTE: I edited the numbers out because I don't think this information is something I want to share]

    To change your payment method, cancel your subscription or see further subscription details, please visit http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindlesubscriptions

    If you have any questions or require assistance, please visit http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport
    Thank You. We hope you enjoy your Kindle subscription to The Kindle Compass (bi-weekly)

    Best regards,
    The Amazon Kindle Team

    Note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only e-mail address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply directly to this message.

  17. From John Hood at 1:06 pm on January 6, 2012

    This is called “Negative Option Marketing” and is illegal in many states. In Wisconsin, the fine is $5000 per offense, as in, per email sent. You may want to find out if it’s illegal in your state and if so, inform Amazon Kindle of this. If they pursue, notify the state’s A.G., or at least threaten to.