Discussion: Is Amazon Right To Shut Down Bad Users’ Accounts?

Posted on 08/02/2013 in Discussion / 28 Comments

Amazon Bans Serial Returners

Amazon has a great return policy: don’t like a book because of the formatting, grammar, or a bad plot/sucky characters?  Did you just buy that copy of that book only to discover that the author is a BBA?  No probs, you have seven days to return your kindle copy for a full refund.

I’ve used this a couple of times.  Once, because I purchased a Wedding Planner ebook, only to find that it was probably the worst digital wedding planner ever.  And I’ve returned probably three or four Audible books because I couldn’t stand the narrator and/or the story.

Amazon is reportedly banning user accounts in Germany, according this article at The Digital Reader.  The users getting banned are what Amazon deems “serial returners,” or those who return items much, much more than the average user.

Amazon has the right (and is right) to do this.

Before you get mad at me, hear me out.  Amazon has a generous digital return policy.  Seven days is plenty of time to read a book and then return it, basically treating the service like a personal library (abusing it).  There are basically two good choices here: ban the abusers of this return policy, or punish all Amazon customers and rewrite the policy because of a few bad apples.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid in school, I always got super-pissed whenever my class got punished as a group, rather than the teacher taking the time to discipline the students actually doing something wrong.  It felt unjust to be punished for something I didn’t do, and I think that applies here, too.  Instead of punishing everyone, Amazon is punishing those who abuse their policy.

If Amazon is like most large companies, they have data analysts looking at reports and all that fun Excel and math crap those guys do to determine who is abusing the system.  Some might say “well, Amazon hasn’t given clear cut rules as to how many returns is too many.”  Yeah, that’s true, but I don’t think they should.  If they give an arbitrary number, those users abusing the policy will still run all the way against it, until they reach the wall and only then will they play by the rules.  Those really aren’t the kind of people you want as customers anyway.


Sometimes you gotta fire customers.  I don’t want my Amazon & Kindle user experience tainted by the users who choose to abuse a good system.  Do you?

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Jennifer is both a book nerd and professional photographer. That means she lives in the fantasy world all the time, whether of her making, or someone else's. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids, and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.

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28 responses to “Discussion: Is Amazon Right To Shut Down Bad Users’ Accounts?

  1. June M.

    I think that it would be great if Amazon toughened up it’s return policy by dropping those who abuse it. I have mistakenly purchased books before (went to mark to add to wishlist for later and clicked the wrong button) and then immediately asked for refund (without reading the book). I have also received a few books as gifts from family members that either I already had or was not interested in and Amazon traded them more gift credit without me accepting the book. I have actually never returned a book once I even start reading or listening to it. I figure it is like buying the print book, there will be books that I end up not liking or even not finishing. I guess it might be different if I spent a lot for the book (and audio books are ber expensive–I have just gotten into them recently).

    • They need to put the one-click button far away from all other buttons 🙂 But yes, their return policy is great, and I’m also fine with them being tough on those who abuse it. I’ve returned 3 or 4 audiobooks to Audible, mostly because the narrator didn’t live up to my expectations, even though I listened to a sample. It’s hard to not return digital books for money or credit back if you don’t like them, because it’s not like we can take these books to a used book store at some point down the road and trade them in for something else. We’re stuck with them and it’s money wasted, so I want my money to go as far as it possibly can. 🙂
      Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog’s latest thoughts >> Discussion: Is Amazon Right To Shut Down Bad Users’ Accounts?

    • I’ve accidentally one-clicked a book (ended up keeping it, though I haven’t read it yet), but other than the Wedding Planner, I haven’t returned a Kindle book I’ve purchased. I can see returning one for accidentally one-clicking though. The buttons are too close together, it probably happens a lot. I vet the books I buy pretty thoroughly so I don’t have to return them, because I feel like a jerk returning anything.
      Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog’s latest thoughts >> Discussion: Is Amazon Right To Shut Down Bad Users’ Accounts?

      • Jennifer, I haven’t even returned books I’ve hated (Kindle or print). The singular time I returned a Kindle book was when I ended up with duplicate copies (for some bizarre reason). To me, books are something you take a chance on, and half the fun for me is not being 100% certain of what you’ll find within the ‘pages’ until you get there. I guess I kind of treat them the same way as food. Once it’s been consumed, it’s been consumed–enjoying or not enjoying the experience is a lesson learned for future consideration. I’m waffling now, so I’ll quit. Should really get more caffeine in my system before I consider commenting places. 😉
        jabelfield’s latest thoughts >> ONE WEEK ‘TIL CAGED’S RELEASE = A #GIVEAWAY!

        • You’re not waffling, no worries. 🙂 I would never return a book I’ve finished, or read 50% of or even 25%. But if I get a few pages or a chapter in and it is simply awful and not what I was expecting based on the synopsis or the sample, I’m okay with it being returned for credit or another book. The reason for this is because unlike physical books, I can’t take my digital file to a used bookstore or trade it with a friend and get something else out of it. It’s not a physical commodity. Likewise, with food, if I’m not enjoying a meal, I would send it back. (I’m not the pickiest of eaters or readers so this happens next to never). But if I’m 3 bites in and it’s just horrible, I’m flagging that waiter down so he can bring me something else. eBooks are just too expensive to take a chance on, in my mind, especially since once they are yours, they are yours. That said, I do not support readers returning books they don’t like after they’ve read them. They should go to the library for that kind of thing.
          Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog’s latest thoughts >> Discussion: Is Amazon Right To Shut Down Bad Users’ Accounts?

          • I just meant food I’d bought at home (we don’t eat out very often lol), but you’ve made some real valid points here. And I kind of agree–there are more limitations as to what you can do with an ebook you’re getting nothing from compared to hard copy books, and other products even. And I agree on the expense. Whilst it’s possibly to grab a bunch of bargain, there are still a lot of publishers who charge as much (sometimes more) for a Kindle copy as they do for a physical copy of a title, which I find kind of ridiculous for exactly those limitations you’ve touched upon–though that’s definitely a topic for another day. 😉
            jabelfield’s latest thoughts >> ONE WEEK ‘TIL CAGED’S RELEASE = A #GIVEAWAY!

  2. Lauren

    I have no problem with this. Users who abuse the system don’t deserve to benefit from it. If Amazon changed their return policy because of these users, everyone else would lose out. I’ve only ever returned one book and it was right after I got my Kindle and accidentally bought a book while playing with all the cool buttons.

  3. I am not an Amazon customer, but I can understand them kicking out customers who return too many books. But still, I do hope they look at which books are being returned, and how often that same book gets returned. Perhaps some people only buy the one star review books to find out for themselves how bad a book truly is.
    Aurian’s latest thoughts >> Linda O. Johnston – Beaglemania

  4. Oh yes. I only mentioned Amazon’s returns policy in a comment on another blog just yesterday, but I hadn’t heard they were tightening this up. And all I can say is: about time. As an author, it’s pretty obvious why I agree with this. I discuss my sales figures and book returns and pretty much everything with my publisher for my titles, and I have suspected abuse of the returns service already. So for it to now have a capon that, and stated action that will be taken to help prevent this happening as much (I won’t say any longer, because it still will–not everyone will be aware of the changes, after all; plus, there’s nothing to stop a new a/c being opened on there once an a/c has been terminated, right?)–anyway, from an author’s standpoint, this is reassuring. From a book bloggers standpoint, this is also reassuring. For the reasons you have already stated, I don’t want my rights being affected by those who’re abusing the system. I couldn’t even tell you how many books I have on my Kindle, there are simply too many to count, but I rely on it for getting review books, for doing beta reads, and I’d be gutted if I had my Kindle rights revoked. So, yes, definitely yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly.
    jabelfield’s latest thoughts >> ONE WEEK ‘TIL CAGED’S RELEASE = A #GIVEAWAY!

    • I did read (followed some links, translated some pages) that they ban your mailing address. I could have misunderstood that, but it affects everyone in your house. So if my account was banned, so would my fiance’s and our roommate’s. I’m not sure if you can open a new one, but I’m guessing they have roadblocks in place for that. I can see how it affects author sales. Abusers of the system suck. And yeah, my Kindle is my eARC livelihood, I can’t imagine it being taken away!
      Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog’s latest thoughts >> Discussion: Is Amazon Right To Shut Down Bad Users’ Accounts?

  5. Corina

    I’m glad Amazon is punishing people who game the system rather than all of its users. I’ve returned books before, both Kindle to Amazon and actual paperbacks (back when I bought such things) to bricks and mortar book stores. I’ve never returned a book I’ve read, but I’ve returned books that I started reading and just didn’t like for some reason. Usually I can tell by the sample whether a book is going to work for me, but sometimes that sample just isn’t enough. I don’t see it as different from returning a skirt I bought in a store once I’ve gotten it home and tried it on with enough things in my closet to realize it’s really not going to work for me. Am I wrong to return the skirt (with tags, undamaged)? If not, why am I wrong to return the ebook (unfinished, undamaged)?

  6. I’ve returned one book before and that was because I accidentally clicked the one-click buy button. There has to be a way for Amazon to know how much of a Kindle book has been read (or how much of an audio book has been listened to) when someone attempts to return it. They should have a cutoff point for how much of a book was read in order to be able to return it. For example, if they set the cutoff at 50% – you can’t return a book if you’ve read more than 50% of the book. Lord knows Amazons tracks Kindle users, why not use the tracking to cut down on people who take advantage of their lenient return policy?
    Brianna (The Book Vixen)’s latest thoughts >> My Bookish Wants & Gots (30)

  7. I think it’s a great policy. I like what you said about how they shouldn’t punish everyone (by changing their policy) because of a few abusers. I think what they’re doing makes sense!
    Ashley’s latest thoughts >> Stacking the Shelves (60)

  8. I only just heard about the audible return policy last week, that honestly makes me much more likely to actually get any from them. Audios are just something that narrators can make or break. I think 7 days is plenty of time. I agree that would be the right thing to do. It just would be so wrong to change everything just because of a few select people.
    Candace’s latest thoughts >> Weekly Wrap Up, What Came in the Mail, What I’m Reading & more.

  9. TinaNicole

    I agree with you and Amazon, in this case. I don’t think it’s fair to punish everyone because some are abusing the system. I have returned several ebooks. I won’t return a book because of story issues. i.e. not liking characters, boring plot, or I just didn’t think it was that good. To me, those are all chances we take when we buy a book. I will, however, return an ebook that’s riddled with poor writing, spelling, syntax, grammar, etc. I don’t think those things should be something you are expected to take a chance on when buying a book. I’m not talking about a few typos or errors, either. I think that there’s a level of expectation that should be met from any book one purchases. I don’t accept that because a book is self published, it shouldn’t be held up to the same standards of trade or indie published books. I won’t hesitate to return a book under those circumstances and have done so often. If that ability was taken away from me, I would not be purchasing as many ebooks as I do now. I wouldn’t want to risk it. Good article. 🙂

    • I’m much the same way. I return books with poor spelling, grammar and in the case of audios, bad narrators. I listen to samples, but sometimes (although rarely) it isn’t enough. I don’t mind chancing a book with a plot or characters I dislike. However, the option is there for people who do return books for those latter reasons, to which I say, they should probably be using the library. I do think 7 days is kinda overly generous. If Amazon cracked down and said, “We’re giving you 3 days to return a book”, I wouldn’t care. I wonder if I’m in the minority with that though.

  10. Chasity

    I don’t like first person. It’s just a matter of taste, a preference. I don’t read books written from that perspective, yet very rarely in a book blurb does it tell you which perspective it’s in. So when I purchase a book and discover that, I do return it. Which would probably put me above the normative curve in terms of returns. So, if this is going to be the case, then Amazon needs to require greater clarification from authors and publishers on the parameters of the product.

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