Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


GIFT RIFT update

Several years ago, I had an experience not unlike my current Amazon gift certificate/refund thing. Let me tell you a tale.

I’m not especially good with money, and I’ve bounced a check or two (or 30) in my life. So, to combat that, for a time I was working cash-only. That is to say, I had a checking account, but I didn’t write checks… I took out cash and purchased money orders to pay my bills. I had to pay the 62 cents fee or whatever it was to buy the things, but it prevented me from racking up any more $20 overdraft fines.

When I was still working downtown I would walk over to this craphole jewelry store that had a bullet-proof glass enclosed Western Union in the back and buy my money orders. One day, I needed a money order for something like $32. I handed the woman my money and a slip of paper with the amount on it (I’d learned from past experience that it was best to write down the number instead of trying to yell through the two-inch thick glass), she pressed some buttons and handed me back a money order.

A money order for $500.

This is the point of the story in which I usually tell people that I didn’t realize the mistake until I got back to my office -- but that’s a lie I tell to make me sound like an upright citizen. Truth is I noticed it as soon as I got out of line and went to stick it in the envelope with the bill I was paying. I froze for a second, thinking, “Oh my god! That’s a lot of money… what should I do?” There was a sizeable line at the counter, so I just jammed everything into my pocket and walked back to the office.

Once there, I told everyone what had happened. And the consensus was that I should keep the money. And I considered it… I could walk down to any 7-11, cash it, and no-one would be the wiser.

But, ultimately I couldn’t do it. Sure, it wasn’t my screw-up, but it wasn’t my money, either. I stuck the money order back in my pocket and returned to the Western Union.

The same woman was working there, and I handed her the money order back, along with my receipt (for $32) and explained that she gave me the wrong money order. She seemed a little flustered, and told me that she had to call someone to deal with this (she was working in there alone). I didn’t think there’d be so much of a run-around involved, but whatever, I could wait.

Five minutes later her manager stormed into the building, a uniformed police officer in tow. He demanded to know what was going on, and I calmly told him everything I had told the woman behind the counter, which basically amounted to “you gave me the wrong money order.” But this guy didn’t seem to get it, and started grilling me.
MANAGER GUY: How much did you pay for?
ME: I told you, $32.
MG: And you thought that $500 was yours to keep?
ME: No, I didn’t. That’s why I brought it back.
MB: But you only paid for $32!
ME: Right, again, that’s why I brought it back.
I thought the guy was being a bit of a dick, especially considering I just returned $500 that otherwise would be a total loss. Finally it occurs to me that this manager guy is being so aggressive because he thinks I’m running some sort of con, and by god he’s not going to let me get away with it. I’m not sure what he thinks I’m trying to do, because I’m standing there saying look, you gave me more money than I paid for. I just need my $32 money order, please. But then I get pissed off.
ME: Wait a minute. I come back here to return $500 and you bring in a cop? I gave the money back, she has it in her hand right now. You should be thanking me! I mean, what the fuck?!
This whole time the cop is standing there, nodding. He gets it, sees that I’m not trying to rip anyone off. He tells me to calm down, and explains the obvious to the manager: this guy is returning your money, try not to be such a jerk and just say thanks, huh?

Afterwards my co-workers told me I was a sucker for returning the money. Maybe I was.

So. Yesterday I get an email from Amazon’s gift certificate department. It reads:
Thank you for contacting us at

I apologize for the inconvenience caused due to the Gift Certificate.

I've researched and found that you've received the Gift Certificate due to the return of the item "D-Link DI-624 Wireless Cable/DSL Router" on December 9, 2008.

However, if you would like the purchaser to be credited please write back to us.

Clearly, they aren’t getting it that I never bought the thing in the first place, so even though I returned it, no refund is called for. And if they actually sent out another router to the woman who did order it, no refund is due her, either.

But really, I read this as Amazon saying, “Yep, we sent you some money. We can send it to someone else if you want, but otherwise it’s yours to spend.”

I’m hesitant to write back and just say "yes, send it back to the purchaser, please"; because then maybe someone else is getting $50 they didn’t pay for.

I’m really tempted to just spend the money. Amazon is telling me they don’t care, and I don’t really want to try to explain AGAIN how they’ve screwed up. It feels like I've done due diligence in trying to give the money back. Amazon posted total revenue of $8.5 billion in 2005. Would they really miss 50 bucks?

Tell me, what would you do?


Anonymous Jane said...

That's the problem with a company that's so huge and automated - they make it so difficult to just talk to someone that you can't get a story like that across. However, they do have "phone us" and "e-mail" us options, so it might be worthwhile to try one more time to get in touch with a customer service person.

Your Western Union story reminds me a little of the time I bought a bunch of stuff at Target. When the cashier told me the total, I thought it sounded oddly low, but I paid and started to head out the door. When I looked at the receipt, I realized that I hadn't been charged for several items, so I went to their customer service department, told them what had happened and paid the difference. They were all flabbergasted that someone would voluntarily pay more under the circumstances.

11:21 AM


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