Amazon Isn’t Always the Paragon of Usability

I bought a gift for my friend from Amazon. I think I ended up using the “Pay by Bank Account” option because they said that there was a $1,000 raffle for doing so. Hey, if you’ve got to pay no matter what, might as well choose the method that might pay you back (as long as there’s no catch).

Today I got an email from Amazon saying that the payment wasn’t authorized and that I’d better get on it if I wanted to get it to him or her by Christmas. The reason? “The reason your payment was not authorized was due to the phone number you
entered not conforming to established guidelines.” What phone number it was is not given and I distinctly remember selecting my billing address from the list of known addresses—and there were three or four of the same one.

So if this is a common enough issue that they’ve got an email prepared, then it must be easy to remedy it, right? I mean we’re talking the payment stage, where money changes hands. I would think that any barrier to transferring your money to Amazon would be limited or eliminated entirely.

You would be wrong. Here’s the instructions for correcting this oversight:

Follow these steps to submit your new or updated payment information for
this order:

1. Go to our home page (www.amazon.com) then click “Your Account” on the
top right menu.

2. Choose the option “Change payment method” (found under “View by Order”
in the “Where’s My Stuff” box).

3. After you sign in, you will see all your current open orders. You can
click the “View or change order” button beside any order and make changes.

4. Click “Change” button in the “Payment Information” box beside “Payment
Method.” At this point, you may review your current payment method, choose
a different payment method, or enter a new one.

Not only were some of the options not labeled the same as the email suggested, but even getting to the point the end with didn’t make the resolution obvious. I just chose one of the other billing addresses and hoped for the best. If I get another email, I’m just going to pay by credit card.

[UPDATE (12/18/2006): I got another email about the billing failure, so that didn’t work. This morning I changed to a credit card and now the package won’t arrive until after Christmas. Stupid, stupid Amazon! (Though I certainly could have ordered it earlier, there were assurances all over the site that I didn’t have to.)]

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