Amazon Gift Card Balance Voided

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Jan 9, 2020
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#1
Apparently I'm not the first one in this situation...

My family purchased two gift cards for a total of $535 to buy a laptop on Amazon. We are from abroad and can't use credit cards in the US, that's why we used this method. Oh boy, why did we do this? 10 minutes after the purchase I get this email:

Hello,

We have canceled your order and voided your current gift card balance.

We have taken these actions because you are attempting to use Amazon Gift Cards that are in violation of our Terms and Conditions. We cannot reissue the gift cards or reimburse you for these funds. If this activity continues, we may take a permanent action on your account.

If you believe you received this message in error, please call Customer Service at:

Customers within U.S. and Canada: 1-888-280-4331
International customers: 1-206-922-0880

You can find more information on the Gift Card Terms and Conditions Help page:

www.amazon.com/gc-legal

Sincerely,

Account Specialist
Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com
=====================
I read through the T&C and I have not broken any of them. Costumer Service said that an "Account specialist" would be contacting me in 48 hours. 48 hours have passed and nothing. My account is still active but my gift card balance is gone. My family leaves the US on the 17th. After that, even if we get our Amazon balance back it will be useless to us. I SERIOUSLY cannot afford to lose $500.
 
Jan 9, 2020
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#3
Where did you get the gift cards? Unfortunately, Amazon does not respond to us do you will need to self advocate. Here is our post on how to do it.

Where were you having the item mailed?

https://forum.elliott.org/threads/sticky-amazon-gift-card-issues-for-self-advocacy-only.10317/
My mom bought them at a Walgreens. I'm not currently in the US, she is. I had the laptop be delivered to her hotel room. If I had known there were this many issues with using Gift Cards I would've used Amazon Cash, though I don't know if it's any different.

I already tried every contact on that list and I keep getting the same response ("An Account specialist will be in touch soon") or no answer at all. Honestly, I don't think I'm getting those $535 back, which is more than half of our monthly income. I know it looks to Amazon as if we were some drug dealers from latin america trying to launder money, but if that were the case, one would think we would be dealing with a whole lot more money and we wouldn't be buying a budget laptop...

I appreciate your help, I understand that you can't do anything about it. Are there any success stories regarding Gift Cards?
 
Jul 30, 2018
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#4
Apparently I'm not the first one in this situation...

My family purchased two gift cards for a total of $535 to buy a laptop on Amazon. We are from abroad and can't use credit cards in the US, that's why we used this method. Oh boy, why did we do this? 10 minutes after the purchase I get this email:



I read through the T&C and I have not broken any of them. Costumer Service said that an "Account specialist" would be contacting me in 48 hours. 48 hours have passed and nothing. My account is still active but my gift card balance is gone. My family leaves the US on the 17th. After that, even if we get our Amazon balance back it will be useless to us. I SERIOUSLY cannot afford to lose $500.
Yep. It's a recurring theme: Amazon gift cards with high balance + electronics + foreign shipping addresses= disaster.

Please give our company contacts a try.
 
Likes: gonza23

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
20,745
20,324
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#5
My mom bought them at a Walgreens. I'm not currently in the US, she is. I had the laptop be delivered to her hotel room. If I had known there were this many issues with using Gift Cards I would've used Amazon Cash, though I don't know if it's any different.

I already tried every contact on that list and I keep getting the same response ("An Account specialist will be in touch soon") or no answer at all. Honestly, I don't think I'm getting those $535 back, which is more than half of our monthly income. I know it looks to Amazon as if we were some drug dealers from latin america trying to launder money, but if that were the case, one would think we would be dealing with a whole lot more money and we wouldn't be buying a budget laptop...

I appreciate your help, I understand that you can't do anything about it. Are there any success stories regarding Gift Cards?
Not that I recall. I hate to say it but there are a lot of red flags in your description of what you did that doesn’t surprise me that Amazon flagged the transaction.

We can only advise you to use our Amazon contacts. Wish I had better news.
 
Jan 9, 2020
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#7
I honestly can't believe they don't warn you about this. They'd rather take your money. I got a response from Amazon's Account Specialist. It says the following:

Hello,

The gift card you tried to use is not a valid Amazon gift card. As a result, we have canceled any associated orders.

Because you received this gift card from a third party, we cannot reissue the gift card or reimburse you for these funds. We suggest that you contact the party who sold or gave you the gift card.

Always buy Amazon gift cards from authorized third-party sellers. We will close any customer account in which we see repeated use of invalid gift cards.

You can find more information on the Amazon.com. Help page:

www.amazon.com/gc-legal

Sincerely,

Account Specialist
http://www.amazon.com
If the Gift Cards are not valid why do they let you add them to your balance in the first place? Why wait til I make an order? I know that the first $500 gift card was purchased at Walgreens, which, considering it's listed as a place to buy one in this link, I'd say it counts as an authorized seller. I'm currently waiting for my mom to tell me were she bought the second one (she doesn't have wifi right now), I hope that's not the cause of all of this.

Anyway, it's incredible how the Account Specialist team treats customers. They assume guilty until proven innocent and they have no intention of figuring out if they are right. They haven't even asked for proof. Once I find out were the second gift card was purchased I'll contact them again. I only have the receipt of the first one (and that's pure luck, my mom for some reason took a picture of it).
 
Jan 9, 2020
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#8
Not that I recall. I hate to say it but there are a lot of red flags in your description of what you did that dont surprise me that Amazon flagged the transaction.

We can only advise you to use our Amazon contacts. Wish I had better news.
Yes, now I understand that. Never imagined this could happened. But a multi billion dolar company with millions of sales every week should be more prepared to handle weird situations. How many tourists use Amazon with cash only? It can't be that uncommon...
 
Mar 14, 2018
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#9
I've always thought that the best bet for consumers is to file for arbitration (assuming they really haven't done anything shady). Since Amazon agrees to pay the costs, I would think that would motivate them to settle these issues. As far as I can remember, writing execs has never worked, so it may be the only hope.
 
Jan 9, 2020
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#10
I've always thought that the best bet for consumers is to file for arbitration (assuming they really haven't done anything shady). Since Amazon agrees to pay the costs, I would think that would motivate them to settle these issues. As far as I can remember, writing execs has never worked, so it may be the only hope.
How does one start an arbitration procedure? And how long do they usually last? I'm from Argentina and I'm not currently in the US, my mom is, and she doesn't speak English. Is arbitration even a right for non-residents?

I'm willing to fly there if my chances of winning are good, even if whatever compensation I get doesn't cover my flight and accommodations. I'm willing to bet it will still be cheaper than buying the laptop in my country (I'm not kidding, taxes are incredibly high here).

Once again, I really appreciate your help, this is the only place where I've found any answers.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
20,745
20,324
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#11
I honestly can't believe they don't warn you about this. They'd rather take your money. I got a response from Amazon's Account Specialist. It says the following:



If the Gift Cards are not valid why do they let you add them to your balance in the first place? Why wait til I make an order? I know that the first $500 gift card was purchased at Walgreens, which, considering it's listed as a place to buy one in this link, I'd say it counts as an authorized seller. I'm currently waiting for my mom to tell me were she bought the second one (she doesn't have wifi right now), I hope that's not the cause of all of this.

Anyway, it's incredible how the Account Specialist team treats customers. They assume guilty until proven innocent and they have no intention of figuring out if they are right. They haven't even asked for proof. Once I find out were the second gift card was purchased I'll contact them again. I only have the receipt of the first one (and that's pure luck, my mom for some reason took a picture of it).
They will not warn a potential scammer about how to bypass the system if you were a scammer, which I don’t think you are. That would simply teach you how to get around the system.

I believe the problem is that they were bought in the US, it’s a large dollar amount for electronics and you are asking for it to be shipped outside the US. They see a lot of these scams outside the US. I am certainly not at all implying you are a scammer, simply that there are obviously enough people who caused some type of loss to Amazon that they had to implement these policies.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
20,745
20,324
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#12
How does one start an arbitration procedure? And how long do they usually last? I'm from Argentina and I'm not currently in the US, my mom is, and she doesn't speak English. Is arbitration even a right for non-residents?

I'm willing to fly there if my chances of winning are good, even if whatever compensation I get doesn't cover my flight and accommodations. I'm willing to bet it will still be cheaper than buying the laptop in my country (I'm not kidding, taxes are incredibly high here).

Once again, I really appreciate your help, this is the only place where I've found any answers.
This is the information about arbitration- and you usually have to pay the arbitrator and It seems Amazon will reimburse you if the arbitrator doesn’t deem the claim frivolous.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=3122091

  1. Disputes.
    Any dispute or claim relating in any way to Gift Cards or your Amazon.com Balance will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court, except that you may assert claims in small claims court if your claims qualify. The U.S. Federal Arbitration Act and U.S. federal arbitration law apply to this agreement.
    There is no judge or jury in arbitration, and court review of an arbitration award is limited. However, an arbitrator can award on an individual basis the same damages and relief as a court (including injunctive and declaratory relief or statutory damages), and must follow these terms and conditions as a court would.
    To begin an arbitration proceeding, you must send a letter requesting arbitration and describing your claim to our registered agent: Corporation Service Company, 300 Deschutes Way SW, Suite 304, Tumwater, WA 98501. The arbitration will be conducted by the American Arbitration Association ("AAA") under its rules, including the AAA's Supplementary Procedures for Consumer-Related Disputes. The AAA's rules are available at www.adr.org or by calling 1-800-778-7879. Payment of all filing, administration and arbitrator fees will be governed by the AAA's rules. We will reimburse those fees for claims totaling less than $10,000 unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. Likewise, we will not seek attorneys' fees and costs in arbitration unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. You may choose to have the arbitration conducted by telephone, based on written submissions, or in person at a mutually agreed location.
    We and you agree that any dispute resolution proceedings will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class, consolidated or representative action. If for any reason a claim proceeds in court rather than in arbitration we each waive any right to a jury trial. We and you also agree that you or we may bring suit in court to enjoin infringement or other misuse of intellectual property rights.
 
Jan 9, 2020
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#13
... and you are asking for it to be shipped outside the US.
No no no. I chose my mom's hotel room as destination, in Florida. The whole point of buying in the US is that prices and taxes are lower. If it shipped to my country, I'd have to pay 21% tax + 30% on top of that. So 57% tax. And that's just VAT and foreign currency restrictions, not including import tax (which is impossible to know how much it is, it depends on the product), but I digress. Just to clarify, what I'm trying to do is completely legal. As a tourist I have the right to buy a laptop outside Argentina and bring it with me tax free through customs at the airport. If I had it shipped to my country then I would have to pay those +57% taxes, which is insane.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
20,745
20,324
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#14
No no no. I chose my mom's hotel room as destination, in Florida. The whole point of buying in the US is that prices and taxes are lower. If it shipped to my country, I'd have to pay 21% tax + 30% on top of that. So 57% tax. And that's just VAT and foreign currency restrictions, not including import tax (which is impossible to know how much it is, it depends on the product), but I digress. Just to clarify, what I'm trying to do is completely legal. As a tourist I have the right to buy a laptop outside Argentina and bring it with me tax free through customs at the airport. If I had it shipped to my country then I would have to pay those +57% taxes, which is insane.
I hear you- the problem could be the shipment address is a hotel.

Why didn’t someone simply go to a computer store and buy it in the US instead of through Amazon? If your Mom has money to buy gift cards she could have just bought one in a store.

Regardless- your only option is to use the information about advocating for yourself. Wish there were more we could do.
 
Jan 9, 2020
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#15
I hear you- the problem could be the shipment address is a hotel.

Why didn’t someone simply go to a computer store and buy it in the US instead of through Amazon? If your Mom has money to buy gift cards she could have just bought one in a store.

Regardless- your only option is to use the information about advocating for yourself. Wish there were more we could do.
All right, I'll see what I can do. Thanks again!
 
Mar 14, 2018
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#16
Amazon will pay all the fees as long as it's
This is the information about arbitration- and you usually have to pay the arbitrator :
The terms say Amazon will pay the fees as long as the claim isn't frivolous.

Note that you are not starting arbitration by sending the letter to the registered agent--You're basically giving Amazon notice that you intend to. Their legal department will then evaluate the issue to determine if they want to fight or settle (before they incur the costs). So this gives you a way to bypass their support group (even if you never actually file the arbitration).

Win or lose, though, be prepared for Amazon to refuse to do business with you again.
 
Jun 24, 2019
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#17
Most (if not all) merchants who sell by mail have a list of suspicious addresses. Hotels, mail drops, prisons, hospitals, etc.

So let's review the facts.

Our OP, who we assume to be a citizen of Argentina with an Amazon account which is linked to an Argentina address, has his Mother buy two or more Amazon gift cards for cash in the US. (Since our OP says that if he gets the gift cards balance back its useless to him makes me wonder even more. Or he opened the account only recently in this country with a dodgy address.) Our OP then adds those two cards to his Argentina-domiciled Amazon account. An order is place for more than $300 of electronics, and a totally new address is added as the delivery address, this time a hotel in the US, addressed not to the Amazon account holder, but to the Mother. The purpose is to take possession of the laptop here and return to Argentina with it, where there will be presumably less taxes on it than if purchased in Argentina.

I have no idea whether Amazon, as a corporation which does business in Argentina, is able to assist Argentinean citizens in avoiding taxes. (As noted above, the laptop could have been acquired over the counter at Staples, Office Depot, Fry's, etc., with no need to wait for delivery at the hotel. If cash was used at those stores, they would have no idea as to the destination country or the citizenship of the buyer.)

I have no idea whether this laptop has a chip subject to export controls relating to national security. If it does, the hotel address and connection to Argentina are additional red flags, and Amazon is on the hook to the government for getting this wrong.

I concur that if writing does not yield results, then arbitration is a path, but our OP will need to pay the initial fees (subject to reimbursement by Amazon). Our OP can do this long-distance, as the arbitrator will likely never award more than $535. And Amazon, if it chooses to fight, can simply point to all of the red flags, and, potentially, legal issues separate from the gift card issue as to why it can't complete this transaction. Fo example, it will insist upon seeing receipts for the purchase of the gift cards, and given OP's story, even if he has the receipts and the gift cards, they are cash receipts not showing that he (or his family) was the purchaser.
 
Mar 14, 2018
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#18
I agree it's suspicious as heck. I just doubt Amazon has the ability to confiscate balances based on mere suspicion.

Of course, if it does go to arbitration the OP will be asked these questions.
 
Likes: BittyBoo
Jan 9, 2020
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#19
Most (if not all) merchants who sell by mail have a list of suspicious addresses. Hotels, mail drops, prisons, hospitals, etc.

So let's review the facts.

Our OP, who we assume to be a citizen of Argentina with an Amazon account which is linked to an Argentina address, has his Mother buy two or more Amazon gift cards for cash in the US. (Since our OP says that if he gets the gift cards balance back its useless to him makes me wonder even more. Or he opened the account only recently in this country with a dodgy address.) Our OP then adds those two cards to his Argentina-domiciled Amazon account. An order is place for more than $300 of electronics, and a totally new address is added as the delivery address, this time a hotel in the US, addressed not to the Amazon account holder, but to the Mother. The purpose is to take possession of the laptop here and return to Argentina with it, where there will be presumably less taxes on it than if purchased in Argentina.

I have no idea whether Amazon, as a corporation which does business in Argentina, is able to assist Argentinean citizens in avoiding taxes. (As noted above, the laptop could have been acquired over the counter at Staples, Office Depot, Fry's, etc., with no need to wait for delivery at the hotel. If cash was used at those stores, they would have no idea as to the destination country or the citizenship of the buyer.)

I have no idea whether this laptop has a chip subject to export controls relating to national security. If it does, the hotel address and connection to Argentina are additional red flags, and Amazon is on the hook to the government for getting this wrong.

I concur that if writing does not yield results, then arbitration is a path, but our OP will need to pay the initial fees (subject to reimbursement by Amazon). Our OP can do this long-distance, as the arbitrator will likely never award more than $535. And Amazon, if it chooses to fight, can simply point to all of the red flags, and, potentially, legal issues separate from the gift card issue as to why it can't complete this transaction. Fo example, it will insist upon seeing receipts for the purchase of the gift cards, and given OP's story, even if he has the receipts and the gift cards, they are cash receipts not showing that he (or his family) was the purchaser.
You got almost everything right. I created the account from Argentina a few years ago and I've used it to purchase some stuff before (have it shipped to my country). I want to clarify, and this is important, what I'm doing is completely legal and really common place among latinamericans who can afford to travel. Computers, tablets and cellphones don't pay any tax when going through the airport.

The reason we wanted to use Amazon is because until now we had had very good experiences with them. Prices are usually cheaper than in physical stores, shipping to the hotel was quite convenient, and there were more options for laptops.

The problem is that almost everything you mention about my nationality, domicile, account origin, payment method for the gift cards, etc. is not mentioned at all in Amazon's terms of service. Amazon has no right to retain my gift card balance if I've complied with their ToS.

Is arbitration an instance to settle or basically a legal battle? How inclined are companies to just settle and avoid further legal costs?
 
Jun 24, 2019
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#20
To our original poster:

1. I have cousins who reside in Argentina. I understand the issue.
2. You should pursue Neil's instructions first.
3. If all else fails, you can commence arbitration, but the cost may not be justified, and you might not know all of Amazon's concerns about your transaction.
4. As others have mentioned on this site, Amazon is never going to disclose what goes into its algorithm to determine when a transaction appears suspicious. As outsiders, we can only guess.