Before I begin, this article is about how Amazon dropped the ball and how Brawker outperformed them. I use Brawker. I love the concept of sites like Purse and Brawker. Their business models are such classic examples of innovation outpacing the establishment. An article on Brawker was something I wanted to do but then the price crashed. Then sidechains and a bunch of other great innovations happened. I kept missing the chance to write about Brawker.
Writing about my personal experiences are not as exciting for me as writing about technology or economics or history. This article goes a little gonzo (absent any influence from Silk Road of course).
For three days, I’ve been trying to resolve a trade on Brawker. I had posted a small amount of bitcoin for some winter necessities. The final delivery date of the items arrives, and I’m short two – a Carhartt jacket and a flannel shirt. I ring Amazon customer service to see if they can tell me what’s up.
The first rep I spoke to told me that she could not give me any information about shipping or tracking numbers. However, she did say that she could not see those two items on the order and told me to contact the purchaser.
Editor’s Note: A previous iteration of the article implied that Purse.io might be vulnerable to the same type of Amazon Wishlist scam; however, Purse.io CEO has made it clear that this type of issue doesn’t occur on Purse.io due to a proprietary tracking system. Brawker’s multi-sig implementation may also limit these types of scams in the future.
That was a big red flag. When you post an offer on Brawker, you can include a link to an Amazon Wish List. The buyer makes the purchase of those items, and they are removed from your Wish List to prevent duplicate purchases. On Brawker when a buyer fulfills your order they post a copy of the order confirmation for you to view.
Amazon does not offer any service to confirm items were purchased or shipped for the user who created the Wish List.
When I told the Amazon rep that I was in possession of a copy of the order confirmation and that I saw the items on the order, again, they referred me to the buyer. Then I started getting frustrated. I explained that the buyer had provided the order confirmation. It was very important for me to have some document from her that confirms what she had told me – that she could not see the items on the order on her end. She did tell me that the two items I had not received were still in my Wish List. I asked for a supervisor or manager.
After a period of being on hold, a supervisor hopped on the line. Before I could explain my circumstance, he repeated that he would not be able to provide any documents or confirm anything on their end. I said it plainly, I have a person who is claiming they fulfilled my Wish List, but I have not received these items. I’m not getting any support on this from Amazon. I get no confirmation when an item is sold or shipped from my Wish List. I’m up a crick.
And that’s when Graham S., a supervisor of the Gran Forks North Dakota Call Center told me how to exploit the system.
“Unfortunately it’s a system and every system has abuse -” This is where the argument started.
“You’re telling me I’m a statistic?” I cut him off.
“No that’s not what I’m saying.”
Cue backtracking, me not letting him off the hook. So he continued
“Yes, there are abuses to the system. People buy items on the Wish List that are not fulfilled by Amazon. Sometimes those merchants take longer to ship, and people cancel the order in the meantime.”
“So you’re saying this is a known issue.”
“Then where is my protection? Where are the warnings on the site for the consumer that say ‘You may get scammed’ and let us know about this issue?”
“I will look into that for you.”
That’s when I gave up. I confirmed that he was going to do nothing for me. I asked for his identifying information and a way to identify the call center because I guessed Amazon had many outsourced. When he gave me his name and location, I confirmed with him a final time.
“You don’t care if I take this information and tell anyone I want?”
“No. You go right ahead.”
“You don’t care if I contact my local consumer protection agency and notify them that this is a known issue and Amazon is doing nothing to alert consumers.”
So… there’s that drama out of the way. Truthfully, I felt like the guy thought I was a stripper or running a cam chat room. You know since those folks post their Wish Lists for their viewers to buy them stuff. At least, I’ve only heard about things like that.
I’ve only ever had wonderful experiences with Amazon in the past. I’m writing this on a Chromebook. The original Chromebook never arrived. When I called Amazon support, they didn’t even ask any questions. They overnighted this one to me.
I grew up playing a game called Everquest, the original Pay-to-Play monthly subscription MMORPG. Sony had a monopoly on that market for years. They didn’t care about their customers. That experience left me scarred; customer support was a vicious battlefield strewn with the body parts of the meek and timid. I can remember entire portions of that game crashing, and customer service telling me “It’s working as intended.” And advertising the latest $50 expansion while I waited on hold for hours.
I started to wish I had recorded that conversation, but it didn’t seem prudent at the time anyway.
Next up was taking care of it on the Brawker side.
Not like I could just message the person “Hey, uh, are you trying to scam me?”
I had already asked for the tracking numbers and let the buyer know two items had not arrived. So I messaged that I was on the phone with Amazon and that the rep is saying those two items were never purchased.
They replied that they would contact Amazon and take care of it. Cue the second red flag. The buyer comes back with some response about their bank account and how Amazon charged him for everything but never shipped two items. They then asked if I could give them the amount in bitcoins for the items that I did receive.
Alex: I am on the phone with Amazon now and checking on the status of the flannel shirt and muskegon jacket. The rep is telling me that these items were never purchased as part of the wishlist. I’ve given them the order # from the confirmation you sent and they are saying those two items were never purchased.
Scammer: Something got messed up with the order; let me try to take care of it ok?
Scammer: Something got messed up with the order; let me try to take care of it ok?
Scammer: What are the two other items that were supposed to be ordered, the flannel shirt and which jacket?? Amazon messed up the order. They charged me for the full order when they only sent you those 4 items and not the other jacket or shirt. Please let me know if there is any way we can work around this….. Maybe you can give me the amount of bitcoins from the items that you got at the current rate. I’m at my wits end at my end here. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Alex: The Flannel Checkered Shirt and the Muskegon Jacket (The cheaper one, $60 not $160). If Amazon made the mistake then they will correct it. If they are not correcting it then I am skeptical. If you paid for the items why are they not shipping them once you pointed out their mistake? I will contact Brawker and find out what our options are.
Alex just filed a claim. The Brawker support team has been notified.
Alex: Brawker: Both Buyer/Seller are working together but we need your support to find out what our options are. Please review this message thread.
Scammer: To Brawker support team: I initially purchased the whole order then I canceled the order because I thought I did not have enough money to purchase it. Then I reenstated the order because I found out that amazon had already charged me for the full order and they said that the order was reenstated. Then I found out that 2 of the items that I initially ordered hadn’t been reenstated even though I been charged the full amount. So I called up amazon and they said that they didn’t see the order for the flannel shirt and jacket and that I had to reorder them, so they were no help. I called up my bank and they said that Amazon only charged me for 3 different orders of 129.99, $46.98 and $4.50. But they had charged me for the full 266 because on the morning after I deposited $360 into my account, then I tried to $240 I was about $138 overdrawn. So if I took out $240 and I thought I had $362 in there and the end result is $138 negative 362-240 is 122 Plus the 138 I had over drawn is about $260 what I had paid to amazon. So between the cancellations and the orders and the deposits into my account, amazon must have lost 2 of the orders even though I paid for the full amount. I did not have any other pending transactions in my bank account and amazon must have took out the money soon after I deposited money into my account. I don’t care if this seller doesn’t give me the full amount in bitcoins, I already told him that. This mix up is costing me a pretty penny. But if he would give me the 181.47 in bitcoins that I did get for him, I would really appreciate it. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me! Thanks.
Alex: For me, an amicable resolution would be to receive my full order. The buyer is admitting fault for canceling the order and if the story is true needs to work out the issue between their bank and Amazon. If they are able to prove the purchase Amazon should have no problem completing the order. Most of the time they just take the customers word for it unless they have proof the items really were never purchased. I was warned on the phone by customer service that it is a common strategy for people to purchase a wishlist, cancel it and then have a few of the items sent to the receiver in hopes that the funds, items, or whatever is being bartered is released leaving the receiver out their trade items and short Amazon items. I am not accusing this buyer of this tactic. However I am remaining firm that I would like to receive the order in full for the full bitcoin amount.
Alex: Furthermore, I feel that the buyer should have been open about this and should have posted copies of the orders/receipts and communicated this information long before today.
Scammer: Can the buyer tell the seller exactly which items are missing? There’s a sherpa jacket that he thought was the missing item selling for $99.99 not $69.99 like the seller originally wanted. The seller already got him the one for $129.99 and the flannel shirt is the other item. Thank you for your input.
I dislike writing about my experiences because this feels like a journal. Yeah, I’m choosing to air my flannel undies to the world but I think stories about scams and drama are interesting. Who am I to censor?
That aside, I don’t know any other way to communicate the He Said / She Said (I don’t know the buyer’s gender), and we should know about this. One of my favorite Youtube videos is of Milton Friedman “Milton Friedman schools a young Michael Moore” on the topic of Ford Pintos and safety. A student (who was not the real Michael Moore) made the claim that Ford could have installed a $15 part and saved X lives.
Friedman replies, “What if the part cost a million dollars? Should Ford have done it then?”
He proceeds to reveal the real argument. It’s not about quantifying the value of human life in a dollar amount and weighing cash and flesh on scales. Risk is everywhere. Each consumer has the right to decide for themselves how much risk to accept in their lives.
Maybe Ford could have said “For $15 more this car becomes X% more safe,” and let the buyer decide if it’s a good deal or not.
If Amazon knows that an exploit exists in their system and they leave it in production without alerting consumers isn’t that kind of the same principle? Maybe Amazon calculated the risk to be negligible. Maybe they are working on a strategy. Perhaps any of a million number of things that anyone could judge is good, bad, enough, insufficient. I’m not Milton Friedman. I don’t think all of Amazon should drop what they are doing to address this. I just want my goddamn jacket.
My complaint is that I should know my risk. I shouldn’t hear from a customer service rep that the system isn’t perfect, and I’m on my own.
Oh, a link to the full transcript is included in the end, anyway.
Scammer: If it helps any, here is the link to the muskegon jacket that was in my cancelled section in my amazon account: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007900IG0/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Alex: This is the jacket: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007900IG0/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=29I0VLGB53SX1&coliid=I3C62S9980NWC3&psc=1 This is the Shirt: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I9N1EQO/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=29I0VLGB53SX1&coliid=I28S2XRGSIPO0E&psc=1 They are still the same items. Actually, I just took a look at my wishlist and these items were never removed from the wish list. That means they were never purchased at all. Is there anything you’d like to share? If you had originally purchased them, like you claim, then they should be removed from my wishlist. Now I do think you were trying to scam me.
Scammer: Fuck you bitch
Scammer: I have no patience for bitches like you. How am I trying to scam you when I got you most of your items. Don’t talk if you don’t know. I want my money back mother fucker.
Alex: I guess that’s as close to an admission of guilt as we are going to get
Alex: I didn’t form a contract with you for “most” of the items. I formed a contract with you for all the items. You tried to take advantage of my good faith when I said “Usually I release once most items arrive” I will work with anyone to come to an amicable resolution but you are clearly mistaking my kindness for weakness
Scammer: Look I want brawker to give me my $181.47 worth of bitcoins, that’s all!
Alex: I was going to offer you the bitcoins for the items I received LESS the cost of the items I have no received and using the full price of the jacket (99.99 instead of 69.99) since your attempted scam is responsible for missing the sale. Once a Brawker rep shows up I want it made clear that I have no interest in seeing a scammer receive a single bit.
Scammer: I’m looking to get bitcoins, not to scam you asshole. Be careful of who you are accusing!
Alex: This also means the order document you sent me is forged
Scammer: Yeah you’re gonna run with wahtever I bought you with MY money!?? You must be kidding me bitch.
Scammer: Whos’a the scammer then, asshole??
Scammer: I’m negative in my account because of you asshole, some bitch that I don’t even know and you want to run with my money, and you’re calling ME a scammer!?? Huh! The nerve!
Brawker moderation message from Moderator
Hello, Nobody ever got scammed on Brawker, and we don’t want any of you to be the first one. Our support team will handle your case and figure out with you the best solution. Thanks
Scammer: To administrator: Amazon charged me the full amount for the order. The fact that the buyer says the items were in his wishlist is not possible because when I tried to go back to his wishlist on my end, nothing was there, so I don’t know what he’s talking about. I didn’t cancel the order because I wanted to scam him. When he said that he sends the bitcoins usually when “most” of the items are shipped, I wasn’t relying on his “kindness” for him to ship out the bitcoins. And I didn’t change any of my actions because of that statement because whatever happened with amazon at that point, already happened. Yes, I wanted to cancel the order because I found another source to buy bitcoins, but amazon already had put the order through. So I cancelled. But when amazon told me that some of the items had already been prepared for shipping and that they couldn’t cancel all the orders, I reenstated the orders figuring that the order went through and that I COULD get bitcoins with this method and yes that I am doing a good deed by getting someone clothes on amazon. But yes, I did think that the exchange rate for btc/usd was a little steep and wanted to cancel the order because I was going to get bitcoins from another source (which in fact I did) and that getting these bitcoins from more than one source at ahigher rate was not what I was supposed to do. If anything, that was my mistake from starting to use brawker in the first place.
Scammer: Ok, thank you Mr. Moderator!
The next morning I received an email from Brawker support (I believe they are located in France). I am not going to reveal Brawker’s strategy to determine truth/honesty. I will say it was very acceptable to me. Regardless, it was eventually established that the buyer had intentionally not purchased those items.
I had tipped off some other writers who were working on a Brawker article about this issue. It wasn’t until later that my editor recommended I just write a story about it. I guess one of them decided to reach out before asking me if I was through the customer service process. Which is kind of a damn shame. I didn’t think Brawker would turn me out like Amazon did. Still, I wanted to see their response without them knowing I was affiliated with CCN.com.
I hope we’re still friends, and I disagree with the moderator. I think this is good publicity for Brawker, but that’s because of how Brawker handled the situation. I’ve already admitted my bias. Also, it’s CryptoCoinsNews buddy, pal, fwend.
So in the end it looks like the scammer is receiving bitcoins for the amount he actually paid, and I am paying a scammer for trying to hustle me. I’m receiving the amount for the items that were never purchased and I appreciate Brawker making up the difference on that jacket for me, and it helps to take the sting off knowing that I sent my bitcoins to a scammer. My only recourse is to warn others of this potential attack vector.
Amazon turned me away, and Brawker picked up the ball. I think our community needs more companies with customer service like Brawker. Web companies are becoming part of the establishment. Amazon is too big to care about me. Brawker has to care about the community, effectively it is all the same whether they are motivated by greed or altruism.
Most importantly, Bitcoin companies are not too big to care. It’s still the Wild West of the Internet, and there is no shortage of scammers. This event is, to me, an example of why ‘us’ libertarians say “Let the market sort it out.” I don’t have any incentive to use Amazon Wish Lists anymore unless it is through Brawker.
I am going to continue to use the service, albeit only one high value item will go on an order to be fulfilled via Amazon’s wishlist at a time.
What do you think about the Bitcoin for trade business? Comment below!
Images from Shutterstock.