Amazon has a reputation for making returns easy—but many users have complained that the retail giant has banned them because they returned too many of their purchases from the site. People have been talking about such experiences for years, but a new Wall Street Journal article brings new attention to the issue—and reports that dozens of users have told stories online of their accounts being canceled without warning and Amazon informing them they will not be allowed to open a new one. Sometimes no explanation is given; sometimes Amazon cites too many returns as the reason. Though Amazon doesn't have an official limit on returns, its conditions of use state that it has the right to terminate accounts at its discretion. An Amazon rep tells the Journal, "We want everyone to be able to use Amazon, but there are rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time."
Former Amazon managers tell the paper that human employees typically evaluate cases after algorithms identify users with questionable activity, including too many returns, sending the wrong items back, receiving compensation for reviews, or marking an "atypical" reason for returns. "If your behavior is consistently outside the norm, you’re not really the kind of customer they want," says one former Amazon manager. The Journal spoke to a few people whose accounts were canceled, some of whom were able to get reinstated after much back-and-forth with Amazon and others of whom weren't so lucky. At CNBC, Todd Haselton notes that traditional retailers also flag customers who return items too frequently, but he argues Amazon shouldn't act like a brick-and-mortar store in this regard. "When you walk into an electronics store or a clothing store, you get the chance to see a product and, often, even try it before you walk out the door," he writes. "You don't get that same experience with Amazon." (Read more Amazon.com stories.)