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Merchant Service Disaster: Amazon Pay and the Disappearing $2300

This is a story of a small e-commerce merchant who signed up for Amazon Pay: a payment processing service similar to PayPal that leverages customers’ existing Amazon accounts. It all seemed so promising. Amazon Pay would provide an easier checkout experience for my customers, with the shipping address and payment details already filled, and I’d save a small amount in transaction fees. What could go wrong? But six weeks later, Amazon has $2300 of my money with no way for me to access it, and their support has been maddeningly worthless. I can only hope that a public shaming will spur somebody at Amazon to take notice and intervene, otherwise that money may just be gone.

I created the Amazon Pay account on November 29, and configured my business bank account info so I could receive electronic disbursements. This is a normal business checking account at a normal US bank, using US dollars, and that works fine with other payment processors like PayPal and Shopify Payments. I entered the bank’s ACH routing number and my account number, which ends with the digits 622. Soon I was able to receive payments in my store using Amazon Pay, and everything seemed good.

The problem started on December 8, when Amazon Pay attempted the first disbursement to my bank account. I received a failure notification by email:

“Your most recent transfer of funds in the amount of $XXX was not successfully deposited into your bank account on file (ending in 622). The funds were returned to us, and we have removed the current bank account information from your account.”

Amazon Pay’s merchant support was unable to explain what went wrong. They sent me some generic troubleshooting info. It’s not clear why they couldn’t provide any specific details about why this transfer failed. The generic info suggested the routing or bank account numbers might be wrong, so I re-entered the numbers again, being extra careful to get them correct. Then I waited a week… and the exact same thing happened. This same dance played out five more times on December 16, 17, 18, 20, and 21. Each time Amazon Pay attempted a disbursement to my bank, then a few days later I got the same email saying the money wasn’t successfully deposited to my bank account ending in 622, and “we have removed the current bank account information from your account.”

On December 23 I contacted my bank and gave them the trace IDs for all the failed transfers. My bank determined that the account number was wrong on every transfer. All the failed ACH transfers used an account number ending in 62 instead of 622: the last digit of the account number was missing!

Armed with this information, I returned to Amazon Pay merchant support, and here’s where I really started to get frustrated. I discovered that my original support case had been unilaterally closed without resolution, because five days had passed since the last reply, and apparently that’s their support policy. It’s not possible to reopen or reply to a closed case, so I had to create a new case and explain the issue all over again. This did not go well. Imagine this support exchange happening slowly by email over a series of two days:

Me (paraphrasing): I’m still having trouble with disbursements. You closed my last case number XXXX about this issue, so I had to create this new case. My bank says the last digit of the bank account number is missing on all the ACH transfers from Amazon Pay, but the bank account number is correct in my Amazon Pay settings.

Amazon Pay: To receive disbursements, you need to set up your bank account info in your Amazon Pay settings. You do not have a bank account configured in your settings.

Me: Please see attached screenshot showing my bank account info is already set up correctly. I have already done this several times, but every time there’s a failed disbursement attempt, Amazon Pay removes my bank account information. The fundamental problem is that the last digit of the bank account number is missing in all of Amazon’s ACH transfers. Please look at the ACH transfers yourself to confirm.

Amazon Pay: To receive disbursements, you need to set up your bank account info in your Amazon Pay settings. You do not have a bank account configured in your settings. The screenshot you sent doesn’t show what account it’s associated with so we can’t tell anything from that.

Me: The bank account info has already been entered. I’ve attached a full-page screenshot showing this. The deposit method isn’t assigned, because every time there’s a failed disbursement attempt, Amazon Pay removes my bank account information. Please respond to the fundamental issue of the missing digit in the ACH transfers. Here are all the trace IDs again. You can verify them yourself.

Amazon Pay: Your bank account may not be compatible with our system. Your account needs to be ACH-ready. Please contact your bank.

Me: Yes it’s ACH-ready, it’s a standard business checking account at a USA bank, and I’m already receiving ACH transfers there from PayPal and Shopify. I mentioned all this already in the first case that I opened, that Amazon Pay closed without resolution. You still have not addressed or even mentioned the fundamental problem that I’ve asked about four times now, the missing digit in the ACH transfers. Kindly investigate why this digit is missing in all the ACH transfers from Amazon Pay.

Amazon Pay: I understand that you are having problems with your bank account. Thank you for your continued patience. At this time I am working with our internal team to reach a resolution on your case.

(five days later) Me: Has there been any progress on this? I’m still unable to access the funds in my Amazon Pay account.

Amazon Pay: I understand that you are having problems with your bank account. Thank you for your continued patience. At this time I am working with our internal team to reach a resolution on your case.

(five days later): Case closed with no further response from Amazon. Can’t reopen or reply.

Now I was really upset. Since I couldn’t reopen the old cases, I opened a third case to explain the issue with failed disbursements and the missing account number digit, all over again.

Amazon Pay: To receive disbursements, you need to set up your bank account info in your Amazon Pay settings. You do not have a bank account configured in your settings.

Me: Oh my God not again.

I was able to reach a phone support agent, and told him I just wanted to close my Amazon Pay account and get a final payout by paper check, since they seem unable to resolve the problem with electronic transfers to my bank. I was told they can’t do it. Basically the options were 1) electronic transfer to bank, or 2) electronic transfer to bank.

I asked the phone agent to review the previous case, and see what information the “internal team” had found before that case was closed. There was none. All the discussion from the previous case was essentially gone and worthless.

So I went through all the same conversation again with the phone agent, arguing about why my bank account info wasn’t set up in my Amazon Pay settings. I gamely played along while he had me delete my browser cookies and other irrelevant troubleshooting. Since closing the account didn’t appear to be a viable option, I tried once again to delete and re-enter all my bank account info. The phone agent insisted that everything would be OK now that I’d entered my bank account info, and I would receive a disbursement within the next few days. He didn’t seem to understand or care that I’d already been through this same loop several times before without success. Skeptical, I thanked him and hung up. I then received a follow-up email:

Amazon Pay: I understand that you would like to know how you can see the transaction and how disbursements work for the Amazon Pay platform. If you want to find your transactions coming from Amazon Pay just remember to switch from “Amazon.com” to “Amazon Pay (Production View)”. You would be able to see that next to your Seller name and the USA flag where there is a scroll down. etc…

What the actual fuck?! What is this and how is it relevant in any way? Is Amazon Pay’s merchant support even staffed by human beings, or is it all just chatbots and GPT-3-driven natural language text generation? Amazon needs to understand that merchants have many choices for payment processing, including PayPal and traditional credit card processors, who have professional support staffs to respond to account problems in a timely and constructive way. Many people complain about PayPal, but at least PayPal’s support team responds to me with useful and relevant information that answers my questions. After a month of trying, I’ve failed to get anyone at Amazon Pay to even acknowledge my problem with the missing account number digit, let alone give me any constructive help. Their merchant support seems designed to frustrate merchants into simply giving up and going away. I’ve lost $2300 thanks to Amazon Pay, with no further options I can see for resolution. Meanwhile Amazon Pay has been removed from my store, and I will not be reactivating it. Good riddance.

Read 26 comments and join the conversation 

26 Comments so far

  1. George Phillips - January 9th, 2022 5:29 pm

    First and foremost, that’s simply awful. Sorry to hear how they not only stole from you but jerked you around on top of it.

    Though I’ve never done it I have seen many recommend small claims court for this kind of thing. I seem to recall its likely that large companies won’t even respond to the charge as it is more cost effective to simply lose by default and pay the claim.

    Maybe $2300 is over the limit for your area but you could get at least some of the money back and some satisfaction.

    But I stress that I’m the unmarried marriage councilor here. It may be best just to take my condolences and walk away.

  2. J - January 9th, 2022 8:07 pm

    File a complaint with your states licensing authority: https://pay.amazon.com/help/201310940

    I left an email address here if you want to get in touch. Happy to try and help as much as I can. You deserve your money back.

  3. B - January 9th, 2022 9:11 pm
  4. Shimshon - January 9th, 2022 9:27 pm

    Also agreed on small claims court. The limit does vary by jurisdiction, but anywhere in the US it should be far higher than $2300. There must be some way to file a claim.

  5. Ummon - January 9th, 2022 9:31 pm

    Left a comment on Hacker News but writing here as well – you should try adding the check digit to the account number that you submit.

  6. Steve - January 9th, 2022 9:46 pm

    Interesting suggestion about the check digit! From a quick read about this, it seems only ACH routing numbers use a check digit and not account numbers. But from what my bank told me, it’s the account number that’s missing a digit in all the failed transfers.

  7. Joshuaheard - January 9th, 2022 10:38 pm

    Open a second account with your bank to receive the Amazon disbursements.

  8. osv - January 10th, 2022 12:18 am

    Could you try opening another bank account and trying with that instead? Perhaps they have a maximum number of digits supported in the account number and yours is getting truncated. Amex Serve might be an easy solution.

  9. AmazonPay Help - January 10th, 2022 12:26 pm

    Hi Steve,

    We’re sorry to hear about this. We’ve reached out to you via your most recent case. If you have any additional questions please respond to it via your case log.

    We hope to have the opportunity to serve you in the future. – Chad

  10. King Charles - January 10th, 2022 1:02 pm

    > We hope to have the opportunity to serve you in the future. ā€“ Chad

    *yuck* Sure, “Chad” the Amazon Robot. I really hope you have the opportunity to serve me in the future. Really glad you added that to your comment.

  11. Steve - January 10th, 2022 1:17 pm

    Thank you Chad! Apparently somebody at Amazon Pay reads the BMOW blog. I received a separate update from Chad, who reviewed my account logs and found what looks like the problem: “I have reviewed your previous cases and investigated the disbursement error further. I can confirm with your bank that the disbursements made were declined due an invalid account number on file. I reviewed our logs and found that after the bank account was removed it appears that the previous bank account with the invalid credentials was selected as your deposit method on December 10 and December 15, 2021. This was the cause of the transfers declining.”

    It should hopefully be fixed now, but due to a temporary security hold on my account, it’ll be a few more days until we know for sure.

    Iā€™m still puzzled why all of the transfer failure emails listed my last 3 account number digits correctly, right in the text of the email, even as the transfers themselves were apparently missing the last account digit. I’m also not sure how this problem happened in the first place. Maybe I originally entered the account number incorrectly – though the web form makes you enter the number twice and checks they’re the same, so if that’s what happened then I must have truly been asleep at the switch. And after the first transfer failure, I went back and carefully rechecked the routing and account numbers. And the correct last 3 digits of the number were in every failure email. But I’m happy as long as this ultimately gets resolved.

  12. King Charles - January 10th, 2022 2:11 pm

    The simplest answer is probably the right answer. As you speculated, it’s more likely a bug in Amazon’s code.

    Just be glad you had a big enough megaphone that you could get Amazon to look at this. I fear for all the smaller guys who had to just give up and lose their money.

  13. andy - January 11th, 2022 7:19 am

    why wouldn’t you just use ebay?

  14. andy - January 11th, 2022 7:25 am

    Dang, I meant PayPal of course. Sorry, ebay on the brain.

  15. Steve - January 11th, 2022 7:55 am

    I do use PayPal, and also Shopify Payments for standard credit cards. Customers are free to choose the payment method they prefer.

  16. Ricardo - January 14th, 2022 5:55 pm

    Don’t try to take the blame for yourself.
    EVEN if you entered the account info incorrectly once, their support is supposed to do their job and find and fix the issue for you. Their “dead loop until the customer gives up” is totally unacceptable!

    And as you explained, you took extra care to enter the info every single time. It is not your fault. At all!

  17. Steve - January 17th, 2022 1:58 pm

    Oof, it looks like this mess still isn’t resolved. I completely deleted and re-entered all my banking info on the 9th, then was contacted by Amazon Pay the next day and confirmed that everything should be OK now. After a few days of security hold, the disbursement transfer was reattempted on the 13th. Amazon Pay’s dashboard shows the transfer completed successfully that same day, but four days later I still don’t see the money in my bank account. Maybe it’s just very slow, but so far this is behaving exactly like all of the other failed transfers. I expect I’ll soon see another email with “Your most recent transfer of funds in the amount of $XXX was not successfully deposited into your bank account…”

  18. osv - January 17th, 2022 4:28 pm

    ^ Keep in mind it’s only been 1 business day. ACH payments don’t process on weekends or federal holidays (like today).

  19. Steve - January 18th, 2022 6:10 am

    Unfortunately it’s not just a holiday delay. Today I received yet another failure email identical to all the others.

    I’m at my wits’ end. I don’t see how this could be anything other than a technical problem with Amazon Pay’s accounting system.

  20. King Charles - January 18th, 2022 7:46 am

    Can you get back in touch with ‘Chad’ again and get the issue escalated once again?

    I just had trouble with a certain banking institution like this, and the only way I resolved it was to go out of my way to obtain all the home phone/cellphones/private email addresses of the management of the company and harass them at home at the weekend until they capitulated šŸ™ This morning I got an email from inside the company ‘I’ve escalated this to our Executive Support Team’. So we’ll see what happens. If you want to know how I get those kind of details, email me at the address on this comment and I will explain it for you.

  21. Steve - January 18th, 2022 2:40 pm

    What bank are you fighting with, and what’s the amount? Even though it’s not fair, sometimes it may be best to just walk away and take the loss. Or if the amount is larger, go to court, like some other commenters here have suggested.

  22. King Charles - January 18th, 2022 9:44 am

    OK, the Executive Support Team replied and stated they had read all my previous support requests, which they clear did not at all, and then gave me the same stock (nonsensical) response that all the lower-level minions had given me. LOL. You couldn’t make this crap up. Looks like we’re both back to square one?

  23. Steve - January 18th, 2022 9:52 am

    I did hear back from Chad, who’s been very responsive even if he hasn’t been able to solve the root problem. He offered to close my account and send a final payout by paper check – something I was previously told wasn’t possible. Hopefully that will be the end of this, although I regret the missing digit mystery won’t be solved.

  24. Steve - January 18th, 2022 2:38 pm

    Going to try once more with my bank’s tech support to see if they have any guess why these transfers aren’t working correctly. Is there an alternate routing or account number I should be using, or anything else like that.

  25. King Charles - January 18th, 2022 2:54 pm

    It is a shame not to be able to solve this properly. It feels like quitting to get a paper check. And I wonder how many other people just gave up because it was too hard?

    I don’t want to put the bank I’m quibbling with “on blast” until this situation comes to an end one way or another, hopefully in the next few days. It’s a small amount of money relatively, but to me it’s a lot.

  26. Steve - January 25th, 2022 9:03 am

    After seven weeks of trying, this problem is finally resolved! See part 2, here: https://www.bigmessowires.com/2022/01/25/amazon-pay-part-2-2300-lost-and-found/

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