Amazon return? Make sure your refund was actually issued

Even though everything is automated, there are always glitches. It pays to be diligent.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

It would probably be an exaggeration to say that Amazon Prime transformed my life, but it has made it a lot easier. My wife and i live in a historic rural community without many nearby retail resources, so the ability to get what we need, generally quickly and with no shipping costs beyond our annual Prime fee, is a boon.

My favorite example is the desk I ordered for fifty bucks, which included free shipping. You can't beat that. But we order lots more than furniture. We order household items, clothing items, and -- because I work from home -- a never-ending stream of techie components and gear.

Also: Why Amazon is the king of innovation: Prime power

After years of being a Prime member, I can say I have had few complaints. But just because we're satisfied customers doesn't mean things are always glitch-free. 

Recently my wife and I each separately ordered items through Amazon. She ordered a kitchen knife and I ordered a USB hub. These orders were placed through each of our own accounts and were separated by a few weeks, during which we placed other orders and received our goods as expected.

When I ordered the USB hub, I did so using exactly the same process as I've done for so many other items. Amazon processed the order, and I expected it a few days later. But it didn't arrive.

When I logged into my Amazon account and checked my orders, the object was marked as undeliverable. Since I'd been working from home the entire day, I was baffled how it couldn't be delivered. I contacted the company who said it was sent through the US Postal Service and they had no idea why it couldn't be delivered.

Amazon's order page said it had already sent out a replacement unit. This turned out not to be the case. When I looked at the order page a day later, the order said the product payment had been refunded and I was to expect the amount returned to my credit card within 2-3 days.

I've done many returns over the years, so I thought nothing of it. I also didn't check my card to see if, in fact, I was credited with the return.

A week or so later, my wife had a similar undeliverable problem, this time with the kitchen knife. She immediately called Amazon and cancelled the replacement shipment. She also talked to our postal carrier, who told her there was nothing on his end that would cause something to not be delivered.

Did you know?

  • US consumer return deliveries are expected to cost sellers $550B in 2020, up 75% from 2016.
  • Returns drive brand loyalty. 96% of consumers surveyed will buy again if returns are free and easy.
  • High-friction returns push away buyers. 69% will avoid buying online from vendors who charge for return shipping and 67% won't buy from vendors who charge restocking fees.
  • UPS processed 1.9 million returns on just one day, January 2, 2020.
  • Returns account for 5 billion pounds of landfill in the US.

Like with the USB hub, the company indicated that a refund would be provided within 2-3 days.

Here's where things get messy. My refund didn't appear to have been actually issued, even a month later. However, when I called Amazon to ask about the refund after that 30 day delay, I was told the refund had been issued just that day. I checked my bank the next day, and it had finally arrived - 30+ days after the refund was promised.

My wife also got her refund after calling Amazon. It showed up pretty quickly, but on her Orders page, there's now an ominous message that says, "We are expecting your return. Your refund has been issued."


Clearly, we're going to have to keep an eye on this because we never actually got the product, don't know why it was undeliverable, and have no control over whether it will actually ever make its way back to Amazon. If they don't get it back, they may recharge us, which will necessitate another round of phone calls, refunds and stress.

The thing is, I can't be sure that these two refunds would have been issued had we not called Amazon. Amazon has generally been pretty good about issuing refunds. At least I think it has. I must confess I have't always painstakingly checked every one. Now I wonder if our recent refunds were caught up in some limbo that resolved upon a phone call, or whether there was some magical coincidence that caused the refunds to be issued on the same days we called in to check on them. If that's the case, what else might we have missed throughout the years?

A best-practice pro tip

There is a lesson here, and it's a simple best-practice pro tip. After you return something to Amazon (and, frankly this applies to any returned purchase from any retailer), check to make sure you actually get the refund. It's an extra step that often involves checking online credit card accounts, but it's worth it.

We've ordered other items since those two mishaps, and we haven't had any other glitches. But it pays to be diligent when your money is in play.

Have you had any issues with Amazon refunds? Any other online retailer refund horror stories? Share with us in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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