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New Math?

March 4, 2009

I bought some books from Amazon last month, as one will do. When I opened the smiling box, I found three copies of one of the paperbacks. At first I thought this was their error, because much as I like Lara Adrian’s books, I don’t need multiple copies of them (and if I were buying extras to give to friends, I would get the first in the series, not the fifth or whichever this one is), but I logged on and looked at my order and evidently I had indeed ordered all three. I think what happened is I put it in my cart when I first saw there was a new installment in the series, then again when I read something that reminded me that it was out and I didn’t have it yet, then finally once more when I found three other titles I wanted that qualified for the 4-for-3 promotion. Yes, I should have noticed this before I clicked that final click to place the order, or at the very latest when I got the confirmation e-mail, but I did not.

So I went online and printed the return paperwork for the extra books and shipped them back before we left for Idaho. When we got back, I had e-mail from Amazon saying they’d gotten my return and processed it for the price of the books, less the return shipping of $4.98, less $2.22 for a portion of the 4-for-3 discount (how they came up with that $2.22 was not explained). The return shipping deduction I expected, so that was fine. The portion of the 4-for-3 deal? No, I don’t think so; the part of the order I kept still had four books that qualified, and I’d only gotten the equivalent of one free (meaning I hadn’t ordered eight, paid for six, and returned two or anything like that). So I sent an inquiry, asking for the $2.22 to be refunded as well, pointing out that if I’d originally ordered only what I’d kept, I’d have gotten the full $6.99 discount. That seemed reasonable to me, though probably I should have just let it go since the value of the time I spent writing the e-mail was likely way more than $2.22.

I got a reply today which rather condescendingly explained how promotional discounts are like coupons at a physical store, which I understand, certainly, but that doesn’t really apply to my situation. If it were a 6-for-5 or 5-for-4 or 10% off everything deal, sure, but it wasn’t. It was 4-for-3 and I still had 4 in my possession. The mail went on to say that due to the circumstances surrounding my order, Amazon would make a special one-time only exception to their policy and refund me an additional $6.99. Wait, what? That’s not what I asked for. I’ll take it, but it makes no sense. It reminds me of the late notice I got one summer from Michigan State saying I’d failed to pay a $20 charge from my residence hall so I now owed them $25 including the late fee. I wrote back saying I’d never been billed for the $20 and needed to know what it was for before I paid it. They replied that they’d reviewed my file and would waive the $20 but I still had to pay the $5 late fee. The best I thought I could hope for was exactly the opposite, but okay. I figured I’d made a good faith effort. I paid the $5. Maybe this extra $4.77 coming to me from Amazon is part of some karmic accounting balancing the universe is doing.

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