Amazon’s Recent Account Closures Have Affected College Students Too


Amazon’s Recent Account Closures Have Affected College Students Too

By Tina Nazerian     Apr 18, 2018

Amazon’s Recent Account Closures Have Affected College Students Too

When college student Brookeline Gottschalk tried to login into her Amazon account on March 30, she got a message that her email wasn’t recognized. She kept trying, but to no avail. When she called Amazon, a representative told her it appeared she had closed her account. That posed a particular problem for her since she needed her account to access an audiobook for a history class.

“I was telling them that I didn’t do that, and I wouldn’t do that, because I just paid for Prime in January,” says Gottschalk, who studies biology at Columbia State Community College’s Lawrence County campus in Tennessee. She claims the representative told her that the account closure was probably a mistake or error on Amazon’s part, and that a specialist would contact her in 24-48 hours.

Gottschalk says that didn’t happen.

Gottschalk was one of many Amazon customers claiming that the e-commerce company shut down their accounts over the past few weeks. People have tweeted about their experiences with the hashtag #amazonclosed. A Facebook group dedicated to the issue has more than 4,000 members, with many detailing their efforts contacting Amazon to resolve the issue—and voicing their frustrations with not having access to their accounts.

Gottschalk had been using Audible for an audiobook she had to read for her history class. During the two weeks that her account was closed, she wasn’t able to use it. Instead, she had to check out a physical copy of the book from a library a city over from where she lives.

“It kind of makes me angry because I’d purchased it to listen to,” she says.

Gottschalk says she was finally able to get her account back through contacting Audible, which Amazon owns. However, she hasn’t been able to access her two audiobooks, including the one she needs for her history class—her content, including her reviews and helpful votes, has been “wiped out,” she says. She can only see her order history and Prime benefits.

Zachary Schulweis, a student at Rockland Community College in New York state, also says Amazon closed down his account. An email the company sent him on April 6 states, “We detected unusual activity associated with items previously purchased on your account. As a result, we had deactivated your account while we conducted a deeper investigation.” Based on that investigation, the email continues, Amazon “restored access” to Schulweis’s account.

Schulweis, whose account was closed for about a week, says it wasn’t a big deal, despite the fact that he couldn’t order a textbook he needed, and purchased it in-person instead at a more expensive price.

He claims that he got no warning that his account would be closed, and speculates that it was closed because prior to Amazon changing its review policies, he would leave incentivized reviews for products from third-party sellers. He says nothing was removed from his account. All of his reviews are there, and he’s still able to review products.

Amazon’s community guidelines include a provision that customers cannot create, modify or post content “in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products, refunds, or reimbursements), but one exception is that book authors and publishers “may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”

Incentivized or fake reviews on Amazon have been well documented in the press. An Amazon spokesperson told Digiday in 2017 that the company uses a machine-learned algorithm that “‘gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews.’”

EdSurge reached out to Amazon to learn the reason behind the account closures. An Amazon spokesperson emailed the following statement to EdSurge, which does not specifically mention reviews:

“Amazon has taken action against bad actors and those who have violated our community rules. If any customers believe their account has been closed in error, we encourage them to contact us directly so we can review their account and take appropriate action.”

Gottschalk doesn’t know if her account closure was linked to activity that the company believes violates its terms of service—she says she still hasn’t gotten an explanation from Amazon about why her account was closed down.

An explanation from Amazon aside, Gottschalk says she’s never been paid to post a review. She has, however, used Facebook groups and websites that gave out Amazon discount codes, but she never reviewed those items she purchased with the discount groups. She adds that she does surveys online on Crowdtap and Tellwut, and one form of payment is Amazon gift cards.

“I’m pretty upset with Amazon.”

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