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The Wall Street Journal this morning has a story about how Amazon, which has “cultivated an image as a customer-friendly company in part by making it easy for shoppers to send back items they don’t want,” has at times banned customers “from the site for infractions such as returning too many items, sometimes without telling them what they did wrong.”

There are, apparently, some customers that Amazon doesn’t want.

““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,” an Amazon spokesman said. “We never take these decisions lightly, but with over 300 million customers around the world, we take action when appropriate to protect the experience for all our customers.”

The Journal reports that “dozens of people have complained on Twitter , Facebook and other online forums that Amazon closed their accounts without warning or explanation. Amazon doesn’t tell customers in its return policy that their return behavior can get them banned, but the company says in its conditions of use that it reserves the right to terminate accounts in its sole discretion. Some people said they have also received email alerts from Amazon about their return activity … According to former Amazon managers, the company terminates accounts for behaviors including requesting too many refunds, sending back the wrong items or violating other rules, such as receiving compensation for writing reviews. Cases are typically evaluated by a human after algorithms surface the account as suspicious, they said.”
KC's View:
The idea that some people are having their accounts closed without being told why, and then have to jump through hoops to get them reopened, is the downside of an algorithm-driven business. It’d certainly annoy me.

On the other hand, it may be one other area in which a digital store has an advantage over a bricks-and-mortar store. It is hard to stop someone from walking into an actual store, but a lot easier to simply deny some people access to a website.