Amazon, billing, and shooting feet

(updated 2017.5.17, 2017.8.9)

For those who are boycotting Amazon for other reasons, you may skip this.

I feel I have to use a cost-effective vendor, despite other factors. Up until recently, Amazon has worked well for us. People could make up lists, share them with me, I could use those to create orders, I could use a credit card which saves me from doing as many Requisitions/Purchase Order approvals myself, and it used to be pretty straightforward. They had a huge number of items in stock and accounted for when orders would arrive, for the most part.

Then, they shot themselves in the foot. Maybe both feet.

It’s not just me. I’m hearing (from a competitor, granted) that a number of libraries are dropping Amazon, at least as a primary vendor. (The competitor normally handles academic libraries, but now has public libraries asking them for service. The traditional wholesalers have changed and reduced a lot in the last few years.)

It seems we are going to have to join the exodus, and it’s not political or other high-minded reasons; it’s pure bookkeeping practices.

Amazon has become non-cost-effective, due to their new credit card charging methodology. This has been going on for several months, but it’s become, frankly, untenable.

Lemme ‘splain this. (tl;dr*)

Amazon has taken to combining charges from their Printable Order Summary.

amazon For example, you see multiple charges on here. The total will be $276.17.

However, despite what it says on the page, that IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

The Order Summary has three shipments listed, for $105.61, $37.16, and $133.40.

They add up to $276.17, true. But this IS NOT WHAT AMAZON CHARGES to the credit card.

Look at the summary of charges at the bottom of the Order Summary. Not the same as the shipments.

Now combine them to get the actual charges on the credit card statement.

$14.99 plus 79.84 = 94.83, and the rest add up to 181.34. We were actually charged $94.83 and $181.34. The total is still $276.17. We haven’t been treated dishonestly as far as the amount charged; only in how it was actually stated on their (digital) paperwork.

However, the only one of those charges on the order summary for a shipment matches $37.16 for the middle shipment of three on the Order Summary. And that one was combined with others to get a charge of $181.34 on the credit card. The amounts on here do not match the shipments or the credit card charges.

$105.61 and $37.16 and $133.40 (the amounts on the shipments in the Order Summary), cannot be combined to get the two charges on the card, and yet those book titles are on this order.


To sum up: The charges listed as charged to the card on the Printable Order Summary DO NOT MATCH WHAT IS ON THE CARD CHARGES: 14.99, 79.84, 90.62, 37.16, 53.56 are NOT charged; $94.83 and $181.34 are charged for these books. Where does it say that? On the spreadsheet.


Spreadsheet? Yes, I managed to get a customer service person for corporate accounts on the phone (their people are usually fine to deal with but are stuck with this). They now have a spreadsheet that you can download (not listed, at this time, among all the services they show for accounts). I was sent a special link to it. Then I have to download it. Then I have to go searching. The spreadsheet has columns out to AE (over 30). This, apparently, is a kludge made available for all the squalling customers demanding to know what charges equal what.

First, you find the total amount (in this example, 276.17). Then you slide over (about a page and a half of columns) to see how it’s broken down to — not the charges they claim on here — the actual charges on the card (94.83 and 181.34). This is the only place where they tell me what they are actually charging to the card, so I have no regular packing slip/invoice/order summary to show my receiving person or my business office or the state auditors. How are we expected to match the shipments and charges up to what is on the credit card statement, without a research project to decipher this spreadsheet?

Aside from this spreadsheet, I have nothing to show my people here or the state auditors, who want specific amounts that match. The only comfort I can take is that this is going on all over campus, and probably all over the state and nation. So at least the state auditors cannot blame just our library.

Now, I understand that Amazon is probably having to adjust their bookkeeping so they can pay the new taxes that states have been demanding they begin to charge (and starting March 1, here in Arkansas) but we already pay that on our own. I suspect this may have something to do with how they handle bookkeeping for that, or maybe an attempt to reduce credit card fees by reducing the number of transactions. I can allow for changes.

End Result

BUT: you cannot do business this way. It takes far too much time for the customers to account for this, and it does not correspond to any acceptable accounting procedure to claim you made these charges when you actually made those charges, even if they add up the same on the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets, especially ones like this, are not intended to substitute for proper customer notices — spreadsheets are primarily for internal use, and cannot substitute for showing correct amounts on the (digital or print) paperwork. The additional time it takes to track all this down is just dirty icing on a very unpleasant cake (pardon the unappetizing metaphor). The fact that it is not technically dishonest in the amount being paid does not excuse the appearance of something being off, somewhere.

We’ll still use Amazon for creating want lists, but I never used those just for ordering via Amazon in the first place, if I wanted prebinding, or a complete set of a multi-volume set. Rush items can still go through, or items from associates (which are somewhat more likely, but not always, to end up on separate shipments/charges), or anything only Amazon seems to have. I may try shifting back to a personal account to see if that works better, but the customer service person thought it was all going to be the same. The bulk of the business they once got from us is going to have to move to somebody else, at least until they straighten this out.

Amazon is welcome to contact me to explain, correct, show me an easier method, or whatever, assuming anyone there ever reads blogs like this. I’ll be happy to post corrections or recommended methods (working or otherwise, from my point of view).

Update as of May 17, 2017:

The higher ed rep for Amazon has been in contact several times now, and agrees with the need to fix this. He’s been working at his end.

He called today with the discovery that the information we need does exist and if you want to burrow down some, it can be found, with some limitations. Thanks go also to his colleague – she found a way to dig this out from the screen.

On the printable Order Summary, go down to the bottom:






Click on the link for “To view the status of your order, return to Order Summary.” That sounds like it would just loop you around to where you came from, which is why I never used it (and the rep didn’t expect it either), but instead you get this:









Okay, now click on the Transactions link under the address.






AHA! The long-missing actual charge amounts that were not visible (except in the cockamamie spreadsheet).

Click on the amount you want, and get:








There, finally, is the list of titles that went on the actual charge made on the card for $94.83. Ta and da!

Of course, as I pointed out, we really need a subtotal for each shipment as well, and ALL of this needs to be out front, easy to find, preferably on the Order Summary. Instead of the charges listed as being charged, which are not actually being charged.

The main point is, the information is there and already, for the most part, extracted – they just didn’t make it easy to find and the link terminology is vague. That means, IMHO, that it should be possible to pull that out, with some reprogramming, and put it on the Order Summary so we can provide that to our people for reconciliation with the credit card statement.

The wheel that squeaketh doth receive greasing.

Oh, and BTW: the more places that complain about this, instead of just quietly changing vendors, the more push we have to get this fixed at Amazon. SPEAK UP! The phone for the corporate accounts at Amazon is 866-216-1072 (if you are on a business account). Call and gripe!

I also lost them some more business today with a potential new account (juvenile correctional facility) that wanted a source for buying books. They have to account to the state auditors as well, so I had to warn them off dealing with Amazon right now. Which I, of course, reported to the rep as additional ammo for doing something about this. Squeak, squeak!

Update 2017.8.9

Amazon has updated their view to make this a bit easier.

Click on the Order link in the email and you now get:







Below the shipping address is the “Transactions” link which takes you to the actual credit card charges.








Compare the actual Transactions to the Order amount to see what Amazon is really charging on the card.

In this example, they match. For larger orders/shipments, that may or may not be true, but this makes it more convenient to tell, at least. I will give Amazon that.

I’ve had no other information from Amazon; I just noticed this when I tried an actual order. I don’t know if they are matching Transactions to shipments or whatever.


*tl;dr means Too Long, Don’t Read unless you want to.