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Amazon, customer service and gift-giving; rules differ for e-books and printed books

Posted by Mitch Lipka  August 14, 2012 03:32 PM

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Q. I have a problem. I ordered a book for my sister from Amazon in April and I had to send Amazon my sister’s email address so they could email the book to her so she could download it onto her Kindle. Unfortunately, I sent the wrong email address. I corrected the email address and my sister got her book. Now, however, I am being charged twice for the book. I have been trying to resolve the issue by email to no avail. Can you help?

Mary Hurley, Quincy

A. This is an example of the difference between ordering something you can hold in your hands and something digital. It’s better to know about the differences in the rules upfront rather than find out the hard way.

Amazon wouldn’t specifically discuss your case. However, based on their answer about how these situations are supposed to work, a refund didn’t seem likely.

Once someone realizes they directed a gifted e-book to the wrong email address, they should contact customer service, Amazon spokeswoman Brittany Turner said. They would then be able to get it to the right email.

Ordering the same book twice, sending one to the wrong address and one to the right one, is the same as buying a physical copy two times. The difference: you could return the printed version when you realized you had a duplicate book. Not so in the electronic world – if the book was opened.

“In general, Kindle Book Gifts are not returnable,” Turner said. “But Kindle books you receive as a gift are eligible for exchange for an Gift Card before acceptance.”

In other words, if you reported the first error – prior to ordering the second book – this problem could have been avoided. And if the second book wasn’t opened, you or your sister could have received a credit. You should try to get the credit for the misdirected book – since it shouldn’t have been opened.

Hopefully, this won’t end up being a total loss. Amazon has a form on its customer service page to have them call you on the phone. A conversation can often work better than email. Ask for a supervisor if the customer service representative who calls can’t offer a satisfactory resolution.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at


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