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IamA Amazon warehouse returns associate. I process the things you were not satisfied with. Ask away!

Sep 8th 2014 by ItShippedBroken • 32 Questions • 542 Points

Hello, reddit. I process returned merchandise that you didn't like. Please, ask me a question and I'll answer it, at least within the best of my ability.

You guys had some great questions last time! Hopefully I have more experience under my belt to better answer more of them. People like you keep us alive, and for that, I'm grateful for my position. That's why I treat every return as if you were speaking to me personally.

I won't lie, sometimes it's hard work, and I can get annoyed with obvious fibbers, but sometimes people honestly received a B.S item and want their money back understandably. As my orientation video stated, we are absolutely obsessed with customers and will do anything in our absolute power to get you your money back in a timely fashion.

There is a person on the other side of your return comments. If I'm processing your return, you can rest assured at least one associate is reading them.

Again, ask away.

EDIT: one thousand apologies to the thread. I had an emergency I had to take care of, and when I started this AMA, I had gotten off an 11 hour shift. I'm up, have a cocktail ready, it's my day off, and I'm going to answer your questions. again. Sorry!

edit: proof http://i.imgur.com/zjS1ra2.jpg

My last AMA was taken down because I didn't provide proof in a reasonable amount of time. Sorry about that. It's open again, and I'm only linking it to show which questions were asked. I was Okay-ed to submit another one, so that way users who might not have seen it can.

http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2fn77u/iama_amazon_warehouse_returns_associate_i_process/

edit: I don't expect this thread to "boom", just honestly figured I would clear up things. It's fun for me. It has slowed down, so I'm going to play Twilight princess and check the thread periodically. I know it's an old game, but I bought it yesterday and never played it! So if you're reading this, consider this thread open indefinitely. I'll answer your question. I promise.

edit: answering questions still in my inbox! Please give me a chance, I'll get to your question as soon as I can. You guys have some good ones!

Just want to add that my opinions do not reflect that of Amazon. I'm just one worker.

edit: phew, I've been answering questions for a straight hour! I'll keep at it, please don't take it personal if I don't get to yours right away!

Q:

Ever got anything back and thought, "i'm not touching that"? If so, why?

A:

All the time. Anything that's leaking or has a strong scent gets an "exception" sticker slapped on it.

Knives out of box, tasers, leaky batteries, etc. These are hazmat and must be processed by someone wearing proper protective equipment (PPE)


Q:

Any biohazard type stories?

A:

hmm, you'd have to ask someone in exceptions. I haven't heard of anyone being injured following guidelines. People who don't usually get hurt due to their own stupidity and are terminated. We really do consider safety paramount.

From what I've heard it's always something dumb like a twisted ankle from a pallet, or not pushing a cart properly and having the stuff come tumbling down.

Sorry for my dull answer!

edit: some worker in some department felt a need to make a print that we were Velicoraptor free for 1,204 days, my GM spotted it, and announced it before stretch time. It's little things like this that make me enjoy my job and the people I work with.


Q:

Not at all. Thanks!

A:

You're a swell person.


Q:

We really do consider safety paramount.

How do you square that with the bad conditions some warehouse workers say they had to endure? Dangerously high heat, long hours, pressure to work through injuries, fighting employees on unemployment, etc.

Links: BBC 2013 investigation, Morning Call 2011 investigation

A:

How do you square that with the bad conditions some warehouse workers say they had to endure? Dangerously high heat, long hours, pressure to work through injuries, fighting employees on unemployment, etc.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but where I work there are excellent conditions. I can't speak for anywhere else, sorry!

We work 10 hour shifts. Your feet will hurt. This is clearly explained when you apply. We all have fans at our stations and enough water for a small army. We have "Amcare" which is basically an E.R for workers. Working through injuries? Honestly the first I've heard of it. I'm just one processor in one FC and I cannot speak for FC's everywhere. Hopefully the management that was responsible for such conditions has been weeded out.


Q:

Ok, let's cut to the chase here. We are talking about "personal massagers". Right?

A:

Yes. For your neck.


Q:

What's the most commonly returned item?

A:

Absolutely phone cases. I have nightmares where I'm buried in Samsung Galaxy S5 cases.


Q:

Why do you think that is?

A:

I've honestly come to the conclusion that some people simply don't read descriptions. I'll get an S5 case and the person complains that it didn't fit their S4 or whatever.


Q:

Did you get permission to do this AMA, or are you at risk of being fired for answering these questions?

A:

I'm doing this AMA on my own accord. I don't believe I'm portraying the company in a bad light. It's a great company to work for with great policies. I'm not giving away any mega "secrets". There really are no secrets. We're an open book.


Q:

Hello! Fellow Amazonian here!

I'm pretty sure we're supposed to put in a disclaimer that we are not official Amazon spokespeople, and that our opinions do not reflect the opinions of the company. :)

A:

Thanks, I'll add that to my title. Good call.


Q:

What was the weirdest things that was returned, and you had to process it?

A:

Hmm. I get a lot of "odd" items.

We get a lot of vibrators, etc. But as far as weird things go, I'd have to say, honestly, that nothing surprises me. What would be odd to others, I'm already desensitized to. I get a lot of single, half eaten items.

A co worker got a little over an ounce of cocaine (by the way he described it) and a book filled with $1,400 of cash.

The cash is returned to the cutstomer.

The coke is handed over to authorities.

These were separate occurrences.


Q:

I returned a book recently and when I submitted the request I was told that I'd be refunded even without sending the book back. Why would this happen? I'm a relatively frequent customer (and I have Prime) so was it some sort of thank you for customer loyalty?

A:

To be honest, the book may automatically be destroyed, even if you did send it back. It could be outdated, or returned one too many times. I don't know the exact answer, but probably one of those.


Q:

Huh. It was a recent paperback in relatively good shape so I thought it was either customer loyalty or maybe the cost of paying for return shipping made it not worth it.

A:

Huh. It was a recent paperback in relatively good shape so I thought it was either customer loyalty or maybe the cost of paying for return shipping made it not worth it.

I'm going to have to look into that!

I've had brand new books that I've had to send to the destroy bin. I'd like to find out why that is. I'm just as curious as you.


Q:

Do these books really get destroyed? Why wouldn't they donate them to a school or library?

A:

Do these books really get destroyed? Why wouldn't they donate them to a school or library?

It's only a destroy bin. I don't think they really get destroyed. I'm pretty positive we have something in place to get these items new homes.

Whether they are recycled, donated, or sent back to the publisher, I don't think they are actually destroyed.


Q:

Processing costs out weigh profits.

A:

Processing costs out weigh profits.

I honestly don't think this is the case. I've processed books that are in terrible condition, but they were marked as used and ultimately resold. If we can resell it, it would certainly bring in way more profit than processing costs.


Q:

Edit: I sounded like a dick.

A:

Edit: I sounded like a dick.

No it's cool. What I'm saying is that we'll avoid a loss wherever possible :)


Q:

Do you only get things back from the US? Or do you process the items returned from abroad?

A:

I'm just in one fullfilment center. I've never seen an international return. Possibly elsewhere, though.


Q:

It was kind of a stupid question, but thanks for still answering it!

A:

It was kind of a stupid question,

No such thing! I'm here to clear up anything that I can.


Q:

No such thing!

Challenge accepted!

What type of laundry detergent is best used as a replacement for jet fuel in a 1972 Colecovision gaming console?

A:

yes


Q:

What happens to items that get returned in excellent condition? Do they get sold as new?

A:

If the manufacturer seal is broken, no. If there is an issue with the item it'll be graded and sold reduced. If it is new and in excellent condition like you said, then I believe the manufacturer takes it back and repackages it, but I'm not totally sure.


Q:

Not long ago I ordered a shoulder brace. I no longer have the product box it came in. Can I still return it?

A:

Of course, just go about how you would return it normally. Something like that could be shipped in a padded manilla envelope.


Q:

Awesome thanks! That item cost me an arm!

A:

ha


Q:

;_;

A:

Now I'm sad.


Q:

What is the worst/wierdest excuse for a return, and did you accept it?

A:

As a processor I really don't make judgment calls. One time someone returned a PS VITA with a busted screen and said in all caps

"IT CAME BROKEN! MONEY BACK PLEASE!"

The serial numbers didn't match what we shipped him. Meh. C for effort..

In this case I escalate the return to a "problem solver", so he can look into it a bit more.

Again, I don't make the calls.


Q:

What type of education/degree did you obtain to get to the career where you are now?

A:

My position is honestly an entry one. Simply a high school diploma and computer literacy will get you in. Amazon uses linux.


Q:

Ubuntu? Mint? SUSE? Come on man, these are the important questions!

A:

Ubuntu? Mint? SUSE? Come on man, these are the important questions!

Ubuntu. Very user friendly. In any case, we are all trained to use it. As someone who was brought up with Windows, I gotta say linux is pretty sweet.

I'm kinda ticked off at the programmers, though. It's like they didn't even test the New user interface. It's absolutely riddled with errors. I joke that they should have employed someone from reddit's popular tech subs.


Q:

I once returned something that said "RECEIVED BY CAVE" after being received back by Amazon; what does that mean? What is the cave?

A:

The "cave" is actually a secret place where Amazonians gather and perform blood sacrifice to appease the book gods.

I'm just playing with you. I have no idea what that is. I'm going to have to ask a problem solver. They would most definitely know.

I will get back to you with the answer.


Q:

Nice, thanks for the answer. Ive always wonder what the heck the cave was. Ive returned things before and they've never said that when I tracked them except for that one instance. Looking forward to seeing what your coworker has to say about it.

A:

Ive always wonder what the heck the cave was.

Honestly this is the first I've heard of it. I'm curious as well.


Q:

Why is it that when it comes to shipping products overseas (I am in Okinawa atm) it takes a long time to get here or a product I want to be delivered here is not allowed?

A:

I'm not totally sure, but I know certain things are simply not allowed. Possibly due to certain companies lobbying for it, etc. As for time, I think that can simply be answered by the sheer distance and when packages have to hop on trucks from here to there, etc. We'd like o have your package immediately on a flight, but there are probably trucks in the mix as well.

I don't work in logistics, sorry!


Q:

Recently, we had a lot of problems getting the wrong books shipped to us. Amazon was great about it and facilitated refunds, shipping discounts, etc. We are trying to collect a set of reference books which all look the same but have many different volumes & subsets, so I think that's why the sellers keep mixing them up. I was wondering, does amazon get alerted to our high number of returns and begin to view us with suspicion? I was so worried about it that I've completely stopped trying to order those books because we get the wrong ones more often than not. Do you know of a good strategy to ensure I get the seller to send the correct books in the first place?

A:

If the processor was correctly doing their job, they should look at the book closely and see if it matches the description. Your comments help, believe it or not. I don't believe you'd be flagged. I'd suggest calling a rep, and trying again.

I'm sorry you didn't get the proper book to add to your reference collection. Right now, we are getting tons of books and making sure it's the proper one is stressed during start of shift announcements.


Q:

Once something has been returned, how easy is it to be put back into distribution?

I had an electrical item I purchased as new, that was obviously used & abused. It didn't work at all. The screws on it were stripped, with gouges in the chassis from someone digging at the screws. The manufacturer container was torn-up (not to be confused with the shipping container).

Are the returns and distribution centers in two different places? When I got to thinking how something so badly pre-damaged got to me, I could only guess that somebody at Amazon grabbed a brand new one from inventory and kept it, and sent me the busted one from returns.

A:

Once something has been returned, how easy is it to be put back into distribution?

Usually very simple, provided the processor his doing his job and inspecting everything thoroughly.

Are the returns and distribution centers in two different places?

Where I work, no. Everything is done in the same warehouse.

When I got to thinking how something so badly pre-damaged got to me, I could only guess that somebody at Amazon grabbed a brand new one from inventory and kept it, and sent me the busted one from returns.

It seems to me whomever processed the return previously did a half assed job, to be totally honest. We're supposed to inspect mounting points specifically on items, and anything like a stripped screw should have been damaged out, or at the very least sent to warehouse deals. I'm sorry you received something in that condition from us.


Q:

Ok, so here's a weird scenario that I'm surprised worked out, and I'm wondering if you could shed some light on it.

Both my wife and my brother ended up getting me the same Blu-ray for Xmas. My wife said she'd return mine and get me something else. What she ended up doing was looking up the returns address, stuck the blu-ray in an envelope, and shipped it back. The next day she said she did that, and I ask how she printed the return slip (we don't have a printer at home, usually I print the 1 page per year we need printed at work). Then a bunch of "oh shit" ensued because she didn't include anything. She literally wrote Amazon's address on an envelope, threw in a blu-ray with no paperwork, and sent it off. She doesn't even remember putting a proper return address on it.

This time I walk her through the returns process on the website, hoping we get this in before Amazon gets the envelope. Surprisingly enough, a couple weeks later, we see the credit from Amazon on our credit card, so clearly it got returned successfully.

So, seriously, how in the hell did you guys succeed at this? You get a blu-ray in the mail with no paperwork or return address, and manage to figure out we actually returned something and give us our money back? Explain this wizardry!

A:

So, seriously, how in the hell did you guys succeed at this? You get a blu-ray in the mail with no paperwork or return address, and manage to figure out we actually returned something and give us our money back? Explain this wizardry!

Mind freak!

With the time frame, UPC and the postal stamp, I can do a reverse logistics look up. Most I'll get would usually be <5 results. From there I'll enter your shipment ID and get you your money back. It's a bit more work and the RMA is more convenient, but we can get it done. I highly prefer an RMA, though :)


Q:

How much easier is your life made by lazy people like myself who are too lazy to return items?

A:

How much easier is your life made by lazy people like myself who are too lazy to return items?

You give me job security. Please, keep returning crap.

edit: sorry, I misread your question, get off your lazy ass and start returning stuff!