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FTC sues Amazon over ‘deceptive’ Prime sign-up and cancellation process (cnbc.com)
378 points by geekrax on June 21, 2023 | hide | past | favorite | 247 comments

As someone who managed to successfully cancel Prime, and then tried to purchase an item on amazon.com, it took me over a minute to figure out how to not accidentally sign up for Prime membership when trying to checkout.

There was only one place I could click that would allow me to advance to the next screen (simple text), the text was super small placed below a giant image, and my cursor didn't change to indicate that it was clickable, e.g., https://imgur.com/a/VNlU9L9.

Additionally, I received my package in the same amount of time as Prime said it would take. Which leaves the question, what is the benefit of Prime membership? It's not free shipping, it's not free grocery delivery, it's not Music or Video, it's not discount prices on Amazon retail website, and it is most certainly not any assurance of authentic goods.

Prime is snake oil.

After enduring the 10+ page questionnaire on why I was cancelling Prime, the only way to cancel my Prime membership, it is clear no one took the answers to the questions seriously.

This lawsuit is long overdue.

Wow, that image is terrible. I usually consider myself pretty good against dark patterns but it took me forever to find what to click to not sign up. Once I realized both the gray areas aren't what you click, I couldn't see any other options.

That seems like what I expect a crappy deceptive startup to implement in order to try to boost metrics for the next round of investment. It's not the kind of shady UX I associate with the largest tech companies. I seriously would not have expected that from Amazon, so I'm very happy the FTC is stepping in here.

Not to mention that this is very much against Amazon's supposed values, including "customer obsession" [1] -- to "work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust" [2]. This is very much the opposite of that, when customers discover they've been deceived into signing up.

[1] https://www.aboutamazon.com/about-us

[2] https://www.aboutamazon.com/about-us/leadership-principles

My family dropped Amazon prime a few months ago, the checkout process on Amazon without prime has been getting worse the last few months. They try so hard to trick you into buying prime, I have to be very careful to make sure I don't accidentally do it. They also keep changing the flow every few weeks, so I have to pay close attention every time.

I’ve found a really easy way to avoid it is use Walmart.com heheh

Walmart app does a similar dark pattern IMHO. It would pop up asking for Walmart+ as soon as it launches. I have been a victim of accidentl trial sign-up with Walmart+

The opt in button would be at the bottom where exactly "account" sits.

> it's not Music or Video

Weird. Around here, Prime does give access to video.

I know folks around here who have prime just for that. I doublechecked just to be sure; it still is like that (according to a quick google search).

Video streaming is broken. 4K is a lie, UI and UX is clumsy and uninviting at best. There's predatory sign-ups for supplemental packages that customers have no idea about until they've been charged (sometimes for more than a year). Customer Service then tries to only refund for 1-6 months, unless the customer hires a lawyer. TV and Movie Titles that were available for free one week suddenly disappear (without warning) or require payment for continued availability (e.g., TV series), even though you pay for Prime and it was free for Prime last week.

For Amazon Music, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=36372298.

I could go on...

When you start looking at all these patterns, across all these services (e.g., Prime, Alexa, Music, Video), it's clear that one type of team must be dictating all of this (e.g., Music and Video). It's all predatory, in the same style; homogenous. Talk about placing a bet on the wrong horse.

Maybe it's not the same in all regions (I'm in France), plus sample size of one and whatnot, but I actually enjoy Prime Video. I don't watch many movies / series, so its being cheap matters a lot to me. It has enough shows to keep me busy.

There's a visible toggle to only show content that's "free for me", so I don't end up accidentally clicking on something that's not included. Plus, everything that's not free for prime members has a big icon attached to it, and it'll actually ask clearly if I want to pay to view it.

The UI is OK, I can easily find my way around it. I haven't used Netflix much, but it was much more of a pain to navigate, even for shows that I was already watching and wanted to get back to.

For shows disappearing, I've always seen a text saying they'd be leaving prime in X days.

I haven't tried Amazon Music, but I did buy a Fire TV stick, and I love that, too. I have a dumb PC monitor with terrible sound and the stick is the only player I've had that managed to only output the sound in stereo, so I can hook it up digitally to my stereo amplifier (through an HDMI toslink extractor I've got off Amazon for cheap). It's also able to tweak the remote signals so that it controls my amp volume instead of its integrated volume control.

I've seen shows that pretend to be in 4K (my monitor is 4k). They look pretty good, but I don't know how to be certain they're actually 4k.

Of all the FAANG companies, Amazon is by far the one with the most differences between countries. Internationalization makes discussions around Amazon’s practices near impossible.

Perhaps I'm part of some A/B test. Most of these affordances have in the past few days disappeared from Prime Video, so I can no longer filter by "Free to me" (a filter which it frequently would forget, anyway!) or see a little "Prime" label on the corners of included stuff. Instead, I now far more "free with ads" items (as entire rows, or mixed in with other stuff).

4K worked for me for a few weeks when they had a special "Ultra HD" category. After that, items that would claim that label streamed in at most 1080p. Other providers continue to provide the expected service: sharp image when fullscreened on my 5k display.

> Customer Service then tries to only refund for 1-6 months, unless the customer hires a lawyer.

Capital One had (when I was employed there) a process where if someone calls and disputes a Prime charge, they just call a specific number at Amazon and it gets removed instantly. No questions asked and bypasses the normal dispute process.

Call your credit card company, not Amazon.

I enjoy my prime video. Not really sure what the complications are for you. Even the non-techies in the house can easily click into it from the app on our TV.

Personally, I have a fairly long list of issues with Prime Video, from cosmetic to deep-seeded internals. Same with Amazon Music. It could be so much better, sooo much better.

Sure but is it better than HBO max or Netflix or Hulu? Oh, sorry HBO Max just stopped working, so whatever app HBO is now. (Can’t be any worse)

Prime video works fine (am in US)

It's possible to subscribe just to Prime Video. I highly recommend doing that if you only use Prime for video. It's cheaper than full Prime and you pay month by month, so you can cancel it for a few months then come back.

The only issue: I seem to remember the process of switching from full Prime to Prime Video only was rather confusing and hidden.

That must be a regional difference again. Maybe because fast shipping across North America is more expensive than inside a densely populated country like Germany? (There is monthly Prime here, including video and shipping, and it's slightly more expensive than the yearly package.)

Same here, cancelled prime and still receive packages in 1-2 days generally. I never really used any other of the services under prime like video or music, so I don't miss it one bit. Also shifted most of my online purchasing to target anyways, I find the products and experience to be far superior, and I have a local store to go to also. I spent my prime budget on a shipt subscription and get target items delivered in a couple hours.

For computer stuff, I switched to Staples, to be inspected at local store before acceptance. No more scratched monitors from Amazon Prime sold as "new".

That is horrible UX. I feel for the designers that are bossed around by the short sighted people who rationalize manipulating customers at Amazon and hope they have the courage and means to move to a better workplace where they can build something with positive-sum value.

I don't feel for the designers.

Whenever I see horrible UX from big tech it creeps into my mind that the people making it are some of the highest paid in the world and these companies are some of the richest in the world. It's either intentional or we are all suckers.

I agree. There's no reason to feel bad for such employees. They've chosen to work where they work, and I assume that they're happy with that choice.

I've heard that Amazon is a horrible place to work. Execs crying at their desks, and delivery drivers and warehouse workers being forced to piss in bottles or wear diapers in order to keep their jobs. I don't imagine that coders have it that much better. Layoffs at amazon are in the news all the time. There have been reports of 150% annual turnover with the average employee leaving shortly after 6 months. Employees have said they use stack ranking and cull many of those who do stay. I expect a lot of amazon employees are very far from happy with where they are. Some probably have skills that can get them better jobs, but I'll bet it's harder for the guys doing front end web design who are ordered to implement dark patterns in an effort to trick amazon users into signing up for things they don't want.

By "happy", I mean that they're choosing to continue working where they work. They're getting a benefit from it. Otherwise, they would make a different choice.

If they continue to work at a place that makes them miserable for whatever reason (fear of loss of income, status, change, whatever), then I do have sympathy for their emotional problem. But in the end, they can choose to have a different situation.

Yeah, everyone has their price. If you doubled my pay I'd wear a diaper at work.

We should all be able to "git blame" those dark patterns

Agree. It is negligent and unqualified management at the root of this. Talented employees who know better and try to do better are dealt dirty hands; forced to either commit illegal acts like this or face intense psychological abuse, the PIP train, and ultimately termination. Sometimes they realize what is happening and they quit. Either way, Amazon facilitates and even encourages this behavior, as people receive raises for this stuff.

I hope employees can experience federal protection against this. We definitely need it.

>Talented employees who know better and try to do better

... typically leave these companies. I know multiple people who made such choices, leaving company that asked for something unethical.

If we were talking about low paid employees with no options, the "they are forced to" would be reasonable argument. But in here these people have choices and are just unwilling to take slightly less paid job.

Funny, I just encountered the same experience.

I cancelled Prime after 12 continuous years of subscribing. I placed my first Amazon order a few days ago sans-Prime and was amazed at the blatant dark patterns put in place to get me to sign up again. When I finally got to the checkout page, I had to manually change the shipping for each item from $5.99 standard shipping to free shipping (because I hit the $25 threshold).

A few hours later, I get a solicitation for Amazon Music (not sure if I would have gotten this if I was a Prime subscriber).

Then the next day I got an email saying "Your package is arriving earlier than we previously expected"... the same as Prime 2-day shipping. Maybe it's logistically easier to just ship 2-day instead of holding on to inventory?

I thought cancelling Prime would have been difficult (especially with Prime only discounts at Whole Foods), but finding alternatives to Amazon and Whole Foods has been easy. I guess it's no wonder Amazon tries to push it so hard because it's relatively easy to live without.

> "When I finally got to the checkout page, I had to manually change the shipping for each item from $5.99 standard shipping to free shipping (because I hit the $25 threshold)."

Exactly this: https://imgur.com/a/Xi4ZO3i.

Notice how I am being told that I'm "saving $5.99 if I enroll in Prime", and the default selection is the $5.99 delivery option, however I qualify for free shipping. Further, this free shipping option changes location between purchases, making it even more confusing for customers to not be unnecessarily overcharged.

I typically sign up for Prime for a month or two when I book vacation stays on booking.com. They have a very nice promotion where prime members receive 10% in credit. Then I watch a couple of films or shows on Prime Video, because they actually have some good stuff there usually. But free shipping below 39€ is really not worth the subscription to me (Germany).

This deal is apparently only available to German and Austrian users. Nice tip though!

> It's not free shipping, it's not free grocery delivery, it's not Music or Video, it's not discount prices on Amazon retail website, and it is most certainly not any assurance of authentic goods.

FWIW, I use it for Prime Video, Prime First Reads ((where you can choose from 1-2 free books per month)) and Prime Reading.

A long time ago, I did use it for faster delivery. There was definitely a difference. But the items I tend to order now are usually heavily stocked and are delivered quickly anyway.

I wonder if people who live in rural areas are still benefitting from faster Prime delivery.

(Also, no offense, but I canceled my annual Prime subscription when they upped the price and then restarted a monthly plan later when I decided I did want to keep the other benefits. It wasn’t as difficult as you’re making it seem to cancel. And it didn’t seem any different than when I cancel other services where they try to get you to stay.)

(Also, I’m not sure if you were aware, but technically you can split the cost with multiple people (i.e. friends or relatives) if you set up an Amazon Household account)

(Also, interestingly, it looks like you can ((in certain countries I think)) just subscribe to Prime Video instead of the whole service. I guess Kindle Unlimited can be considered a separate ((and slightly better)) service for Prime Reading. Hmmmmmmm, maybe I will cancel the whole service.)

> (Also, I’m not sure if you were aware, but technically you can split the cost with multiple people (i.e. friends or relatives) if you set up an Amazon Household account)

It's just two adults now (and a limited "teen" program which doesn't acknowledge the realities of kids living at home past 17). I have four adults on my account, but two of them are grandfathered in and still receive my "prime benefits", but aren't shown anywhere in my Amazon account that I can find.


I’ve been wondering about this. My wife and I recently did some budgeting and I started to wonder if we really needed a prime subscription. Early on free 2-day shipping was really great, and worked reliably. Nowadays is hit or miss how fast you get something. And I think I can figure out how to spend my $140 better.

I see 2-day shipping as a stupid twilight zone between urgently needing something (which I'd go to the store for) or being able to wait. If it can wait two days then it can wait a week IMO.

Prime video, unlimited photo backup and ad free music, but limited selection.

2% extra cash back (on Amazon credit card) (so 5% in total).

Not sure if there is anything else, but it can be worthwhile.

The unlimited photo backup, including raw, is worthwhile for me (5tb or so)

You do realize Amazon has access to your photos, right?

Twitch without Ads was a nice benefit until that got removed years ago. We have gotten rid of our Prime membership as well. The death of it was really the 3rd party sellers and fighting to find the correct item.

Jaw dropped looking at that. Absolutely disgusting business practice. Glad the FTC is stepping in.

FTC complaint: https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/ftc_gov/pdf/amazon-rosca-pu...

Significant redactions around Amazon executives being aware of a "nonconsensual enrollment problem" and blocking any changes.

> the primary purpose of the Prime cancellation process was not to enable subscribers to cancel, but rather to thwart them. Fittingly, Amazon named that process “Iliad,” which refers to Homer’s epic about the long, arduous Trojan War. Amazon designed the Iliad cancellation process (“Iliad Flow”) to be labyrinthine, and Amazon and its leadership—including Lindsay, Grandinetti, and Ghani—slowed or rejected user experience changes that would have made Iliad simpler for consumers because those changes adversely affected Amazon’s bottom line.

A lot of the evidence in the complaint is completely redacted. FTC says "For now, the FTC’s complaint is significantly redacted, though the FTC has told the Court it does not find the need for ongoing secrecy compelling."

> Amazon named that process “Iliad,” which refers to Homer’s epic about the long, arduous Trojan War.

Wonder who allegorized as the customer for them, say Priam, Hector or Cassandra?

The first two are of course slaughtered, while the last is merely enslaved, IIRC. So I'd bet on Cassandra.

Some of the redactions are single words trivially inferred from context; what's with that?

I didn't see any that were that obvious, but it sounds like the redactions are at Amazon's request, so they probably went for anything that could conceivably be construed as private information.

E.g. lines 7 and 9 it's "checkout" or "upsell". Probably the latter. Can't be the same as the longer redacted term on line 7 - though I suppose it might be an abbreviation for it and they're protecting their internal product/codename for some lawyerly reason?

it could just be as simple as a group of persons as amazon didn't want certain words associated with them on a public government document. Lot easier to deflect accusations of overly aggressive upselling when you can just say "the report released by the government never once mentioned upselling" and just pretend that you don't need to answer the question based on that.

I wouldn't say the process of unsubscribing from Prime is 'deceptive' but it sure has many steps. They tried just about everything to persuade me to stay except offer to bring back two day shipping.

(I know many of you in urban areas are getting one day shipping but those of us in less favored geographies, such as the same ZIP code as AMZN warehouses, have seen two day shipping turn into five, which makes Amazon uncompetitive with going to the store or with other e-tailers which usually offer faster shipping.)

What's deceptive about it is you click the first link to cancel your benefits, then each subsequent page is basically a quiz: "which button will boot you out of the cancel flow and which button will proceed to the next page"

I agree it's not actually that hard to cancel, but the flow is so needlessly complex from a consumer perspective.

It should go straight to a page with three buttons and associated explanations:

1) Cancel at the end of the term 2) Cancel immediately and receive pro-rated refund (Since they offer this, I'm including it here - wouldn't expect it in general) 3) Keep subscription

I just cancelled. The first click to cancel your membership takes you to a page that says “you still have N days of your membership!” which is where you’d be able to close the page knowing your service was canceled if the service was honest.

But nah you have to scroll to the bottom and click “Continue canceling” where you’re taken the page you describe.

I don’t know how anyone can say this isn’t deceptive. If I click cancel membership, I shouldn’t be taken to a no-op interstitial page that makes me scroll to find a “continue canceling” button. That only exists to look like a “Canceled successfully” page.

If you just cancelled, you saw improvements they made as a result of FTC pressure. Before April 2023 the process was much more difficult.

As someone who regularly gets the 1-week trial of Prime (and cancels), the cancellation process has gotten a lot less deceptive recently. E.g. they used to invert the colors of the buttons to make the "Cancel Membership" look like the negative option, etc. These days it's still unnecessarily long, but requires less double-takes to figure out.

That's a direct result of this lawsuit.

> Under substantial pressure from the Commission, Amazon changed its Iliad cancellation process in or about April 2023, shortly before the filing of this Complaint.

- page 43, https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/ftc_gov/pdf/amazon-rosca-pu...

Oh for sure - I agree that the process is not something a reasonable person can't do - I use the 1 week trial of prime every time I order (and then cancel it immediately).

I ran into this trying to cancel a free-trial a month ago. Or rather I thought I'd cancelled it and got charged.

Cancelling the 2nd time, they refunded me for the unused month. But maybe that was to do with the linked case rather than the goodness of their hearts.

The complaint says they internally called the cancellation process "the Iliad Flow". See page 43 for a full description: https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/ftc_gov/pdf/amazon-rosca-pu...

Disclosure: Work for AWS. My only experience with Prime is as a customer (and the odd beta for new types of programming).

I wouldn't read much into the internal names of things at Amazon. They're picked at random by nerds. I've seen apps internally named after space, Dragon Ball Z, Lord of the Rings, coffee and candy, etc. I'm pretty sure I've used another, completely different thing that's also called Iliad.

It's not malicious. It's just one of those Amazon things that make working there sometimes a chore.

I believe you that some internal names are random, and it's possible that this one is too, but obviously Amazon doesn't have the benefit of the doubt here. What is clearly malicious is that Project Iliad was intentionally designed to reduce cancellations among the population of users that already wanted to cancel (as opposed to reducing cancellations by making the service better). Here's some of the evidence that is redacted in the FTC complaint: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-prime-ftc-probe-custo...

> Internal documents also show that Amazon intentionally drew out the process of canceling a Prime membership. Under a project code-named "Iliad," Amazon created multiple layers of questions and new offers before a Prime member could cancel their subscription, in hopes of reducing member churn. The number of cancellations dropped by 14% at one point in 2017 following the launch of Iliad, and fewer members were navigating to the final cancellation page, one of the documents said.

Yeah the internal codenames in engineering aren't malicious, i.e Apollo makes sense. But a project name? Na, that's picked intentionally.

Direct page link (most in-browser PDF readers support #page=43)


Thanks, I guess that works in Firefox too

Also a click-by-click guide! It's a funny world of ours, where the best UI documentation available is found in a government legal action.

I'm in NYC and two day shipping here is a crapshoot nowadays. Sure it says 2-day shipping on the store page, but counting my past orders, 6/10 were delayed delivery, usually taking 5 days. The last 2 times I tried buying bulk paper towels on Amazon (I had them set as a recurring purchase every 6 months) they have been lost in transit.

Also really frustrating, if I go to "Order Details" for an order that was delayed, the "Delivery Estimate" line shows the day it was actually delivered. Not the day it was originally estimated. I had to check my email to find the original delivery estimate.

Now that Amazon is mostly low quality drop-shipped garbage from fake brands like KULUZU and PORKTI, fast and cheap shipping are about the only thing they have going for them. If that's gone, what's left?

I would say, new "lows" are in store for Amazon. Amazon is now requiring customers to file police reports in order to have any chance at refunds now. Customer Service spews tons of lies, customers half-heartedly believe in good faith, and then get screwed. Customers then take to social media forums such as Reddit to request help and to vent. Instead they are met with Amazon employees who gaslight them further. Again, and again, and again. This new low appears to have ramped up in February/March 2023.

Amazon's response? Let's not fix the underlying issues in the company. Instead, let's attack all other social media sites for "fake reviews":

"Social media sites failing to curb 'cottage industry' of fake reviews, Amazon says"[1] (Sun 18 Jun 2023 12.27 EDT).

You read that correctly. Amazon. Is accusing everyone else. Of failing to curb "cottage industry" of fake reviews. Hilariously sad. RIP Amazon.


> Amazon is now requiring customers to file police reports in order to have any chance at refunds now.

This was the case 4 years ago. I don't think it's new.

Oh, looks like Amazon's mods haven't set the r/amazonprime subreddit back to public (https://www.reddit.com/r/SubredditMonitor/comments/14cpe0j/r...).

Nevertheless, let me find a few examples.

16-Feb-2023: "Amazon making me file a police report after they delivered my neighbors package to my home."[1]

17-Feb-2023: "Delivery Issues"[2]

14-Feb-2023: "My item was marked as “delivered” but isn’t actually here, contacted Amazon and they’re asking for a police report"[3]

25-Jan-2023: "Amazon wants me to file a Police Report."[4]

24-Jan-2023: "Amazon is refusing to refund me for a missing item even after a police report. Has anyone else dealt with this and found a work around?"[5]


Title says it all. This is straight up BS.

*Mon* - Delivery Day: Package Delivered, not my package it’s my neighbors package so we walk it across the street. I chat with Amazon and let them know they delivered my neighbors package but listed it as mine. I am told search around my house and check my mailbox… you must wait till the following day after 6pm before you can contact us again.

*Tues* - Contact them and this is where things should have been easy and I should have just asked for a refund. They ask do you want a refund or new item and I say I just want the item I ordered please. I am told in the next couple days wait for an email with the replacement order..

*Today/Thur* - I chat with them and say I still haven’t received an email and I am immediately greeted with [this](https://i.imgur.com/3m0W4hV.jpg). WTH I have never had an issue before what the hell is going on. I tried to give them my neighbors tracking ID on his package to say that’s the package they delivered as “mine”.

Now I have filed a police report, got my credit card company involved and am waiting for answers. I cannot believe this, they are making it seem as if I CAUSED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Needless to say I’m not happy. Just venting I’ve never been in this position before and this really ruins my experience going forward.



I came home from work on the 11th having seen my parcel as being marked as being “behind the wheelie bin”. No photo attached though. As I went round the back to get it, I noticed that there wasn’t any obvious parcel, I looked around there and back round the front of my house only to find there was no package. I spoke to my neighbours and my housemates to see if they’d seen anyone delivering from Amazon during the day, to which both parties said they hadn’t even seen a van.

I attempted to report this to amazon that day, and was told to wait until Tuesday 14th. I waited and came back to report it then, only to be told that there’s nothing to be done and that I must file a police report if I wish to get my money back.

So I call the non-emergency line (101) and explain to them what’s happened. I’m told in no uncertain terms that a non-received parcel is NOT a police matter and for the amount of the items (1 item) missing (~£50), it’s too small for them to file a report anyway. I explained to Amazon that I don’t even know if it’s stolen so how can I report it as such and am told that until the item is physically in my possession, it remains the property of Amazon and if they believe it’s been stolen then you need to file the report. The police told me it’s more of a civil matter and my best chance would be letting my bank sort this as a dispute.

Until I receive the parcel, it can't be stolen from me, and seeing as I don’t have it, how can it have been stolen from me. Amazon have a sales contract to deliver the items I ordered to me. How is this not their issue to solve?

Any suggestions?


So i had ordered a couple of things off of amazon but when i received it i had only gotten one of my packages. I contacted customer support to ask for a refund or something and they told me i need to file a police report first because i guess i had already asked for a refund for a package that never showed up a while back. Never had this happen before, so do i just go and file a report and they'll refund me? Has anybody been through this before?


I bought an IPhone 11 and case from Amazon (sold and shipped by them). Once the package arrived it only had the case/screen protector and no Phone. Support told me to wait a few days then they would help with a refund…but instead they told me the weight on the package was correct so they can’t do anything until I filed a police report.

So I go ahead file a police report, send Amazon the report and number of my local police and they’re still refusing to refund me. Claiming there isn’t enough proof of investigation. I just don’t know what to do and I’d rather not charge back because ik amazon has a habit of closing down accounts after that.

Not to defend amazon, but at least in the US, they have a awesome return policy. It's even easy to just scan and drop-off at UPS/WF, etc...

I hear this, but it's hard for me to believe. I was a customer (in the US) for over 10 years, spending several thousands of dollars without an issue, but then -- on two different instances -- I needed their awesome return policy.

In both cases, they completely stiffed me. That was the final straw that made me stop using Amazon.

Yikes, I guess I'll have to be on the look out....

This is the new norm.

Everyone talks about this drop-shipped garbage and fakes. But I have yet to see this. And I feel like I order a lot from Amazon. Every week our house is getting at least a couple packages.

What kind of products people ordering that they're getting fakes? I've ordered a variety of books, art supplies, shoes, some tech like batteries and cable (typically from Anker store), coffee beans, some audio streamers, Legos, notebooks, stuff for pets, gardening supplies, etc...

Taking some of your examples:

Look up "pet sweaters". Resulting brands listed in order: Dxhycc, Fitwarm, ANIAC, Jecikelon, Queenmore.

"Audio streamer": WiiM, Andover, iFi, Arylic, Douk, ACEMAX.

"USB cable": Jelly tang, AINOPE, Ruaeoda, etguuds.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Interesting. I think I typically must have specific things I'm looking for. Like for example, I probably wouldn't look up "pet sweaters", but WOULD look up something like "canada pooch dog sweater". Which, takes me past all the seo-ad-targeted junk.

And now, the more I think about it, I'm typically using amazon's search for zeroing on something specific. I wouldn't even do "car charger for phone", but would do something like "Anker USB-C Charger for Pixel 6a".

And likely, most items I'm going for I'd be referred to from a site, like America's Test Kitchen or something.

In short, I guess I don't "search for discoverability" on Amazon at all, and that's how I stay out of their optimized mess.

EDIT: I also don't really purchase things that aren't independently reviewed elsewhere, like using ATK for some kitchen items, etc...

That’s weird. I cancelled prime a couple years ago and only sign up for it when they offer a free trial.

Without prime I still order from them more than I feel good about, but only ever opt for the free, slow, shipping.

I’m at something like 30% deliver relay in 2 days, 40% deliver in less than 5 days, and 30% take the full five days.

combining your experience with my own, really sounds like they’re losing it.

My situation is similar to yours (except I avoid even the free trials) with similar shipping times. I do have a primary warehouse for my metro area about 5 miles away in my town. I think items that are in that warehouse or on their way to getting replenished arrive as quickly as ever while everything else takes longer. I'm fine with that but I'm also looking to get even further away from using Amazon after some poor recent experiences.

> Sure it says 2-day shipping on the store page, but counting my past orders, 6/10 were delayed delivery, usually taking 5 days.

When I signed up the guarantee (if not then?) was three days. At first it was good for small town Canada. But then the bottom fell out. But now something may say ship time a week or two but the thing arrives four days later. They're all over the place. One may think incompetence but it's benefiting me.

The other thing I hate it Prime Video more than once I've been two episodes from the end of a show and suddenly the show access is pulled. But oh look you can rent or buy it now for more $$$ on top of your subscription.

Yeah, I'm in PHX, and sometimes it's the same day, sometimes the next, sometimes a week later, despite saying 1-2 days on the order page. It's really kind of a crapshoot. I mean, there are grocery options here and most of the secondary services work too. I also happen to watch a few things on Prime Video (Jack Ryan, Reacher, The Boys, and Terminal List have all been very good). So it's been mostly worth it for me.

The UX, and product reliability are a completely different thing. I won't by any Amazon Basics products ever again, and many technical products (USB Cables, Chargers, etc) are a total crapshoot unless you buy from known mfg and even then who knows for sure.

I canceled my account recently for the same reason. The two day or same day shipping would never happen even though on the product it was advertised as such.

I had an interesting experience the other day where an item labeled "Prime" would have taken 10 days to arrive by their estimate.

The increased “jitter” in shipping times was one of the things that prompted me to cancel Prime a few years ago. Even in NYC my perception was that the standard deviation of transit times had increased significantly.

The other components to the decision were the ever increasing volume of identical no-brand junk/counterfeit products with fake reviews, and the significant improvements in online inventory/buy inline pick up in store options from brick and mortar retailers.

When I signed up for Prime 13(?) years ago very few stores had accurate online inventory, now tons of them do, and the more limited selection actually feels like a benefit.

I have never intentionally paid for prime. I have tried a couple dozen "free trials" since signing up for Amazon in 2000. The process of canceling these trials definitely has the buttons labeled and styled deceptively. You really do have to pay close attention. And the date at which they start charging your payment method is not when you'd think either, it's a day earlier than the 30 days they promise. I've ended up paying them for "free" prime a few times and only received part of it back via-refund.

I have also never paid for, nor trialed, prime. I also have always had free-shipping (despite not having "prime") from Amazon.

How? Patience. I add things I plan to order to my cart, and once the collection goes above the "free ship" threshold (currently $25) only then do I place an order.

Of course, on the order page they always default to "paid shipping" and force one to explicitly check the "free shipping" radio button to actually get free shipping.

Some years back it felt like Amazon deliberately delayed for an extra week any "free shipping" packages -- they would sit, waiting, for about a week, then packed, shipped, and arrived in about 4 days. I always attributed it to Amazon punishing those who chose to gain free shipping without signing up for prime. But over the last few years that "delay" has shrunk such that it no longer seems like "free shipping" packages get intentionally delayed to "encourage" prime sign-up next time.

It sounds like they mark your packages low priority and honestly that is the only logical way to treat a customer that isn't paying.

I don't disagree. I picked "free shipping" -- if they want to queue mine after everyone who explicitly paid for shipping and those who pays for prime, that is fine.

My point is that the "de-prioritization delay" seems to have evaporated and I get items shipped in about the same time as the prime estimates (when they are "shipped by amazon" -- third party shippers are all over the board with shipping delays).

I've always shied away from Amazon's Prime service because the signup process already looks shady, no points offered for guessing that cancallation is even shadier.

Walmart offers Walmart Plus - I've never used it but it looks infinitely less sketchy. Between that and the fact that Walmart has its supply chain under control ("commingling", anyone) the choice is easy.

I just started seeing items with same day shipping where I live. We’ve received a few items now within just a few hours of ordering it.

Most of the common items we order are 1-2 day shipping. Less popular items can be several days or more.

It’s as much as the sign up tbh where it automatically adds Prime to your basket and makes it hard to realise your signing up to a reoccurring payment.

I always wonder how much money Amazon makes from their UI "tweakers". The people, originally Bezos, who tweaked the UI to be more or less painful selectively throughout the site.

If it makes Amazon Customers 1% LESS LIKELY to unsubscribe, then $$MILLION DOLLAR AMAZONCOM MISSION ACCOMPLISHED$$.

1-2 shipping is all that's keeping me aboard

The whole Amazon.com experience has been getting worse and worse as the years go by. Everything from the products they sell, quality control, customer service, dark patterns in the UI, etc.

I wonder how long until you have to call someone or mail in a 1,000 word letter on why you don't need Prime to cancel it.

The experience has been getting worse for customers, but better for shareholders. Can't please everyone!

Life Pro Tip: Be a shareholder, don't be a customer.

I was an employee and a shareholder, but my customer experience is part of why I'm no longer either, and why I won't be again in the future.

This is exactly it.

I am both. It's still a frustrating experience and eventually shareholders will be negatively impacted.

Isnt this the truth. I have no problem owning Apple and MSFT shares, but boy do I want to avoid their products!

> The whole Amazon.com experience has been getting worse and worse as the years go by.

Maybe, but they are still miles better than most other online shops, so they still get to grow. Just for the return policy, they are kind of worth it.

Have you tried searching for anything? They include any vaguely related product and support no negative search terms. Want a glass container, they are going to include dozens of products that don't contain any glass. Want a screw top bottle? They include product listings that don't contain the work screw or any synonyms. It is basically impossible to find specific objects. If you want a pack of clothes pins you are probably fine, but if you want a particular item with specific features it is useless.

I'm also pretty sure there is no way not to get no results. They don't want to say "sorry we don't have that". Instead they give you infinite inaccurate results that you need to go through to confirm that.

Sadly, this has always been how Amazon's search has behaved. It has never been any good at all, unless you already knew a specific model number, in which case that might cause the first entry to be the actual thing you are looking for. But the results page is always filled out, even if searching returned zero hits -- they just stuff something in front of you, because doing that to enough people will result in some percentage of them buying something from those bogus results.

> because doing that to enough people will result in some percentage of them buying something

Yeah, it might have improved things at first. But now I avoid Amazon because I don't want to have to wade though pages of results to find what I am looking for. So they probably shipped this with a temporary blip in sales but didn't consider the long-term effect.

I have had some successes using Bing Chat to find right product from the Amazon catalog. It is a lot better than Amazon's own search. E.g., Which transparent storage boxes sold by Amazon.in are more than 5 inches in height. Bing Chat tells. :-)

> Have you tried searching for anything?

Try search on most online shopping sites and despair. Amazon is hardly the worst one.

I disagree. I stopped using Amazon a couple of years ago and haven't missed it even a little bit. They're not substantially better than most others.

Would you mind listing a few alternatives you use? I generally try to avoid Amazon when I can, but have had problems finding a general good site.

In case anyone is wondering what I use, here's a short list:

Computer/electronics, I visit Newegg. (I haven't been thrilled with them moving into other areas like Auto parts, etc. but they seem alright for the time being.)

Hardware or similar, I go with Tractor Supply Co, Home Depot, or Lowes.

Music, I go with 7Digital.

Car stuff, I have used NAPA in the past, but I hate that they don't store order history for over 1 year. Also, their search function is not great, and their selection is somewhat limited.

General stuff, I've tried to use Walmart for stuff like pillows or sheets or whatever, but most of the stuff they offer is also offered by Amazon, and Amazon is usually stocked better and generally a few dollars cheaper. I've been weary of trying out sites like Aliexpress.

It's frustrating because it seems like Amazon just generally has a larger selection than most other offerings out there. For more niche subjects, I feel like I have some reasonable options, but when it comes to more broad subjects, it feels like it's Amazon or nothing.

Honestly so many Amazon items are literally Aliexpress drop shipped items. For most results when you get a random brand name like XYZKA, DKSJD, etc. if you search for that product on Ali, you'll find it at 1/5th the cost and it's literally the same exact item.

Interesting! Thanks for the info. :)

It would be a long list. I buy from local stores rather than online whenever I can. If I can't, then I buy directly from the manufacturer of whatever it is I'm interested in buying.

Except with electronic parts. For those, I typically go with Digikey. For electronic devices and computers, I go to a local recycler. They have what I need about 80% of the time.

I've never had a situation where Amazon was the only option, and rarely a situation where it was the best option.

Thanks for the response! I generally try to shop locally myself, so I know what you mean.

I haven't heard of Digikey before. I'll have to give them a looksee.

For the recycler, have you had any issues or concerns with reused hard drives? I'm aware of how to securely wipe them and whatnot, but I feel like my nerves would still be on end to some degree, no matter how many times I reformatted or securely erased the data on it. Similarly, is it safe to assume that they have some kind of thorough physical cleanliness policy regarding hardware? I've listened to stories of computer repair techs who receive desktops that have literal cockroaches crawling out of them.

When I think of a recycling plant my immediate gut reaction is "dirty", but I feel like that reaction is unfair, if not unfounded. I've never been to that kind of place and am not really sure what to expect.

> For the recycler, have you had any issues or concerns with reused hard drives?

Do you mean buying used ones? I've never had an issue with them at all, no.

I never donate my old hard drives. I keep them forever, as a kind of last-ditch backup. I have a collection of them that goes back to late '80s.

> Similarly, is it safe to assume that they have some kind of thorough physical cleanliness policy regarding hardware?

At this place, everything they sell is as clean as if it were new, inside and out.

I use the same sites you use. In addition I use https://pcpartpicker.com/. It has price alerts and price comparisons.

Thanks for the recommendation. I've used them in the past at some point. I forgot about those guys! :)

Sounds like you make your life more complicated by having to shop in 10 different places. That's why Amazon is practical, it covers a lot of ground. (while they are not the cheapest for many items anymore).

I suppose you could see it that way. I'd offer a counter, if you will hear me out, though.

Generally, I don't see it as any "extra" effort to type in a different website name. I shop with the intention of already knowing what it is I want, it's simply a matter of finding it. I've already set up accounts on each of those sites, and use a password manager. I need to login to each site no matter where I end up because I have my history and cache cleared whenever my browser closes. It's the same process, whether it be Amazon or someone else. Now, compound that with my general distaste with Amazon, and it means I'm essentially completing the same process I would have been completing with Amazon, but without the associated distaste and annoyance.

I think of it this way: If I want quick and cheap food, I go to McDonalds, but generally dislike the place. It serves it's purpose. If I have a hunger for something specific, like Chinese, Italian, etc. I go to those places. The amount of effort expended is the same. The drive time might vary slightly, but each of those niche restaurants is going to be able to cater to that desire much more specifically, and presumably with a higher care of attention and customer service.

That is:

I'm placing an order, regardless.

I'm getting in the car, regardless.

I'm paying, regardless.

All of those actions are required to happen. No matter where I go, effort must be expended, so why use that effort on something lack luster and morally questionable? Wouldn't it be more logical to spend that effort directed at something catered specific to that desire, rather than go to McDonalds and hope that their version of spaghetti and meatballs will be "good enough"?

> effort must be expended, so why use that effort on something lack luster and morally questionable?

How do you judge that other online business that have a lower profile than Amazon are not morally questionable?

Primarily as a guess.

The morality of a company is more of a secondary factor, though. The things I care most about are if I feel their system is trying to take advantage of me, the consumer, rather than how it treats it's employees. I realize that sounds horrible, but we're not generally privy to what happens behind closed doors. Amazon makes headlines on a regular enough basis to make that sort of abuse common knowledge.

If a company like Newegg acts the same way, it's not something that I am routinely made aware of.

Sure, what Amazon actually sells is convenience. I think it comes at too high of a price (not just talking monetarily), but that's a highly individual kind of determination. Other may think differently, and that's entirely valid as well.

DOP San Marzano tomatoes. Sometimes Amazon is the only place I can find them.

Costco now has them.

> They're not substantially better than most others.

I mentioned return policy. You said nothing about that.

I have needed Amazon's return policy twice, and both times, Amazon stiffed me. In fact, that was the last straw that got me to stop using them.

In my personal experience, Amazon has the worst return policy of anywhere I've shopped.

> Amazon has the worst return policy of anywhere I've shopped.

Not my experience at all, Actually completely the opposite. Amazon has had the very best return policy, with no questions asked.

Here in Canad Canadian Tire was notorious for Rewards Card pressure sign you up right there. Even roaming sales people in suits pestering you right as you walked in the door and cashiers as you were paying.

To cancel? You need to send in a letter via post. that may be changed but I'm guessing probably not.

Oh and the rewards used to be 5% of cash purchases now it's 0.5% dismal. Just a glorified spam farm for your info.

> Just a glorified spam farm for your info.

To be fair, that's all rewards/loyalty programs. But clearly, some are worse than others.

Can you use chatgpt to write that letter?

Sounds like a perfect job for PrimeGPT to write that for you.

Yeah, I got hit by this. I use Amazon maybe once or twice a year when I absolutely can't find something anywhere else. They are absolutely my last choice of where to shop, but sometimes, it's the only option.

In any event, despite knowing that they'll try to get you to join Prime at every interaction, and despite trying not to do it, I accidentally clicked on the "Yes, sign me up for Prime even though I've been telling you no for literally years" button instead of the "No, just take my money and give me my stuff" button. It instantly signed me up for Prime. It didn't add it to my cart, or take me to checkout, or ask, "Are you sure? It's going to cost you $x per month." That was the really shocking part to me. The button didn't say, "One click purchase" or whatever they sometimes say when you're viewing a product. Absolutely no indication that it would be immediate and irrevocable.

I immediately canceled and had to go through 5 "Are you really really sure you want to cancel?" and "Can we just suspend it for now?" pages before I actually got to cancel. Not the worst I've seen, but certainly scummy and deceptive.

To give you an idea what I see every time I checkout,


Wow I looked at this for a solid 10 seconds before seeing the "no thanks" and that was even with your bright red arrow pointing at it. The must have user tested this to hell to find the absolute perfect combination of design elements

This is the "trick you into signing up" page that is inserted if you are not currently a prime member.

I've been clicking the "no-thanks" link for years -- as I've never signed up for, nor ever wanted to sign up for, amazon prime.

But, as I know it is going to show up, I'm not surprised by it in the least, and I know where to go to get past it without accidentally signing up for prime. Maybe the FCC complaint might finally make this nice dark pattern example finally go away.

If I remember correctly, they've also moved around the "No thanks" over the years. I seem to remember the "No thanks" option being below the "Enjoy Prime for FREE for blah ..." area a while back. I could swear the prompt changes sometimes between this more standard screenshot above, and some weird pitch geared specifically towards college students, where the "No thanks" option is considerably harder to see.

I was trying to reproduce the prompt that I was thinking of and found an equally obnoxious prompt:


If you accidentally click on prime, you are shown this


Which makes it seem like you can't even remove the "free" Prime trial, unless you look extremely closely.

Alternatively, if you do click on free shipping, but not on Prime free shipping, you get a popup showing this


Which defaults to trying to steal any gift card balance you have in order to pay for Prime.

I knew that Amazon was awful, but it's really gotten so far out of hand that it's surprising they haven't had the sort of legal trouble Microsoft had back in '98.

Thank you for sharing this! This is super egregious and should be in the article.

lol, SaaS pricing pages have entered the chat (even harder to find the free option)

It sure would be nice to have legislation mandating parity between sign up and cancellation. One-click signup? One-click cancel.

This seems like something that is reasonably easy to define and fairly tight in scope. Embarrassing question: what would be the first step to proposing such legislation?

> what would be the first step to proposing such legislation?

Several large donations to the re-election funds of various congress critters.

That’s just a light knocking on the door. If they even hear it to open that door, you’ll find sitting comfortably inside the much more well funded lobbyist from Amazon whispering sweet nothings into the ear of the Congress critter you just wasted money on

This is depressing. On a more cheerful note, the FTC has already proposed a rule [0] called "Click to Cancel"

> Proposal seeks to make it as easy to cancel enrollment as it was to sign up

Fingers crossed. This FTC is a welcome change, thanks to having a young tech-savvy chairwoman who was a scholar. (The norm seems to be "old corporate executive.")

[0] https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/03/...

>This is depressing.

I clearly don't have a cheery outlook on how congress operates, or the ethics of most businesses.

That's basically how EU law works.

The UK government has a proposed law that customers must be able to end a subscription in a single clear process and all subscriptions entered into online must be capable of being ended online. Seems that if the US pushed this kind of law it'd have a significant effect on improving online services.

California has already done this, so feel free to report any businesses that aren't allowing US-based customers to cancel immediately.


SiriusXM needs to be reported mercilessly. Their cancellation process requires chatting with someone who tries to offer you better deals to stay, which of course only last for a few months, then the original price kicks back in. It takes 15 minutes to go through the process. The sad thing is that I'd love to activate their service for a month here or month there, but their cancellation process is too painful to do so, so they just lose out on my business, and piss me off at the same time. A real lose-lose scenario!

I canceled my SiriusXM sub a couple months after the merger. I was an XM subscriber that was "merged in" and when the merger finished, one of the big reasons why I was an XM subscriber (no talking DJ's on the channels I listened to) vanished and suddenly all the old channels I listened to had talking DJ's everywhere.

I had to wait a couple months to cancel because of a weird clause requiring some amount of "sub time" before one could get a pro-rata refund in the agreement.

Cancellation had to be by phone, and the SiriusXM person went so far as to offer a full year of free service to keep me on board. She was quite shocked when I told her, no, not even a free year will keep me as a subscriber. I also asked her to be sure to tell her managers that the reason why they lost a sub was adding talking DJ's to channels that previously had none.

I switched to a commercial free, DJ free mp3 player for my commute, and eventually the "mp3 player" was replaced by my cell phone.

One problem I've encountered is the inability to remove a payment method for an active subscription. For example, I pay for several subscriptions with PayPal. I recently wanted to modify my PayPal preference for a particular subscription so that it used my credit card rather than checking account. I normally do this by deleting PayPal and then re-adding it, which goes through the login and account selection flow. I was prohibited from doing this, because since it is an active subscription, I was not allowed to delete the only payment method on it.

However, PayPal has some pretty slick tools for managing recurring payments and subscriptions, so I think I could manage it from the dashboard over there. Haven't checked yet.

That "single, clear process" should be the website & app of the card issuer the subscription is through. The user should also be able to see clear limits & term durations via the card, before commute to the service, provider be-damned.

Slight OT, but wow.

What an example of how local optimizations within an organization can destroy long term customer value.

Many comments below discuss how Amazon has lost customer trust through these practices.

Most likely the PM or business lead was praised at the time for the short term revenue bump gained from these dark patterns.

> What an example of how local optimizations within an organization can destroy long term customer value.

It's not clear that they haven't profited more by having people retain prime through these patterns than they have lost through losing consumer trust.

Eventually it will catch up with them. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow but in 10 years time, I bet Amazon’s retail business will have declined.

People are not stupid and they learn. They will go to the place which works best for them and if Amazon stops working for them, they will go somewhere else.

One final comment is Amazon says one of its corporate values is customer obsession. On the retail side of Amazon, I am not seeing a lot of customer obsession. I am seeing a lot of short term thinking which gets Amazon more money today but will hurt their business in the long run. Here are some examples:

- Horrible content discover for books, movies and TV. Amazon just returns the results of a database query. It does not try to help you find content you will like. In TV shows, it lists each season as a separate show (web site, about 5-7 years ago).

- No way to distinguish between high quality non-fiction books and disinformation.

- Its book categories are very badly done. One example is I once went looking for computer science books. There were duplicates in the top 50 (i.e. one book listed more than once) and almost none of the books were computer science books. They were either “How to use technology X” books or “How to ace the programming interview” books. Some were also public policy books. This was about 10 years ago.

- Canceling Prime took too long and was far too hard. I will never subscribe again after I saw how they treated me when I unsubscribed. Note Netflix is easy to subscribe to and unsubscribe from.

Is this process new? I cancelled my Amazon account a couple of years ago, and was genuinely surprised at how easy it was. They didn't even ask me the traditional "Why are you cancelling?" question.

I remember it clearly because it stood out as the only time I interacted with them (outside of buying something) that went without complication.

Whole account or just prime?

Now that you mention it, just Prime. I couldn't figure out how to cancel the entire account. Instead, I removed the payment method and have just been ignoring the account's existence.

Glad to see this for the precedent, though Prime is far from the worst offender of employing dark patterns to cancel memberships.

I'd love to see FTC target cancellations that require you to call a phone number and speak with someone. There's always a very long wait, and once you speak to someone you have to do gymnastics to get them to cancel.

I am very fond of the EU approach that says cancelling things should be just as easy as signing up for them.

I still use amazon occasionally, but I think of it basically as interacting with a criminal that I know is completely dishonest and trying every trick to steal from me. Unfortunately there are sometimes still occasions when I have to hold my nose and do it, but they're getting fewer and farther between.

The motto "if a company wants me to do something it's probably not in my best interest" has served me really well.

It's honestly not any more annoying than the shit groceries store do all the time, in my opinion.

That said, this isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the practices. :(

When Amazon was really getting going (say 2015?) I hardly ever went to physical stores and was so happy to have a better alternative. Now everything sucks.

Very similar to uber, it was such a breath of fresh air compared to taxis, now it's worse than them.

These "disruptors" that just buy their market position suck.

Uber is by far not as bad as taxis.

The world is a big place. In Montreal and Toronto, and imo many airports, Taxis are better. They come faster and more reliably, I have a real person to deal with, none of uber's bullshit, and the car and driver are no different. I'm sure it's possible to find places where this isn't true. When uber first came out, it was head and shoulders above taxis though.

Amazon is quickly moving towards a place where their plumbing/infra is better than their consumer facing product.

That is AWS & Amazon fulfillment.

Amazon shopping site is garbage at the level of peak eBay BS. Video/Music/Alexa are afterthoughts. Kindle is extremely mediocre hardware & software for how long its been around, but they priced out competition. Fire phone. Etc.

It's as if Amazon is really great at building the glue for other people to build their products on top of, but horrible at building products themselves.

Or Amazon is great at recognizing where the profit margins are and staying away from low profit margin/high liability business areas.

Dark patterns like this should be regulated. I'm tired of having to click through obfuscated menus to cancel subscriptions, notifications, and tracking.

> Dark patterns like this should be regulated.

If by "regulated", you mean that dark patterns should be prohibited, then I agree.

IMO, The Amazon Audiobook sub/unsub is even more deceptive... it looks like you might lose your existing purchases if you cancel (you don't). But since I no longer commute, I had a pile of credits to where I was going to lose them, they extended me a couple times, in the end, I went on a spree of anything I was loosely interested in and just cancelled.

Good looking out, I was going to cancel the other day and losing access to all my audiobook content WAS the impression I got, which caused me to hesitate. After reading your comment, I've gone and cancelled and yep, still have access to all my stuff. Fuck dark pattern bullshit.

I've been tricked into signing up for Prime a few times. Luckily it was a free month each time, so I canceled as soon as I noticed and took advantage of the free offer. Thing is, over a certain value "free" means the free you get anyway and the Prime way. I stay away as much as I can. Hate them.

I remember when this was first rolled out. You'd go to buy something on Amazon, and the whole page would be a Prime ad, while some tiny little text would say something like "no thanks take me to checkout." This change was when I knew that Amazon had jumped the shark and was certainly no longer "obsessively customer focused." We had actually bought Prime accidentally via this method. Now in my family we make it a specific point that we won't buy anything on Amazon.

Same. This was scary to me.

It means Amazon knows they are kings of online retail and have no problem abusing customers now.

Walmart online is sometimes cheaper, but also sometimes more expensive. Makes it really hard to make the switch. I have refused to give money to bad companies, but with the rest of the world being manipulated into giving them money, I realized I never made a dent.

I cut out Amazon recently and there's something to be said about specialized online retailers. I used to think the idea of having a different retailer for each category was a bygone relic of the past after Amazon, but I'm starting to enjoy the better selection and customer support I get from companies like Chewy, Sweetwater, Costco, etc. A one-stop retailer is a convenience, but they suffer from the classic "jack of all trades" problem with their selection and only end up being a logistics company for delivering mass mediocrity.

I tried to confirm this with 3D printing filaments. Amazon is somehow cheaper than everywhere I looked.

I find that Amazon's prices are their trap, and it gives the illusion of having more. I buy lots of cheap components for creating music, and I get far better quality for my dollar from Sweetwater than I ever have on Amazon, even if Amazon's prices were lower.

I think this is fooling ourselves. The cheap 3d Printer filament is fine.

Its weird because a mega corporation would consider the quality and if it meets the qualities, they would buy the cheapest price(with few other considerations, maybe china-US relations might deter).

In this case, the objective right answer is to buy the cheapest when it comes to 3D printer filament, as long as it meets the quality. It does.

I wonder if its some emotional decision to buy a more expensive product that performs equally.

You come off as condescending to assume that someone who doesn't agree with you must be doing so on an emotional basis. That's like me assuming your response is based in a need to justify being cheap. I'm speaking of a specific area - musical components - where I've seen firsthand myself having to replace parts from the Amazon-featured products, where the parts I buy elsewhere at a marginally higher price have never once needed replacing. Sure, maybe your filaments are serving your needs, but my point flat-out was that approach does not fill mine.

> Walmart online is sometimes cheaper, but also sometimes more expensive. Makes it really hard to make the switch.

I respect that you have to make decisions based on your own financial situation. For me, getting a few things for less money with the possibility that you might suddenly get hit with a big charge for something you didn't actually sign up for voluntarily is not worth it. To me it's like putting off fixing a car problem. You're saving money in the short term, but it could cause other much more expensive (or fatal) problems later. It's just too much risk for me. (But I have also been in a position where I had to put off a car fix because I simply didn't have the money. It absolutely sucked.)

>I respect that you have to make decisions based on your own financial situation.

Idk, I worked for a lot of companies, and I'm not sure any would pick the same product when its more expensive elsewhere under the fear of an unexpected charge that has never occurred before.

I suppose I should be preparing for a volcano to emerge in the north east US too. :P

There are so many of these processes which are so difficult that they border on the outright criminal, but the FTC goes after Amazon because it is a big political target to hit. Maybe from a utilitarian perspective it makes sense.

Not sure why people keep suspecting a political motive. That Amazon is huge seems sufficient explanation.

You don't think there's any political reason they are going after Amazon rather than, say, the New York Times? Just the impartial watchmen of Democracy studiously promoting the adherence to regulation here?

There's no obvious reason to suspect a political motivation. That Amazon is an enormous retailer, and newspapers are not, seems like rather sufficient explanation for why the Federal Trade Commission might pay more attention to one than the other.

There are ~10 million NYT subscribers. There are ~160 million Amazon Prime subscribers.

Bad practices by NYT impact 3% of Americans. Bad practices by Amazon impact 48% of Americans.

You can be cynical and say that going after Amazon is political because more voters are impacted, but at the end of the day it seems reasonable to go after the biggest target where the biggest impact can be made to benefit Americans.

I'm glad they're going after the 800 lb gorilla. Then maybe all the 100 lb chimpanzees and orangutans will take notice.

Maybe it's because one is an online bazaar of Chinese plastic crap that uses dark patterns to get people to sign up, and the other is a news organization that doesn't?

If successful, it probably sets precedent a lot more effectively than going after smaller targets. Amazon won't care if the FTC goes after some small company; but the small company will probably care if the FTC wins against Amazon.

Good. UX and 'product management' has moved from beauty and clarity to darkpatterns and psychological exploits.

If you have a valuable product, it should stand on its own as valuable. If you have to engage in deceptive practices, you're just accelerating your journey towards enshittification and destroying your brand equity. I guess that's fine for short-term gain/pump-and-dump, but it's unethical.

I'd rather die poor and honest, than rich and full of regret.

Try using the UK Amazon site if you want to see dark patterns for Prime subscription that are much worse than the US site has.

For anyone that works on something like this, either at Amazon or elsewhere, I'm genuinely curious how the meetings/discussions around building a purposefully terrible UI go. I assume everyone knows what's going on (i.e. making it difficult to cancel); does anyone ever speak up? Do people just go along with it?

If you speak up you receive "the formula": psychological abuse, placed on PIP, and fired via some perceived loophole. It's bad. And it's gotten considerably worse in 2021-2023.

Speaking up is a career limiting move in the short term. In the long term you have survivorship bias. The people that speak up tend to not be there for long. Not directly because they're fired, but indirectly because they get frustrated.

Even if it's designed correctly initially, the areas has a permanent bull-eyes for someone's promo packet to go and optimize.

> Speaking up is a career limiting move in the short term.

What do you mean by "career limiting"? Just at the company in question, perhaps, but speaking up like that should be considered a good thing. If it's not, why would you want to continue working there?

> What do you mean by "career limiting"?

Career limiting means you'll see less career advancements.

> speaking up like that should be considered a good thing.

Agreed. But in practice it's unfortunately not always seen that way.

> If it's not, why would you want to continue working there?

Because I weight several factors when deciding where to work and there are other benefits to working here.

> Career limiting means you'll see less career advancements.

So you mean career-limiting at that particular company? I understand. Thanks!

You may also get a bit of a reputation that may follow you around.

In areas with very close knit industries it can hurt your opportunities.

Yes, it might! But there are lots of employers who value employees who are focused on customer experience.

It's probably limited my opportunities some, but I can't really tell. There are plenty of opportunities out there, and if a company doesn't want me because I'm willing to be honest and argue for what I think is right, then that's a company I don't want to work for anyway. So it all works out for the best for everybody.

I totally understand and respect your ideals. I wish more people were like you. But at the same time you fail the see the nuance for why others might make a different decision. I think it's reasonable for someone to take a moral stance here, and I can also respect someone that choses to stay at the job that's the best at providing for their family. That's the insight I was providing.

> But at the same time you fail the see the nuance for why others might make a different decision.

Umm, I totally see why others would decide differently. Everyone makes their own choices and trade-offs.

I was just trying to point out that if the objection is that doing those sorts of things is a career-killer, that's objectively not true. It might mean that certain specific companies won't like you, but you won't be rejected by the industry overall.

Other employers call to learn how your previous employment was at Amazon, and Amazon talks mad trash about you and makes up whatever they want is basically the deal. Like a cult, and you are ostracized from that cult.

> Amazon talks mad trash about you and makes up whatever they want is basically the deal

I doubt Amazon does this. It would expose them to too much legal risk. Almost no large employers (in the US) will say much more than "This person worked here from date X to date Y and they (are/are not) eligible for rehire."

Not being eligible for rehire is a black mark with many potential employers, of course. But then, having Amazon in your work history is also a black mark with some employers.

Nobody is desirable to all potential employers.

> I doubt Amazon does this. It would expose them to too much legal risk. Almost no large employers (in the US) will say much more than "This person worked here from date X to date Y and they (are/are not) eligible for rehire."

You are overlooking the salient fact that managers and recruiters know each other from one company to another. Backend conversations matter.

In Australia, I've found the "get one month of prime free and we'll expedite your delivery" offers, while pushy, clear and easy enough to avoid.

Likewise once you find the https://www.amazon.com.au/mc page, cancelling your membership from there is about three clicks through the "are you sure?" and "are you really, really sure?" pages not too hard.

I've probably had one month free prime memberships about three times now just to get the fast delivery. In fact I had a reminder for three days time to cancel the latest membership, but I just did it now. (I usually let it run for twenty days or so.)

I wonder if there are consumer protection laws in Australia that are limiting the amount of dark patterning they can do.

I think they have made it easier recently.

Also Australian, my dad (70) came to me a month ago really stressed out about signing up for Prime accidentally. I managed to cancel it for him, which wasn't too hard, 3 or 4 pages where you have to click the right button to continue.

I think designs like what Amazon does here are easily navigable by us, but anyone who's not great at computers will struggle.

My Dad was adamant that he chose the delivery option without Prime, which is why this situation was really stressful for him...

heh, a few years ago I cancelled my Prime membership but Amazon still charged me the $99 for the membership after I canceled...

So when I contacted them, I got a refund for the $99, but I also told them they needed to pay me a $25 inconvenice fee for having to waste my time to call them for this....

They paid it.

Interesting because I've found Amazon to be quite friendly (relatively speaking) when it comes to Prime subscriptions.

I can get a free month of Prime, then 1 minute later cancel it (yes, you need to click through a couple screens), but keep it for the rest of the month. No need to set a reminder (even though Amazon offers to send you a reminder).

Not sure if it's still true, but you used to be able to cancel paid prime and get a partial month refund.

...you can use your 'local' AZ account for other countries, which i was used to, so i assumed Prime would work like that too - nope, that is bound to only the specific store you subscribed at. And they couldn't (wouldn't) transfer it.

Just used the free trial to get something in time before i left another country, and nicely wasted some $$ because i wasn't aware they will refund you for every remaining month.

Didn't they threaten to sue the cable/ISP companies for the same thing? Whatever happened with that.

IMO that's a more significant problem.

I need to buy a mattress and I had one in my cart from a week ago and last night I picked a different mattress and went to the checkout page. Then I saw there were two mattresses in it. It had the dark pattern of no cancel button so I had to click back and now I'm considering getting it elsewhere. Oh, and they also tried to get me to sign up for a Prime trial.

Checkout pages never offer "cancel" buttons or "back" buttons. They are designed to corral you into the checkout process without recourse to returning to shop around some more.

This is, of course, easily bypassed with browser controls, but I agree that it is a dark pattern which can trap less savvy people into pressing forward, because it seems there's nowhere else to go.

"Back" has the old anxiety of Confirm Form Resubmission, so a cancel or close button would be better.

When all else fails, for any site like this, I close the browser tab. If I choose to reopen the site, I'll be back on the home page and my cart may or may not be empty.

Sorry to say, but there's a "delete" option for every item on the checkout page. Just click the quantity dropdown and change it to "delete". Simple as.

I don't mind, for whatever reason it wasn't usable for me. And maybe it wasn't there.

Edit: I checked again. It isn't there. Note that I said checkout, not my cart. It has big CTA buttons to go straight to checkout without first going to the cart.

Not on the "checkout" screen.

It is there for the "cart" screen but once you get to checkout, you are stuck either proceeding or abandoning the page.

If by "checkout" screen you mean the "Review items and shipping" where the yellow "Place your order" button exists to actually "order" the items, then "delete" is hiding behind the "Qty" dropdown that is present on each item (at least for me). You have to click the "Qty 1" dropdown, and only then does the "delete" option appear.

So it is well hidden away, but at least for my Amazon account, one can delete from the "checkout" screen.

I'd be careful about buying mattresses from Amazon as quite a few have been found to have fiberglass.

I was only looking at one brand, Zinus. I could order from them directly at a slight premium. However now I will look at more reviews. Thanks.

The Little Old Lady I help out with her computer got hit by this. Didn't understand that she has signed up for Amazon Prime. I cancelled it but saw the trick. Basically, they re-used the "Amazon yellow EXECUTE!" style for purchases as part of the sign-up flow.

The elderly seem to favor a lot of muscle memory over reading the screen, so any UI updates are painful.

I’ve been subscribed to prime for a long time. I do remember unsubscribing several times, but somehow always end up back on the list.

I finally gave up and convinced myself it’s worth it to watch a few crappy movies on occasion and get my horrible used knock-off products shipped to me for free after paying for the shipping anyway as a markup on the product price.

I wanted to make a point about Prime videos recommendation engine.

In several years of membership it still has not managed to recommend a single thing I'm interested in. How are they so bad at this?

On the other hand, none of it is quite as bad as Marketplace Web Services, or even SP-API it's replacement.

Seems they're also mad about Amazon delaying discovery and (allegedly) not giving them everything. Why don't companies just use Signal/some enterprise equivalent with auto deleting messages so by the time the investigation starts there is nothing to discover?

1: Why encourage that? Do you want a world where this happens so we're just stuck with Amazon's shitty practices indefinitely?

2: I'm pretty sure financial operations have hard rules against this behavior that could be ported here.

3: Isn't Google in a kerfuffle for almost exactly this?

Tangential: Does anyone have a good alternative to privacy.com? I really don't want to use Plaid to integrate but I basically need disposable/controllable cards for online purchases because so many places have poor security and dark patterns.

Even if there was a privacy.com alternative (I'm not aware of one), they would almost certainly use Plaid. As far as I can tell it's the financial-institution-backed industry standard these days.

Maybe punishment for this, because he is notorious for pushing the production/efficiency envelope, perhaps the feds should confiscate Jeff's boat. Allow taxpayers a ride.

How many emails does Jeff@amazon.com get per day you think?

My kid was excited to their own purchase on Amazon when they got a debt card. Somehow they ended up paying monthly for Prime. I managed to cancel and get a partial refund but it took multiple tries.

At least on mobile, it seems to be quite straightforward. Albeit still requiring multiple clicks and confirmations, the buttons are clearly named and visible

I had my credit card company block all Amazon prime charges a year or two after trying to cancel. The customer service rep said she had to do the same to cancel.

the Prime sign-up is really a dark pattern. I got caught once by clicking too quickly, fortunately they accepted to cancel when I contacted them immediately

Good. Let’s hope the fine is so high it means the end for Amazon. But I doubt it, so we’ll probably see them continuing to offer shitty UX for years to come.

According to other comments here, they called the cancellation process "Iliad" - someone likes their Greek mythology and war porn, I guess. I suppose one should be grateful they didn't call it Oedipus - that would be one way to almost guarantee customer retention.

This seems like a great use of FTC's time. Bravo. Wish more of the headlines about enforcement actions were the same.

Indeed, I got tricked too into Amazon prime despite that I read everything very carefully.

Is it just me or is Reader Mode completely broken on this website?

The Firefox reader view button works normally for me, if that's what you mean

I cancelled it and I am really upset that it signed me up again.

I hope they do AWS billing next; good lord what a pain that is to turn off.

Hmm, this depends on the customer. If the customer is savvy, they know when they're being 'duped' and know about dark patterns and such. Financially savvy people who practice good financial hygiene don't get 'deceived' as much. Most people don't care that much if they're charged monthly for Prime, it's a minor detail in their spending budget.

Lol, it's not deceptive at all. I routinely sign up for the free trials and then cancel a couple of days before the trial ends.

That's for you. Number one rule or UX design is (or should be) never base a design decision or assume user abilities based upon your own preferences or abilities. Users, especially Amazon users, are a very wide range of people.

Wild the FTC isn't suing the NYTimes, WSJ, or every other paid news outlet for far more egregious cancellation process practices. Almost as if the FTC is a political weapon.

>Wild the FTC isn't suing the NYTimes, WSJ, or every other paid news outlet for far more egregious cancellation process practices. Almost as if the FTC is a political weapon.

I'd posit that suing news organizations would be perceived as more political than a retailer.

Or am I missing something important here?

> Or am I missing something important here?

Probably because newspapers are notorious to be the worst of the worst when trying to cancel free deals that automatically turn into expensive memberships.

Common methods are to only allow cancellation through telephone and only have open during work hours when most people can't call. If you manage to get hold of a human being, then you'll have to spend an hour arguing before they accept your cancellation. Then, even if you manage to get through it, you're missing the paper trail so the newspaper can just claim you changed your mind.

As late as yesterday, the Swedish Consumer Agency published a report on the issue.

>Probably because newspapers are notorious to be the worst of the worst when trying to cancel free deals that automatically turn into expensive memberships.

You won't get any argument about that from me. To butcher Mel Brooks: "...they stink on ice!"[0]

However, that's orthogonal to my point -- that going after a newspaper would likely be perceived as more political than going after a retailer, especially in the highly charged US political environment.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0iAcQVIokg

I think this is more of a "target the big fish first" situation.

For one, "never get in a dispute with a business that buys ink by the IBC tote"

Modulo that underlying dynamic, do you have a specific argument about how the status quo governmental power structure performing the tiniest bit of regulation on the status quo corporate power structure is "political" ? Or are we just supposed to not think too hard and jump to some kayfabe partisan narrative?

This administration selected the current FTC commissioner because of an op-ed attacking Amazon and a glowing profile both published in the New York Times.

The FTC lawsuits against Meta and now Amazon are politically motivated and are a misuse of the the system if not outright corruption.

Good. As someone who hasn't been careful enough and been caught by Amazon's deceptive practices myself, I hope they get them as good and hard as the law allows. If they have to put a boot on Bezos's spaceship, that would be an amusing benefit of the whole thing.

I don't appreciate being subject to one dark pattern after another just to buy an sd card or a bath towel.


NYT subscriptions is easy to cancel.

Just subscribe to the NYT in the first place via Google Play instead of using their own site, lmao.

But seriously, Sirius XM hold the record for being absolute cancer to cancel.

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