Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Buying online can become an automatic process. 

A thoughtless process, even.

We click a few buttons, we press Buy, and the goods arrive on our doorstep.

It seems, though, that the less-than-scrupulous are occasionally taking advantage of human carelessness.

Atlanta resident Barbara Carroll, for example, ordered some toilet paper on Amazon. 

Yes, she bought three boxes. No, she may not have looked too closely at the shipping fees.

Which, as WSB-TV in Atlanta reported, amounted to $7,455. No, not $74.55. 

Carroll, a building manager, told WSB that she assumed Amazon would simply reverse the charge.

"After I screamed, I thought, 'Oh this is not a problem, this is Amazon and Amazon will take care of it," she said.

I fear she screamed a little louder when she discovered this might not be the case.

"The shipping guarantee covers nothing about the charges, so they [Amazon] wouldn't even go any further," she said.

You see, she'd bought her toilet paper from a third-party seller on Amazon's site.

Occasionally, some of these third parties can take liberties.

Still, you might think that hers was an isolated incident. You might also think that toilet paper makes for an excellent blanket on a cold, windy mountain.

For here's Lorie Galloway. 

She told NewsChannel 5 in Tennessee that she ordered some paper plates on Amazon. 

The paper plates were a very reasonable $24. The shipping charge was a slightly less reasonable $1,080.

Galloway also claimed that Amazon customer service was surprised, but not entirely helpful.

She says that the company told her she'd clicked on the expedited shipping option, so she'd been rightfully charged.

The order, some might muse, must have been expedited by one of Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rockets.

"If it would have said a thousand and something dollars, I would have noticed that," insisted Galloway.

She fumed at Amazon.

"If they [Amazon] are not going to take care of their customers, why should I order from them again?" she told NewsChannel 5.

Because I want to defend people when they order paper goods, I expedited an inquiry to Amazon.

A spokeswoman told me: "Amazon is always innovating to improve and protect our customer experience."

It seems, though, that these two customers weren't quite moved by this alleged innovation.

The Amazon spokeswoman continued:

We have selling policies that all sellers agree to before selling on Amazon, and we take action against those that violate them and harm our customer experience. Policy violations can result in cancellation of listings, removal of selling privileges, withholding of funds, and legal action, depending on its severity. If customers have questions about their purchase, we encourage them to contact us directly and we will investigate and take appropriate action.

Oddly, Carroll and Galloway did appear to ask questions of Amazon and weren't happy.

I understand, however, that both Galloway and Carroll ultimately had their absurd shipping fees refunded, with Amazon finally interceding on their behalf.

In Carroll's case, she appears to have used a debit card, which means the charge appeared very quickly on her bank statement and her negotiations would have been with her bank.

Galloway told NewsChannel 5 that she and her husband battled with their credit card company for a couple of months before the shipping charge was reversed.

Sources say that Amazon did take action against the sellers.

These two stories are both disturbing and peculiar. My own experience is that Amazon's customer service is one of its more commendable features. 

Might not the company, therefore, take more responsibility for such apparent unscrupulousness on its site?

Amazon's policy is clear. It states that "sellers cannot set excessive order fulfillment and shipping costs."

It seems, though, that some do, and that Amazon may not be sufficiently policing these malicious charges.

The lesson, though, is painful. Double check at checkout before clicking on the Buy button.

There isn't toilet paper in the world worth $7,500. No matter how quickly you need it.

Published on: May 17, 2018