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Donations are a big issue for us but small fry to Amazon

Anna Tims
Photograph: Amazon

We are having problems with Amazon which it seems incapable of understanding, let alone resolving. We are a small charity helping those diagnosed with, or bereaved by, asbestos-related diseases.

Since October, Amazon has been placing payments directly into our bank account. These range from a few pence to several hundred pounds, and so far total £1,963.

Some payments we received say from, some Amazon Digital, some Amazon Australia. We know these are not meant for us as we received an email from Amazon’s Smile scheme – through which buyers can donate to their favourite charities – saying we had not raised enough to qualify for a payment.

I have telephoned customer services six times. I have emailed bank statements, live-chatted, and Tweeted. I am told someone will get in touch but they never do.

Part of the problem seems to be that staff can’t comprehend complaints about payments coming in rather than going out – it is not in their script. People might say we should just keep the money until someone realises, but if they then take the money back, it could mess up our accounts which is a problem for a charity seeking donations. SW, Derbyshire

The sums are doubtless such small fry to a giant like Amazon that there was no urgency to solve the mystery, but that’s no excuse for its inertia. It took the company a further month to solve the mystery after I got in touch. We’ll never know the full answer – it merely cites a “banking mix up” involving a third party transaction.

This is the second time this month I’ve reported on a customer’s bank details being muddled with a stranger’s. In the other case, a pensioner found her John Lewis credit card account was being unwittingly paid off each month by someone else after a direct debit mandate was misapplied. The happy news is that Amazon has decided that your charity can keep the money to compensate for the time it took to address the problem.

If you need help email Anna Tims at or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions