The role of customer service in cases of theft

I worked in retail for quite a while, almost 5 years. For a large portion of that time, I worked directly in customer service.

I came across a blog post today titled, "Your Kindle got stolen? Don't count on Amazon's help." To sum it up, a blogger named Ausir from Poland fell into the unfortunate situation of having their Kindle stolen. Ausir contacted Amazon support, who told them an official police correspondence was necessary to provide any information on the alleged thief. After filing a police report and the police contacting Amazon on the victim's behalf, Amazon reversed course and said it needed a court order to provide any information.

While that is certainly frustrating, Amazon's fault here is not being clear or accurate in their initial communication with the customer. Amazon is not at fault for not freely passing along user information at every request (even from a police officer).

Ausir writes: "I guess Amazon values the thieves as their customers more than they value me as one."

That's just so wrong.

Working in customer service, you, unfortunately and undoubtedly, come across at least one person who wants to report their device as stolen, and they want you to provide the information linked to the account.

Regardless of any proof one may have, this is not something a (potentially part-time, $10/hour) customer service rep should be handling. It's a matter for a police investigation and the company's corporate legal and/or customer service teams.

Perhaps more common than theft were these scenarios: Losing a device. Selling a device. Giving a device to a loved one (or formerly loved one).

Customer service providing the name, phone number, email, and physical address registered to a device every time someone said it was stolen would be reckless. It doesn't matter if you have a receipt. It doesn't matter if you have the serial number.

Consider this: You buy a used cell phone, hoping to save a little cash. You purchase it from someone you've never met, using some type of online listing service. You pay hard earned cash for that phone. Then the seller reports it stolen to Manufacturer X. They get your address or phone number. They start harassing you, or just come right over and take the phone back. Don't be silly, they kept your money, too.

While that may not be overwhelmingly likely, here's one scenario that may just be: A boyfriend buys a phone for his girlfriend. Six months later they break up. The boyfriend hears his ex has someone else in her life. He wants to find out. Since the phone was purchased on his credit card, maybe even registered under his name at one point, he goes to Company Y and requests the current registered user information. And because he seems so trustworthy, the customer service rep gives him the information. He goes to kindly introduce himself to the new boyfriend. 

Wait, let's back up. Maybe the girlfriend had a restraining order on the old boyfriend. Maybe he's not going to kindly introduce himself.

The point being, you can see there are reasons privacy laws and policies are the way they are. A customer service rep acting the part of detective is simply a liability, even if it's out of the kindness of their heart.

I've had my car broken into. Twice. The first time, the police caught the culprits a few days later with a truckload of stuff. They had proof they were the ones in my area. Could I come claim my stuff? Nope. Not unless I had a detailed inventory of every item in my car that was missing. Not worth it for what amounted to a radio and a few CD's.

The second time, I called the police to report it. They said they were busy and would call back, but there was probably nothing they could do. They didn't even call back.

Now, I'm not saying just because the police were less than helpful that all act in that way. I'm also not saying that it's a lost cause to try to get your stolen stuff back. I guess the point is, there is always the burden of proof on the accuser in these kinds of cases, and it generally should be that way. Otherwise simple accusations suddenly carry a lot more weight. 

And anyway, the only person who should be carrying out vigilante justice is Batman.




Andy Newman