Today, I had the sudden desire to consolidate some of my accounts or at least the login email. My first target: Amazon. Now this was my first mistake, attempting to do anything intelligent with Amazon and treading the line of having to contact customer support. Here’s what happened:
I log into my Amazon account with firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s not an email that I use very frequently and it’s not an email that’s super easy for me to remember. I wanted to change it to email@example.com.
But for some reason, firstname.lastname@example.org already exists as an Amazon account.
When I attempted to change email@example.com’s login email to firstname.lastname@example.org, I get an error —“Email address already in use” — and am asked to verify the email before it is changed. This makes total sense. In a system like Amazon, conflicting login emails would result in total chaos. So I click the nice yellow button to verify me email.
In the email from Amazon, there will be a nice little link that takes you to a login page to verify your email address:
Problem # 1: It is ambiguous which password Amazon wants you to use.
Under “email address”, email@example.com will be displayed but at this point you’ve linked 2 accounts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Should you be logging in with email@example.com’s Amazon password or with firstname.lastname@example.org(which you had just attempted to change and verify to email@example.com)’s Amazon password?
Since I wasn’t sure, I tried firstname.lastname@example.org’s Amazon password first.
Hm, guess I was wrong. Maybe it’s supposed to be email@example.com’s Amazon password?
Problem # 2: Amazon doesn’t know what password it wants.
So as it turns out, in a system like Amazon, non-conflicting login emails would also result in total chaos.
At this point, I took a gamble. I knew that there were workarounds that I could try but I really wanted to know if support would be able to help me out.
Problem #3: Amazon support is confused.
I started an Amazon support chat conversation with Wendy and attempted to relay my problems with her.
Me: I received a link to verify the account, which then takes me to a sign-in page for firstname.lastname@example.org. After entering my password, it says that the password is incorrect.
Wendy: Oh I am sorry to hear that Shirley.
Me: I’ve tried reseting the password for that account and I am still unable to log in
Wendy: Oh I see.
Wendy: Here’s what I can do, I’ll go ahead and send you as reset password.
So that you can able to change your password.
This goes on for a while. At some point, Wendy realizes that she does not have the tools or knowledge to solve my problem and connects me to a “reset password support” person on the phone.
Problem #4: Amazon support is still confused.
You know how they say you’ll get your answers faster on the phone? That’s not really the case if you have to spell out your email multiple times.
While on the phone with Amazon support, we tried reseting my email@example.com password for the 5th time. After doing so, support cheerfully says: “Okay! You can log into your account now. Anything else we can help you with?”
After relaying my problem yet again, we tried reseting my firstname.lastname@example.org password. We tried changing the login email again. And then we tried reseting both account’s passwords again.
I did, surprisingly, gain some useful information on which password to use on the “Thanks for verifying your email” login page.
I thought it should have been email@example.com’s Amazon password. I was wrong. The right answer is firstname.lastname@example.org’s password. Surprise!
Problem #5: So what went wrong in the backend?
My theory is that:
- email@example.com: it was changed to something like firstname.lastname@example.org in one database but retained in another.
- email@example.com: it was changed to firstname.lastname@example.org in one database but retained in another.
Because of this, when you attempt to login, the password will be incorrect in one case and the email will mismatch in the other.
Problem #6: Can Amazon even disable accounts?
I have another theory on why this failed. When I was asked to verify email@example.com, the text said:
If you verify this email address, all other accounts with this e-mail address will be disabled.
I asked Amazon Support on the phone whether it would be possible to delete my account. He said: no, accounts can become dormant and possibly disabled but never deleted.
I wonder if anyone’s ever really exercised Amazon’s account disabling code paths?
But also, is Amazon GDPR compliant in the EU? Hm…
Support ultimately pulled a hacky workaround out from his back pocket. He asked me to go in and change firstname.lastname@example.org’s login to something slightly different. I went with email@example.com. He then went ahead and changed firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com. This change was finally successful since firstname.lastname@example.org does not exist as an Amazon account anymore.
I’m glad that there was a solution in the end but, seriously: