Editor’s note: Investor and entrepreneur David Gardner is the founder of Cofounders Capital in Cary and is a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire.

CARY – I have always been a fan of Amazon. Jeff Bezos was one of the few founder/CEOs who somehow managed to maintain a culture of innovation long after his little e-commerce book reselling company became a household name.

Granted, I maintained my healthy fear of mega tech companies and the power they wield over consumers. Recently this was brought home to me in an all too real way.

Last weekend I got an email from Amazon saying my account had been suspended for “suspicious activity.” My daughter mistakenly had disputed a couple of charges. This is easy to do since it is almost impossible to reconcile purchases, returns, etc. with the information Amazon gives its customers. She realized her mistake and called back a few hours later saying the same and agreeing to pay the charges. This apparently was the suspicious behavior that got my Amazon Prime account shutdown.

Amazon photo

Amazon Prime

No big deal, right? Just a misunderstanding that will get resolved quickly. After all, we can live without making Amazon purchases for a while. What’s a few less packages at the front door for a couple of days?

Less than an hour later we received a call from Whole Foods saying that we could not pick up our groceries as scheduled that day. Our order was cancelled and all 127 items in the cart were lost.

No Alexa, either

I guess we can just mask up and go buy our groceries the old fashion way.  “Alexa, how’s the weather today?” Alexa’s light is purple. Checking the Amazon Echo units in several rooms of my house, I find them all offline and in setup mode. “You don’t have an Amazon account.”

At dinner that afternoon, I decided to turn on the TV to catch the news. I use Amazon Fire Tables in each room of my house as remote controls running a Control 4 app.  The TV is not responding. A message on the table says I’m not logged into this Fire device anymore and the unit is locked.

This is getting serious. I went to my office and got my laptop. Since it runs Microsoft Windows®, I felt certain that it would still work and that we would at least be able to watch the next episode of that great series we’ve been enjoying. I suddenly stopped typing. It’s on Amazon Prime movies.   Sure enough, nothing but a login screen saying I don’t have an account.

Ugh! This is becoming apocalyptic! Well, it’s time for bed now anyway. Why is our bedroom so warm tonight? I guess my Alexa routine did could not run to tell the Nest® thermostat to turn down the temperature at night.

Let’s just listen to some relaxing music until the room cools down. Nothing. Guess I should have installed more music content sources than just Amazon Music.

I overslept this morning because my Alexa wakeup alarm never went off.  My house lights stayed on all night because the “all lights off” routine did not run. Looking out at my yard I realize that my sprinklers did not run either. Yes … another Alexa routine.

We have called Amazon every day now for over a week. We are told by various customer support reps that they cannot get into our account to see what the problem is. Well, who can? Only the disputes resolution department. OK, please transfer me to them. We are not allowed to do that … you have to wait until they contact you. It’s been over a week. When will that happen? I don’t know Sir.

Fortunately, we all have iPhones but I do wonder if we had Android-based cell phones if we’d also be locked out of using them.

Why no call back?

We use Amazon products and services because they work well and provide good value for the money. I totally get and appreciate that vendors need to occasionally suspend an account for security concerns. What I can’t understand is why Amazon cannot tell us why our account is suspended and why no one has communicated with us in over a week about it. Imagine the backlash if other vendors like your bank did this. I’m calling to see why my credit cards and automatic bill pays have been turned off. We’re sorry Mr. Customer but you are not allowed to speak with the department that handles that. They will contact you eventually … maybe.

The control mega tech consumer companies are amassing is a concern to me. People often think I’m too old school when I tell them that I don’t use Microsoft Drive, iCloud or other cloud storage services to store my photos. The thousands of family photos and home movies I’ve taken over decades are far too precious to me to ever entrust to a consumer tech vendor. I manually do my back ups and store them in my fire proof safe.

If you ever took the time to read the one-hundred-plus pages of an Amazon, Microsoft or Apple click-through agreement, you might consider the same. That point-one-font size stuff is pretty alarming.  They usually include terms like this: We can stop providing this service at any time for any reason. We are not liable for any loss of your data or any other losses or damages you may incur. We can charge you whatever we like for this account and change the amount or the terms any time we want.

Many are concerned about privacy as the tech giants continue to rapidly expand into wearables, healthcare, banking, IoT and almost every aspect of our lives. I’m less concerned about privacy these days and more concerned about availability and governances as I reluctantly become increasingly dependent on these tech mega vendors.

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