Buying stuff online is easy, but getting support when things go wrong can be much harder. Walking into a store where you can drop off an item face-to-face and explain why it needs to be returned is a relatively simple process compared to wading through phone menus to speak to someone, or twiddling your thumbs as an underpaid support representative juggles twenty chats at once. But, if you haven't used it yet, Amazon's automated support chatbot is pretty great.

Not a lot of folks seem to know that this is even a thing, it appears that Amazon silently launched the feature sometime before last summer (when it picked up support for Hindi). But in our anecdotal experience, it works well.

AP's own David Ruddock had to finagle a return when a third-party merchant on Amazon that refused to accept returns sent him the wrong product. While that's usually no issue if Amazon is the seller and the shipper, some third-party merchants have policies that don't take problems like these into account, and the options available for support on the order page don't even include it.

Rather than dance around the time-consuming seller feedback tools to fix the problem, he fired up the chatbot and reached a resolution to his issue in no time — a 30-second process, he claims, both faster and easier than dealing with human support representatives. After a series of questions to navigate the bot's decision tree, he was offered a refund for the mistake. I know I've had to sit on effective "hold" in human-driven support chat for minutes between messages, and this was resolved in less time than you'd waste waiting on a single response most of the time.

Based on responses to his anecdote on Twitter, most folks that have used Amazon's automated support chatbots have positive feelings for it. While it's unfortunate that automation like this might be taking away some jobs, the benefits for customers are immediate and tangible. The next time you run into a problem with your Amazon order, consider giving the chatbot a try, if you can — it might be faster and easier than the other support options.