A Cautionary Tale of Amazon Web Service Classes

Carson Drury


3 min read


I find winter break to be a strange time for college students. Of course, since it is break, students want to relax and recoup after a long semester. Although, the length of winter break often makes students fell like they’re wasting their time if they don’t do something productive. CS students often take this time to create a small project or learn something new. This often allows for a balance of productivity and relaxation. As a computer science student myself, I follow this trend. I worked on a project last year during winter break so this year I decided to try learning something new.

Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is used by many companies and during internship season, I noticed many companies looking for experience with AWS. AWS offers free classes for learning their products and one in particular caught my eye: Developer Lessons ~17 Hours.

So, I started the free lessons and began what I thought to be a great learning experience. The lessons had a lot of informative content on the various AWS products and services and how to use them, but some of the material was quite dense. Quickly, I could see the value of these services both to industry, and to potential personal projects I wished to make. One of the first lessons had a lab so the student, me, could participate while following along. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly what the lab covered. The first few lessons went in one ear and out the other. But, I do remember following the videos to the T. I remember making a fancy account, creating some things, and for the most part, I remember the lab being fairly simple.

Flash forward to two months later, I received an email from AWS containing my bill: $492.37. My heart dropped. I started freaking out. I thought these lessons were free so why am I receiving a bill? I immediately contacted customer service and they gave me a call. The lab that I followed along, created an instance of Amazon Message Queue Brokers which is not a free service. The videos with the instructions that I was to follow never specified that I would be using a charged service.

Fortunately, my story has a happy ending. The customer service representative was extremely understanding of my situation and immediately filed for a billing adjustment. My money appeared back in my bank account and the instance I created of Amazon MQ Brokers was deleted. I am certain that my story is not unique so I share it with hopes that it saves another student from the few moments of panic I endured.