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msilverstar

Amazon semi-apology

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Apr. 13th, 2009 | 09:25 pm
mood: thoughtful

Monday night: columnist has an Inside look at amazon during the fail

I consider this a semi-apology
Hello,

Thank you for contacting Amazon.com.

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Sincerely,

Customer Service Department
Amazon.com


There was a fabulous post somewhere about the difference between fake and real apologies. I couldn't find that one (anyone have it?) but Seth Grodin has a pretty reasonable apology ranking, and I think Amazon's was about a 7: "We're sorry that this occurred." Better than "glitch", but not really addressing the issues of how someone somewhere can set a configuration switch to change their entire ranking systems.

And now that we know how much Amazon can manipulate the best-seller lists and search results, and how many books are sold through them, it's time to think more about one company having that much power.

ETA: fixed link
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Comments {17}

the baby of the family

(no subject)

from: knowledgequeen
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 04:27 am (UTC)
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Insufficient, imo. It reads like "If it had been just gay & lesbian themed titles, it would have been TOTALLY OKAY to censor shit like that." Not good enough.

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Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
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I'm pretty sure what they meant to be saying was, "see, we screwed up other kinds of books too". As in, even the mistake didn't ONLY target GBLT. But a whole lot more groveling would be nice right now.

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Issi

(no subject)

from: ismenin
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
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As i said in another comment on your lj, yesterday morning - before I knew about this - I put up 'gay interest' as I usually do, just to see what was there. There was a lot.

I couldn't understand why 'Gardener's World Pocket Guide' was included in the listing, until I remembered one of the presenters of the tv programme GW, rejoices in the name of...wait for it...Gay Search. Really. Poor girl doesn't seem phased by it, and at least is well-known in the UK.

I'm happy Amazon has seen the light. There are a lot of good books to be had there for a penny. I bought three of those, too, as well as the Barrowman and the Gay Men book. I'm a glutton for punishment. Ask LSR - where am I going to put em?

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Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
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oh my! Gay Search, that's an example I may use when talking professionally about ambiguous terminology! Made me laugh, thank you.

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(Deleted comment)

(no subject)

from: thelastgoodname
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 04:42 am (UTC)
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I like that they admitted it was ham-fisted and embarrassing, at least, but I'm not sure it even makes it to 7. I rather think it's more a 3, or maybe even a 2. A "cataloging error" is when you misfile something and can't find it later, not when you deliberately mess with how people find stuff.

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Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
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I find "embarrassing" a weasel-word here: who cares if they're embarrassed, if they'd said "hurtful" -- that would mean more.

As far as I can tell, someone somewhere changed a variable that had gigantic consequences. That person *might* have been malicious, but it looks more like incompetence than deliberate action. Still wrong, still needs more proper apologies. I found the facebook of a spokesperson and sent him a STIFF MESSAGE.

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sheldrake

(no subject)

from: sheldrake
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 08:10 am (UTC)
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OMG! I am going to start a business writing apologies for people. Easy money.

"We realise that, however inadvertantly, our mistakes sent out the wrong message. We are sorry for any hurt or offence our actions have caused."

HOW HARD IS THAT YOU IDIOTS?

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Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
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Or even better "We are very sorry. Our mistakes sent out a message we do not agree with. We should have had better controls, and we're taking steps to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. We are sorry for all hurt and offense our actions have caused."

That's a 10 in my not so humble opinion. 10-level apologies should include groveling!

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stormatdusk

(no subject)

from: stormatdusk
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
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thanks for keeping up updated.

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Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: Apr. 14th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
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I'm hoping to stop now but I'm glad it was helpful.

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nerdy secret bondage pixie

(no subject)

from: impasto
date: Apr. 15th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
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FYI, your link to Seth Grodin didn't work for me. But I googled it, and it's quite handy.

I think it would be awesome and proactive of Amazon to do something like offer 10% all of the books that were de-listed for the next week. I'd just like a little more incentive to return to them than a quasi-apology.

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Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: Apr. 16th, 2009 05:21 am (UTC)
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I fixed it, thank you!

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loreley_se

(no subject)

from: loreley_se
date: Apr. 16th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
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Hm. Not really impressed by their reply. And no statement anywhere on their site, or have I overlooked it?

Re the lists and search results though - without having looked into the exact mechanics of how those work, I'd always assumed that just like your google or yahoo search results, they can indeed be manipulated, both by Amazon themselves as by someone who has figured out how to manipulate the system. I'm not using the search feature normally (ok so I do if I look for a hiking guide for a particular part of the country!) - if I go for literature I usually have a specific book/author I look for because it was recommened by someone. If I really want to browse I still go to an actual bookshop...not that their offering isn't manipulated by best seller lists as well of course. I guess my point is, at the end of the day people should do their own thinking and research but of course they are not (and I'm including myself!).

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Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: Apr. 17th, 2009 05:27 am (UTC)
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Not a whisper on their site, blog, even in their PR center.

As you say, lists and search are definitely manipulated, and I guess it's good that everyone knows it now. But lots of people don't have good bookstores, so they just browse and impulse-buy, and if it had gone on, they would have been cheated in some ways. As would the authors of the books they didn't buy!

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Sarkka

(no subject)

from: sarkka
date: Apr. 22nd, 2009 11:58 am (UTC)
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HUH ? This was my first read on the whole hoobla and boy oh boy...

Thanks for the info =)

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Lotripper

(no subject)

from: msilverstar
date: Apr. 22nd, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
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There are some good articles out there, you won't have to look far for context.

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