e-Commerce


MEMORANDUM

To: Amazon.com

re: Communication breakdown

This is pretty straightforward: Once upon a time I ordered something from Amazon. The seller sent the item. The item arrived. All is good in the world. Right?

Okay, so, big deal, right? But it’s a few months later and this order still registers as shipped, but not delivered. Here’s the good news: It was delivered. All is good in the world. Right?

It seemed worth telling the seller. Indeed, I know what happened. At the end of the day, the product was delivered on time by a guy driving a twenty year old Ford Taurus, bearing credentials from a courier I hadn’t encountered before. Big deal, right? The item I ordered is here: It is the right product; it is undamaged; it is on time; I am satisfied. All is good in the world. Right?

All I want to do is communicate directly with the seller, to advise them to close the book on this one. What I do not understand is why that is so difficult. I’m sorry, but what I need to tell them does not fit any of your pre-selected suggestions. You do not have an easily identified pathway to allow this communication.

So, you know. Whatever. Maybe the only way to let the seller know is to explain in a bad review. It seems a lot easier to simply drop a line to say, “Hey, by the way, I got this; you can log it as delivered.”

But that’s just not the Amazon way, is it?

No, really. The product purchased arrived on time and in good condition. For the sake of a bureaucratic omission somewhere in the chain of custody, this is not logged in the Amazon delivery record. I would like to advise the seller that this is taken care of, but there are far too many hoops to jump through just to find out I’m in the wrong place. It’s actually quite astounding what effort you have put into making certain nobody can actually communicate with anybody else.

Look, whenever I grumble about Amazon, someone I know reminds that the company is constantly rated for the highest customer satisfaction in this or that exactly meaningless survey. Those surveys would probably count more if they were capable of accounting for this kind of dissatisfaction: Amazon is so hostile to consumers that we cannot even help satisfactory sellers make certain their book is up to date.

For whatever reason, we seem to take this out on politicians. Go figure.

Good Enough for the Software Industry


If ...?  Then ...?

I don’t think it is especially nitpickety to wonder what it is about software design for commercial purposes used by media research companies that this little outcome should occur.

“We appreciate your interest,” they politely tell us, “but unfortunately this survey is now closed”.

Just for that, I ought to put iModerate into my popup blocker. After all, I don’t mind the occasional survey request from websites I frequent; nor am I offended that this one launches in a way that evades the popup blocker in the first place.

But let us be clear: When N(sufficient) then stop launching the popup. That is to say, sure, I am not a computer programmer, but I still don’t see what is so difficult about a very basic if/then statement.

Instead, when N equals or exceeds the intended sample threshold for the survey, the subroutine simply changes the message to thank the user for their interest in a survey they did not ask to take and most likely would have bypassed, anyway.

And, yes, it is true one could run their browser with a less stringent cookie policy, so that the survey software might identify a user who has already answered, but that still does not explain the odd decision to continue launching the survey window with the new message. The nearest I can guess is that their unscientific poll might somehow or other have enough bad data that they might need to reopen the survey a couple days later. But even for marketing data that would seem a sketchy survey protocol.

So, you know … Just stop launching the survey when you have enough responses. Is this really so hard? After all, I will happily concede that it really does seem a strange thing to fret about. Then again, it happened, and I noticed, and then the question persisted. And, still, it persists.

It has long been said, “Good enough for government work.” But over the last twenty or so years, what has emerged is a business model that reads, “Good enough for the software industry.” This would seem just a particularly peculiar example of where that idea shows through.