It did seem a little improbable that Amazon (which is based in Seattle, for crying out loud) had suddenly devolved to such a degree. Personally I had figured this was, if indeed a deliberate act, the brainchild of a person or persons within the corporation acting without oversight or direction of the corporation. The problem is that this doesn't matter - yes, they're a corporation, which affords them a certain degree of legal protection (they're not required to be good guys), and yes, they're out to make money, not be a stand-up member of the community, but in the real world all that means precisely shit when it comes to attracting customers. Customers want to think of you as the good guys. Customers want to feel good about giving you their money. Customers want you to be a member of the community (read: their community). A corporation is under no obligation to live up to those expectations, of course, but they're fucking morons if they don't at least try. And by that logic they're as accountable for what their employees do, deliberately or no, as if it had been a top-level decision to discriminate. Not taking immediate responsibility for the error wasn't illegal or immoral, but it sure was stupid.
Amazon.com is still bringing up A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality in its top five search results for "homosexuality". (Guess they're still working on that glitch.) More in the "just stupid" column: Amazon's apologies (via their director of corporate communications, Patty Smith) have hit the web mostly sideways, with no notice on the site itself. Laudable, but again it seems naive. I get that they want the whole mess swept under the rug as quickly as possible, but come on, Amazon. You can use the words "ham-fisted" in a press release but not admit it even for twenty-four hours on your main page? They seem to be under the mistaken impression that the Internet isn't as crazy as they are incompetent. Witness the focused wrath of a million-billion angry Twitterers.
Okay, no. I'm not offended, really. I'm just downright boggled by the utter, well, ham-fistedness of their customer service. Not like we didn't all know this about Amazon, but know how they say that who you really are is who you are under pressure?
Their first response to complaints from authors was with e-mails that if anything, fuelled the uproar. They did nothing to dispel the resulting rumours until days after they'd started circulating, by which time they were way beyond the point of Keep Quiet And It Will Go Away. While this might initially have been the fault of one person or persons and one error - what made it a mess instead of an unfortunate, understandable mistake, what got them umptillion twitters and their very own hashtag and a Google-bombing and the ire of the Intarwebs, was shitty customer service.
Hell, if they'd stayed entirely silent until today (and let me take a moment to take delight in the words "ham-fisted cataloguing error," which IMHO is the only kind of cataloguing error you can really make) they might have been better off. If they'd refrained from sending e-mails talking about their "adult" policy and stuck with their "glitch" story (rule one in PR firefight: For The Love of God, Do Not Contradict Yourself), my GOD would they have been better off.
Speaking as someone who, on Sunday afternoon, spent almost fifteen minutes tracking down a contact number for their customer service, they really need to get their house in order. One voice of reason at the Amazon head office, one sane overseer in the customer service tech support/call centre dungeons, even a policy for customer service reps actually communicating with each other - this would have been good. This would have saved everybody, expecially Amazon, a lot of trouble. I can't even imagine the chaos of the Amazon call centre this past weekend, but in my head it compares to Late Registration at a two-year college when we've lost somebody's transcript containing a mandatory pre-requisite. Madness, terror, and despair. But we still had, y'know, e-mails. Oversight. A PLAN.
They might have gotten out of this with skinned knees if they'd just sat down and thought for a second. And on that note I have to look upon the Internet and just shake my head with awe. I mean, dexfarkin is right in that we are awesome at reacting and shit at acting, but you just have to be amazed at the sheer speed and ferocity with which we exploded this time 'round. Twelve hours from Twitter to the L.A. Times. Even for fen that's pretty respectable turnaround. We are batshit, but we will be heard.
In other news, you bore me, American fiscal conservatives. Then again I admit bias here, suffering knee-jerk reaction on a scale from "bored" to "boggled" to "disdainful" to anyone who thinks they shouldn't have to pay taxes. Possibly comes of spending the past eight years in a province where post-secondary tuition and healthcare costs have steadily skyrocketed in the wake of upper-bracket tax cuts, irresponsible privatisation and EPIC government salary increases. Despite all this, taxes are the main obligation that comes with the privilege of being allowed to vote. Taxes are how you give a shit about your fellow man without actually having to otherwise prove you give a shit. Generally I feel that you hand over the money, they put it in the pot, and if you don't like how they spend it, you run for office or something. You don't demand the money back. Public education is not a defective chesterfield.
Also, I'm a dirty socialist. But my gut reaction to this sort of thing is always "Just, look, I'm sorry, but you have to pay taxes."
Picture me saying this in an exasperrated tone. :)
(The last time I was forced into saying this aloud was to a room of fourth-year World Lit majors complaining about how there was nobody good to vote for, how they were all the same, how their taxes were too high, which of course meant I had to point out that maybe they should do some research to reveal the enormous chasmic fucking differences, how they all lived at home and had never paid taxes in their lives, and now if nobody paid taxes there would be no university for you to bitch and moan in.)
And now I'm going to go play with the dog, who is cute and uncomplicated.