My Letter to Amazon.com

As you may remember, my book suddenly vanished from Amazon.com’s search results. It’s full of graphic content, and there has been a move lately to remove items containing graphic content from the search results.

However, I have not been told by Amazon.com that my title has been de-listed for offensive content. Although I have strong suspicions bordering on complete belief that this is the issue, I only know this from reading accounts by others who have experienced the same thing. Amazon.com has never confirmed this with me, and therefore it *could* simply be a technical problem. So, when I contact them, I simply stated the facts and left my suspicions out of it.

I called Amazon.com customer service yesterday to ask them about the problems I was having finding my book in the search results. The person to whom I spoke said that she would send my inquiry to a seller support representative. I used to work for Amazon.com customer service, so I know a few things:

1) At the lower levels, customer service is extremely stats-driven. They want you to answer as many questions as possible, with as few repeat contacts as possible.

2) To help achieve these goals, they have a set of stock answers or “blurbs” that handle almost ANY situation that may come up. It’s necessary for a company as large as Amazon.com to use this process, so that their representatives remain consistent with their replies. However, these blurbs *should* be modified to fit an individual user’s situation.

3) As you may imagine, many customer service representatives see using blurbs as the quickest way to answer a lot of inquiries. The way the ticket system seems to be set up now, representatives do not “own” a particular customer’s issue. If the customer writes back, they’re someone else’s problem. So, the most common practice is to pick a blurb close to the original issue and send it unmodified. There *was* a QA process in place that kept this sort of thing as a minimum, but it relies on two factors: First, the email had to be one of those selected for inspection by a QA specialist. Second, the QA specialist needed to recognize that the representative didn’t fully answer the question. I have no idea if this process is still in place.

Anyway, with all of this in mind, you can imagine my resigned sadness this morning when I found one such blurb in my inbox this morning. I won’t reproduce the entire thing here, but I’m sure you’d be able to read it word-for-word if you wrote Amazon.com customer service and complain about not being able to find my paperback in the search results.

Here, however, is my response:

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Please fill in the following information:

ISBN, UPC, or ASIN:

ISBN: 1438239157

Feed Issue:

Please describe the issue:

First, I beg of you, PLEASE take the time to read and understand my issue. If you do not have the time or patience to do so, please forward it to someone who does.

If this inquiry is responded to with another unedited blurb, I will scream and pull my hair out.

The paperback version of my novel, “Love in a Time of Zombies,” does not show up when you do a search on the title as a keyword. However, it also doesn’t show up as a result “Books,” either in a keyword search OR (and this is important) an advanced search on the title or on my name as an author.

Your last response did not adequately address my concerns.

You wrote me back with a general blurb about keyword searches, and stated:

“In general, the three pages of results give a mix of the most popular products across various product categories.”

That addresses the keyword issue, but not the title issue.

If you do an advanced search on the title in books, the ONLY result you get is the Kindle version. There are not three pages of results under which the paperback version is listed. There is ONE result, one item listed, the Kindle version.

It appears to the casual searcher that you don’t sell the paperback at all!

I am constantly telling people to go to my website, where I link to the book’s product page. This works for people who know who I am. Still, though, if someone has no idea who I am but sees someone reading my book on the bus, I want them to be able to type in the title and find it the next time they’re on Amazon.

In the last response to my inquiry, Harsha said, “I’ve tested the search functionality and can confirm that it is working as designed.”

If you’ve read everything I’ve written above, and if you understand the issue, can you explain why your search functionality is designed to return the Kindle version of my book but NOT the paperback?

Your kind and thoughtful reply will mean the difference between me having a happy day or running around my office with the screaming fits.

Thank you for your time.

-Paul Gude

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I am now the customer I always hated.

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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2 Responses to My Letter to Amazon.com

  1. chris holmes says:

    Bravo Paul, and particular bravo for using precise quotes from the QA training manual and – which I had an early hand in drafting and keeping attuned to CS requirements – the criteria on which we in QA based our scorings.
    Now, if I’d received such an educated accurate – almost mockingly well informed – complaint, I’d sit back a little stunned and then craft as effective and truthful a reply as possible, also ‘owning’ the problem and doing my best to end the thread there. But I suspect our battery-hen heirs are now so thoroughly neutered that such initiative would get a ticking off for time wasting and ones file marked as a potential trouble-maker.
    Good one there, and made me feel distinctly nostalgic for the only days in the field. CH

  2. paulgude says:

    Ah, Mr. Holmes. Did I actually get ANY of that correct? I was merely speaking of my perspective into your shadowy world from my position atop my ivory tower, dictating how things *should* be.

    Thankfully, enough time has passed where I’m no longer getting my own words shoved back in my face. Of course, I do miss the ability to say, “No, I know that isn’t the policy. How do I know? I WROTE THE GODDAMN POLICY!!!”

    Good times.

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