Amazon Fail- or Why I’m Still Pissed Off

Amazon.com has given few answers as to why or how they ended up removing the sales rankings and search results for over 50,000 books, including gay, lesbian, and transgender- positive titles, biographies of LGBT people, books written by LGBT people, and sex-positive and feminist titles. While admitting to a “cataloging error” is all well and good, the lengthy delay in fixing this “glitch” and the complete lack of transparency and apology has me still waiting on this one.

If you haven’t been following the story, you can find great insights on what happened, and didn’t happen quickly enough here, here, here, here, here, and here, new definitions of Amazon Rank, and calls to arms here, here, here, and here.

You see, to me, it’s not just the offensive idea that whole swaths of books, written about, by, or for people of a minority have gone missing at the stroke of a keyboard. That is detestable. That is revolting. But also that in the United States, in the year 2009, we are still having to have debates about the merits of censoring literature. Censorship = bad for the free flow of ideas = bad for progress of humanity = bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.

Do I believe that a retailer has a choice about what kinds of items they will sell and that a book retailer can make choices about what ideas they choose to make available to their customers? Yes. Do I believe that they also have an obligation to be open about their restrictive policies with their customers so they can make informed decisions to take their business elsewhere? ABSOLUTELY.

And that’s the creepy part about our reliance on online information- if Mr. Google decided to eliminate all searches related to, say, “sushi,” one day, it is a block on information that few people retain the skills to work around anymore. I am a super book nerd, and a research junkie, but I have to admit, I’m lazy in my old age and I google what I’m curious about and look to Amazon for book data. And had this whole story not blown wide open, I wouldn’t have known I was missing something. Eerie.

Even with the “ham-fisted” PR statement, I’m afraid it’s a bit too little too late for me. I’ve had 36 hours to get whipped into an online frenzy, two generic and insulting messages back to online complaints to their customer service, and seen more conspiracies than there are for the grassy knoll. What I’d like is something better from the Amazon.com PR department than a classic “what not to do” straight from PR 101. When will corporations learn that a whopping “I’m sorry” and “I’ll fix it” is all the customer wants? Here, their PR department refuses to say the company’s sorry. And that may be because they just plain don’t care or because they have idiots on their PR staff.

Either way, I’ll be taking my money elsewhere. I hear good things about Powell’s and if I remember correctly, I can order from Politics & Prose, my favorite DC indie bookstore. I’m also rapidly googling for independent bookstores (with online ordering) in the Pittsburgh area to keep it local. Unfortunately, not having much luck in that department- anyone with tips?

Dear Amazon: I’m mad as hell. And I’m not going to take it anymore.

6 Comments

Filed under Links, Lists, Pittsburgh, Writing

6 responses to “Amazon Fail- or Why I’m Still Pissed Off

  1. Obviously, I’ve had my head up my ass for the past few days, because I’ve not heard even a whisper about this Amazon, um, DEBACLE. I can see that there are a few links with my name on them here.

    I hope by the time I click on them, Amazon has fixed their unfortunate mistake.

  2. Well…my only issue here is that that Amazon is a business and they can run their own catalog, rankings and business as they see fit. The thing to do is to stop using Amazon and to encourage others to do so…advertising and word of mouth are very positive (and negative) influences on a situation.

    It is (very) possible that they aren’t sorry for what they did…and it was a calculated move on their part.

    Google has this same “right” and “freedom” too and could also be subject to the same consumer and user reaction that you intend to give Amazon.

    Their “freedom” to run their businesses as they see fit and counteracted by societies “freedom” not to use their services and go else where for them…it is a neat system.

    What you are doing here is the most effeftive impact you can have on them.

  3. What is the problem? I’m not following. Are homosexuals asserting that this occurrence had a “homophobic” intent and wasn’t, as Amazon claims, just a technical mishap? If Amazon is run by “homophobes,” then why would it carry homosexual-themed books in the first place? Why would it have categories specifically for homosexual-themed books on prominent display?

    This whole “controversy” is nonsense. It’s just another case of homosexuals trying to sniff out “homophobia” where none exists. If homosexuals don’t have anything better to be up in arms about, then their little movement has run its course and they should shut the f*ck up and stop making a nuisance of themselves.

    Meanwhile, Michael Hoffman had his latest book banned by Amazon. Where’s the outcry?

  4. I actually received a real (though private) apology from Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/cphdzx

    I would have preferred a public apology from Bezos talking about how important it is that all books be available and how books about gay and lesbian inclusion help to promote peace, understanding, and acceptance… but this was enough for me.

  5. Wow, that really is pretty shitty. Have you looked into City Lights? They’re independent, and they have a store in North Beach here.

  6. i don’t happen to be a “homosexual” yet i can still smell the homophobia. as if this it wasn’t a big enough “mistake” by amazon, then they blamed it on a “foreigner” (French). awesome. i agree with green. city lights is good stuff.

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