Amazon has responded to disgruntled customers in light of the cataloguing cock up over the weekend by labelling the “glitch” as “embarrassing and ham-fisted”. This is the standard email they’re currently sending out to disgruntled customers:
This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloguing 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 & S-xual 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.
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In light of the ongoing criticism being flung at the organisation, Crikey has pulled together a collection of commentary on what this means for the future of the brand, and whether the twitter campaign #amazonfail jumped the gun. Here’s a taste:
Amazon censors gay books: What progress we have made that a few stories on the internet can make a giant like Amazon apologize and change because their actions offend notions of equality and decency that include LGBT Americans. It’s not a big court win or a successful vote, but this little battle against Amazon is a sign of significant advancement in the fight for LGBT rights. — Emma Ruby-Sachs on Huffingtonpost.com
A silent mistake in the face of a social-media firestorm: “Whether the incident is a glitch or the work of a hacker is rather beside the point. Amazon should have been monitoring its brand in social media 24/7. And clearly it wasn’t. It should have responded much sooner and much more clearly. If it didn’t know the cause, it should have said so and explained what it was doing to find out.” — B.L. Ochman on Advertising Age
On the failure of #amazonfail: Whatever stupidities Amazon is guilty of, none of them are hanging offenses. The problems they have with labeling and handling contested categories is a problem with all categorization systems since the world began. Metadata is worldview; sorting is a political act. Amazon would love to avoid those problems if they could — who needs the tsouris? — but they can’t. — Clay Shirky
Blame it on the French: Amazon.com employees are on call 24/7, and many began working on the problem from home. It didn’t take much digging to realize that there was a data error. Amazon managers found that an employee who happened to work in France had filled out a field incorrectly and more than 50,000 items got flipped over to be flagged as “adult,” the source said. (Technically, the flag for adult content was flipped from “false” to “true”.) — Andrea James on seattlepi.com
Censorship, Kindle and Amazon: Apparently, (Jeff) Bezos and company have a better handle on what’s too much for our delicate systems more than the U.S. Supreme Court, which deemed that censorship of materials was detrimental to a democracy. — Martha Randolph on Daily News Online
#Amazonfail and the politics of anti-corporate cyberactivism: Blame it on social media, but almost every time I see a group of bloggers and social media guys take on a company that has made an outright stupid decision, they usually win. Not only because they are right, but because the company usually ends up paying much higher fees in publicity services to deal with a swell of the negative publicity — all embedded in the precious Google juice — than the losses it would incur from dealing with complaints from their conservative customers, who may want to restrict the publication of certain materials — be that photos of breast-feeding mothers or rankings of adult products. — Evgeny Morozov on neteffect.foreignpolicy.com