Friday, January 05, 2018

Why My Rage Is My Master, Part Two

I buy a lot of stuff from Amazon.

When I buy stuff from Amazon, they ask me to review the seller, packing and item itself. I always review the seller, always review the packing and usually review the item.

Since 2008 I've reviewed over a thousand items, and garnered over four thousand "this was useful to my interests" votes. Not huge, but the reviews represent a substantial investment of time on my part. I like to think I do a good job. People have commented to that effect. Some have reacted badly to what I've said. I try and explain and remain polite.

In all that time I've had two reviews pulled by Amazon; One for a book by Al Franken, which I assume trod on someone's toes when I said that Rush Libaugh was an easy target and I let stand, and one for an album which I contested and had the review re-instated.

I used to have access to a useful Amazon-provided page that listed the reviews formatted for the laptop screen, and could order them by most recent comments. This was phenomenally useful in curating the reviews because if someone commented on a four-year-old review that I had something wrong or had worded something confusingly, I could a) know it had happened and 2) quickly go to the review, respond to the commentor and reword the review if required (always with credit to the commentor that triggered the edit and leaving the original text in unless doing so would cause confusion, so as to indicate that I acknowledge I am not infallible and am not above rethinking and redrafting if someone calls me out with cause).

Amazon recently, as in about two weeks ago, replaced that page with an almost useless one formatted for the smartphone I don't use to do such stuff and removing all the useful "fast-forward" mechanisms the old page had. The new page had all sorts of new "social media" widgets encouraging me to socialize with like-minded groups of on-line "friends", presumably to whip up business.

I wrote to Amazon, using the feedback link provided in the new page, and explained that all the new "community-geared" features they'd added were of no real use to me, that if I wanted Facebook-like functionality I would use Facebook and that I would very much like access to the old page please so I could continue to curate the reviews I write.

Three days ago all my reviews were summarily removed from Amazon listings.

When I queried this I got back a form letter reading:

We have reviewed this situation and have restored your reviewing privilege to our site. We are investigating your reviews. We will take the appropriate action, but it may take several days before we resolve your issue. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

No word of what sparked the deletions. I suspect I.T. uckfup but it could be vengeance for my questioning the new profile format or other-customer complaint-related. No way to know.

I was and am pissed about this. In the larger scheme of things it doesn't matter of course. I don't define myself by the number of upvotes1 I get on Amazon reviews. But, like I said, these reviews represent a considerable time investment on my part, one that should merit a bit more than a form letter with no useful informational content.

But I should like to say that in the event my reviews are deemed unfit for viewing, I would really, really like Amazon to fade into the background position of transparent vendor being paid for a service and to stop nagging me to review sellers, packing and things I've bought.

And in the event Amazon decides to keep my solicited but unpaid-for reviews in the trash bucket, you can shove your "reviewing privileges" where the sun most assuredly doesn't shine Mr Bezos and crew.

  1. So many people responding to Amazon reviews think that “Useful” means “Like”. I reviewed one textbook on computers by a well-loved author saying that I found the style of this particular book grating and counter-productive compared to another of his I had found excellent and used regularly. I got four “unhelpful” votes only as of the last time I looked, and it was clear from the comments that these were likely all from current owners of the book who simply disliked what I said. I stand by my assessment of the book, though that is moot because it has been removed from the Amazon listing for it

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