Friday, August 9, 2013

Dear Jeff Bezos

Dear Jeff Bezos:

I live in the Washington area and used to work for the Washington Post, which I understand you just bought for $250 million. I’m pretty sure you got a good deal on the purchase of an iconic institution that has played an important part in shaping recent American history.  I am also a subscriber to the Post and have been for years. For the past few days I have been reading how you will revolutionize the newspaper.

I hope you do a better job than your employees at Amazon Seller Support.

Allow me to explain.  For several years now I have sold my used books through your company. It’s not the best deal; Amazon takes the bear’s share of the money I make there, but it’s quick and automated so posting a listing is easy. Or it was…

Yesterday I tried logging into my seller account. I’ve recently sold some books and needed to ship them but rats, my password wasn’t working.  I tried various permutations. Nothing doing. Allrightee then, this has happened before when my account was hacked.  I changed passwords, got a confirmation email and tried again. Nope. And again, nope again.

So I clicked the help button and was told to log into my account to get help, which was rather silly since that’s my problem in the first place--I can’t log in. That’s when I noticed that Amazon customer support, like a number of big companies, doesn’t list a phone number. I Googled it, got the number. Talked briefly to an operator who told me she would transfer me the Seller Central Customer Service.

Music. I think it might have been a piano concerto by Ravel but it was a bad connection so I can’t be sure.  From Ravel we went to Poulenc but once again, who knows. Poulenc to Rachmaninoff.  Oooo! Night on Bald Mountain, one of my favorites, really bombastic and over the top. Then something soft, a lullaby I might have known but couldn’t identify. I waited twenty minutes in all, then decided that obviously somewhere between classical numbers, I’d been forgotten. I hung up, redialed the original number, was put on hold again and lucked out: A reprise of Mussorgsky.

Another 15 minutes and a voice finally asks, “Can I help you?” I haven’t spoken in so long I need to clear my throat first. I give all the relevant information. The voice--a really pleasant voice, I must say, so congrats, Jeff, on that aspect of it all--suggests my browser has been hoarding cookies and I should clear the cache. I do. “Did that solve the problem?” No.

I am told to download Firefox, and do, with some misgivings. I sign into my Amazon account and Firefox sends me a message: “This is an unsafe site!!!”  I inform the Amazon voice, which chuckles. “No, it’s OK, really!” I press the necessary keys. My account is still blocked.

Now the voice tsks. “I will refer this to the engineers! We will solve this within 12 hours, I hope!”

I say good bye to the nice voice which, in retrospect, strikes me as mildly New Delhi-ish. Or perhaps Mumbai?

In minutes I get an email titled, “Resolution for Case ID 107641011.”

I click on the web address and am back to the Amazon Seller Central site. I enter my password. I am rejected, just as before.

At the bottom of the Resolution email, I find:  “Have we successfully answered your question?”

I punch the “No” button, which takes me to the Amazon Central Seller site, which I cannot sign into.

There is something Kafkaesque about all this, and anyone who owns a computer has such a tale.  But this is Amazon! This is the company of Two Pizza Jeff Bezos!

Sorry. I’m getting carried away.

My point, Jeff, is that the engineers at your company have created the perfect Catch-22. I can’t get help unless I log in, and I can’t log in.

But I understand. S**t happens.

Just promise me you’ll do a better job with the Washington Post.

Thank you.

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