Frank W. Haubold

Frank W. Haubold, born 1955 in East-Germany, has a PhD in computer science and is an author.

Source: mossolainen nikolai / Shutterstock.com Impenetrable fortress: amazon

Book Ban:
A Fortress Called Amazon

How to Avoid Uncomfortable Questions

Even though Mr. K. had only recently failed in his attempt to extract from the lords of the castle of Google an explanation for their strange behavior, his drive remained undiminished. He also drew comfort from the thought that he had penetrated further than others, even though his efforts had, in the end, been in vain.

For the next question that was preying on his mind, he attempted to contact another well-known institution which had the reputation to be dominating the doings and dealings in the country. In contrast to his previous adventure, the activities of this institution involved concrete things, for there were vast depots and distribution points which were swarming with employees. The headquarters however, the place where decisions are made, are just as inaccessible to them as for Mr. K. So he started by filling in the required form and thereafter entrusted it to a messenger called ‘e-mail,’ who allegedly had access to the headquarters. So as not to go like a bull at a gate, he phrased his request in an accordingly careful manner:

“Your name: Mr. K.

Comments: Dear Madam/Sir, why does Amazon not sell the below named book directly? After all, the customer would then save the three euros shipping costs that are usual in the book trade. There is no discernible rational reason why Amazon divests itself from this trade.

Full name of the item: Finis Germania

URL of the detail page of the item: https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/3944422503/

Name of the trader, from whom you want to buy this item (optional): Amazon

To his surprise, he received an answer within a few hours; however, it did not touch the core of his request: “Hello, unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t yet offer the item you request directly. Concerning MP-orders: the shipping costs are wholly at the discretion of the vendor. However, he isn’t required to refund the shipping costs. You will find information regarding the shipping costs at Amazon.de on the following help page: http://www.amazon.de/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=886400. Many thanks for your understanding.”

So Mr. K. stated his question more precisely:

“Dear Madam/Sir,

Thank you for your reply, which however wasn’t a reply to my question. Why doesn’t Amazon sell the named book directly, which would mean the problem of shipping costs wouldn’t apply? And what does ‘not yet’ mean? Does that mean that Amazon will be selling it directly in the foreseeable future?”

This time, the answer was more detailed and to some extent even sounded promising: “Hello, please forgive us, we have obviously made a mistake. I’d be happy to be able to conclude your request to your satisfaction. For that purpose I’ve reviewed the correspondence as far as it has progressed. This is how I see the issue: I’ve forwarded your request to the appropriate internal department, which will deal with your issue as soon as possible. I’d ask you to be patient until then. Unfortunately our website can’t currently supply the book ‘Finis Germania (Kaplaken)’. We can’t give you more precise details or a guarantee of delivery. Of course, I can understand that this can be somewhat frustrating in individual cases. However, your satisfaction is very important to us. I’ve therefore contacted our purchasing department and pointed this out, in order to provide the item as soon as possible on our website. As many of our customers are interested in this item, this item will hopefully be available again shortly. As soon as we know the date of the arrival of the item, we’ll place this information on the website. You’ll find it – if already published – on the item’s product page. Our catalogue department is working hard to collect as much information for you as possible. May we ask you to check from time to time on our website? I would be very happy if you didn’t use this incident to judge our standards in general. We’d be very happy to welcome you again very soon as our customer and to convince you of the quality of our service.”

Without doubt the well-meaning customer service employee knew nothing of his employer’s practice of not directly supplying books of the publisher Antaios any longer, even though the internet trading giant has otherwise no scruples in distributing the most deviant publications to its clients, from extreme left wing propaganda concoctions to pornographic trash.

So Mr. K. had to make himself clearer: “Dear Madam/Sir, many thanks for your friendly reply, which however doesn’t solve the problem. The issue seems to be more complicated, because when searching for other books by the publisher Antaios, I realise that none of this publisher’s books are offered directly by Amazon. Thus the inability to supply ‘Finis Germania’ is not due to a mistake or negligence, as assumed originally, but to a more fundamental problem. Even an internationally renowned book, of which hundreds of thousands of copies have been sold, like Jean Raspail’s ‘Camp of Saints,’ is affected by Amazon’s non-supply. My question: Is the omission of the publisher Antaios a policy decision by Amazon’s management (which would surprise me) or a mistake by an employee who overstepped his or her authority? From the viewpoint of a long term customer I can neither understand nor condone this procedure and would appreciate some enlightenment.”

This time the answer was a smoke screen which had nothing to do with Mr. K.’s question: “Hello Mr. K., for requests regarding author services we have established a very special service which you can access via e-mail. Please accept our apologies that we cannot forward your request directly to Author Central Service. Thank you for your understanding. The colleagues are available for you regarding your request and your Author Central account. Please contact the Author Central Service via e-mail here: https://authorcentral.amazon.de/gp/help/contact-us. Our Author Central Service is happy to help you!”

So Mr. K. had to clarify the issue: “Dear Madam/Sir,

You seem to have made a mistake, because my request had nothing to do with me as an author. It was a customer request regarding the supply of books by the publisher Antaios.”

The answer to this rectification was as polite as it was vapid: “Hello, Mr. K., I’m sorry for the inconvenience. We would like to offer you an efficient and satisfactory service. Please accept our apologies that we couldn’t meet your expectations in this case. I’d be very happy if you wouldn’t take this issue to judge our standards in general. We’d very much like to greet you as a customer again and convince you of the quality of our service. (Note: We don’t take part in customer arbitration procedures, not even in those at the arbitration association Allgemeine Verbraucherschlichtungsstelle des Zentrums für Schlichtung e.V. (Straßburger Straße 8, 77694 Kehl am Rhein, https://www.verbraucher-schlichter.de). You are of course free to use the legal process.) I hope you enjoy your evening.”

So Mr. K. tried once more to finally get an answer to his questions: “Dear Madam/Sir, you don’t have to apologise; you should just finally answer my questions: First: When will you include ‘Finis Germania’ in your program of direct supplied titles, cancelling the shipping costs, as announced below? Second: Are you planning to include not just this one, which should be a self-evident matter, but other Antaios books as well (for example ‘Camp of Saints’), and if not, why not? If you don’t know the answers, then please don’t reply with vapid phrases, but instead forward the questions to the relevant department. It’d be nice if you’d inform me of the progression, which shouldn’t be a problem for the most customer friendly company in the world.”

But the answers desired still failed to appear, and it also became apparent that the employees had received instruction to refrain from speaking about the subject: “Hello, Mr. K., Many thanks for your honest words. Your opinion is important to us. Amazon.de constantly assesses customer feedback, so that we can continuously improve our customers’ shopping experience. We’ve therefore already forwarded your feedback to the relevant department. However, please appreciate that we can no longer issue statements regarding this issue. (Note: We do not take part in customer arbitration procedures, not even in those at the arbitration association Allgemeine Verbraucherschlichtungsstelle des Zentrums für Schlichtung e.V. (Straßburger Straße 8, 77694 Kehl am Rhein, https://www.verbraucher-schlichter.de). You are of course free to use the legal process.”

The fortress gate was now closed.

Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published on 20th July 2017.

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