The amazon.com Puerto Rico Missing Pancake Mix Affair

Hurricane Maria Causes Negative Review and Unreasonable Expectations

by Paul Hunt

 

Where’s My Pancake Mix?

The crazy systems at amazon.com are sometimes so baffling  that you have to wonder about the faceless technocrats who implement them.  Any dealer knows that at amazon, the customer is always right, even if the customer is a cheating, lying thief, or worse.  The competitive system for book dealers and pancake mix sellers is so strong, and so weighted to “the customer” that the entire universe of sellers live in constant fear of getting bad reviews.  The way amazon has done this is through their “star” system.  They have figured out that if one dealer has five stars, and another has three stars, the volume of orders will go to the company with the highest number of stars.  This is to force the dealers to do anything to get a high star rating, even if an incident occurs that is totally due to an unreasonable customer.

I’m not saying that booksellers or other dealers on amazon are perfect.  There are always two sides to a story.  Sometimes customers are really justified in their complaints.  Often it is for merchandise that is defective or not as described, or a late shipment.  We live in the Now.  We want something and we want it NOW.  If amazon customers don’t get it NOW, they flip out.  Patience is something from the last century, not applicable to 2017.  The irony of this behavior is that it only seems to apply to merchandise.  Where’s all the complaints about the sixteen year long war in Afghanistan?  The schizophrenic public is only upset when the NOW is about something they ordered on amazon.

This story is not about books, it’s about a missing box of pancake mix.  It is the extreme of the customer complaint syndrome on amazon, but all who sell on amazon will identify with it.  It begins on Sunday September 17th when an amazon dealer, The Shelburne Country Store, receives an order for pancake mix to be shipped to Puerto Rico. The next day, Monday, the order is sent Priority Mail.  It can’t get any faster than that.

Unfortunately for the person who ordered the Pancake Mix, Hurricane Maria hit the island on the 20th, which ended mail service along with anything else.  The Island was basically destroyed, as we have all seen on television.  The customer, though, was not happy.  The pancake mix had not arrived.  She fires off a complaint to amazon that reads: Item has not arrived yet. I guess is due to Hurricane MARIA.  Please Check. She also leaves a ONE STAR unhappiness review for the seller, Shelburne Country Store.  WTF?  Like the little shop in Vermont has any control of mail not being delivered in the worst Hurricane to hit Puerto Rico since 1928.

Hey, we shipped it already.

On October 2nd, the customer managed to sent another missive to amazon:

All incoming mail is available to Puerto Rico. Customers are receiving mail via pick up at Post Offices throughout the island or by limited delivery service by carriers. The following shows where customers can pick up mail or where delivery has resumed.

After checking some information on the internet, Shelburne Country Store replied:

I checked up on that last night. i am actually amazed at how quickly the Post office can recover. That said, the delivery so far is only for packages that were already on the island. Today is the first day that they will start to receive packages that were delayed in New Jersey.

I just have a tough time with a customer who feels this is a review of the seller. Time to be a duck, let it roll off, and move on….

The customer is still not happy. It is amazing that the Post Office is functioning at all, and in due time, the package of pancake mix will be delivered. Maybe other things are more important than pancake mix.  Like water and life saving medicine.  Meanwhile, the seller is stuck with the one star rating for this unreasonable expectation.

Another seller had a similar experience when Hurricane Irma blew into Florida on September 10.  The seller, Sarcastic Redhead, tells about her amazon experience:

We had an item that was due to be delivered to the keys. The buyer bought it just before the hurricane thinking it would not be as bad as it was. Her house was wiped out. It is still sitting in a warehouse in S Florida. I have contacted everyone from the post office there, the liaison’s office and consumer affairs. The said it is in S Florida in warehouses with all the rest of the mail and they are working through it. 

The buyer’s home was wiped out so we wanted it sent back to us so she could repurchase. She could not find our phone number so she left negative feedback (then found it and called us). I contacted Amazon EIGHT TIMES to get this removed as sellers were SUPPOSED TO BE protected for this (I referenced the notification and even sent a screenshot of it). I couldnt get more than a form response saying it wasnt covered under feedback removal guidelines. I marked it urgent, asked to escalate to a supervisor – nothing, nada, zilch. Now the buyer was kind enough to have removed it but customer service would not. 

Dont assume they will follow their own policies – they wont.

These strange tales about amazon’s baffling customer support system illustrates what can happen when a monopolistic corporation puts in place a system that is defective toward their own sellers, and leaves little room for any adjustments.

The NOW generation has gotten tremendous power through amazon’s star system.  And even if it is an unrealistic expectation due to a Hurricane, the seller is liable to get a bad Star Rating and lose thousands of dollars of orders because they have one star less than their competitors.  We can’t wait to see what happens when amazon replaces the faceless technocrats with faceless Artificial Intelligence robots in the customer service department.  Maybe amazon will send out a drone strike against the sellers who drop to three stars or less.  Hey, just kidding about that.   Not.

 

The Barnes and Noble Censorship Two-Step Dance To Oblivion Starring Milo Yiannopoulos

The Big Book Chain’s Self-Defeating Censorship Throws Huge Chunks of Cash to Their Dreaded Enemy amazon.com

by Paul Hunt

Sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief and wonder just how stupid some of the executives at big corporations can be?.  How did these morons ever rise to their positions?  Why do executive boards continue to pick guys to run a book company who have no experience in the book business?  More importantly, why hire a CEO who has no understanding of the field the company is in?

Barnes and Noble has had a series of mis-steps in the last couple of years.  The previous CEO decided that what was needed was for the bookseller to open up restaurants and bars inside their stores. They thought it would be nice to have folks sipping wine and browsing through the stacks.  A bad idea if there ever was one.  The stores are big on children’s books and young adult books, the last thing they need is a bunch of drunks or tipsy fobs populating the aisles.  They have opened several “test” locations but I think that idea will be a wash out.  The executives behind that bold move were canned and a new crowd brought in.  Things have gotten worse.

The flamboyant Milo Yiannopoulos has a new book out, called Dangerous.  Say what you want about this ever fascinating, outrageous self-promoting and offensive author, but he is a popular guy in some quarters. He was so controversial that a big gang of thugs did major damage to U.C. Berkeley do keep him from speaking.  The home of the Free Speech Movement.  Yeah, right.  No more “free speech” in that neighborhood. Enter the big bookseller Barnes and Noble.  Not to be outdone by the Berkeley street gangs, they have refused to stock Milo’s new book “Dangerous”.  This move of censorship opens a big area of discussion, and disgust with B & N.

How many times have we been down this road?  How many Henry Millers have caused crushing censorship?  How many displays in public libraries across the land to make controversial material available?  How many headline-grabbing legal battles?  How many years has the American Bookseller’s Association put on their famous “Banned Book Week” promo?  Booksellers know why.  It’s in our basic bookselling genes to have available the many different ideas of our culture and in fact all political and cultural ideas put out in books.  So B & N won’t stock the book “Dangerous”  They will “order” it for you, but not actually have it on their shelves. This is the big achievement of the new regime at B & N, censorship by refusing to stock a controversial book, in this case, a book called “Dangerous”.

The word in Wall Street circles is that B & N may be up for sale.  Maybe one of the reasons is that they don’t have anyone leading the company who knows a damned thing about selling books, or the ethics of bookselling, or why booksellers and libraries should have books that are not necessarily “popular”.  So who is reaping the benefits of this lunacy?  Amazon, of course.  “Dangerous” has sold over 100,000 copies online, and is a best seller in many parts of the book world.  The cash is flowing into amazon.com coffers.  Does B & N somehow think that people are going to flood into their stores because they are NOT stocking “Dangerous” ?

Meanwhile, that wild and crazy guy Milo, is putting on one of the best promo campaigns you will ever see.  TV appearances, street guerrilla theater in front of the other sad sack in this case, Simon And Schuster publishers, who pulled out of the book deal with Milo and is now being sued, has lost face, and has lost a small fortune.  Simon and Schuster, now owned by CBS, which also owns Pocket Books, Scribner’s Sons and Athenium, seems to have caught the censorship disease first, even before B & N. The drama goes on every day, with Milo on Facebook, Milo in the News, Milo taking shots at B & N for not stocking the book, Milo dancing in the streets of New York with his followers. Sales of his book get better and bigger.

All of a sudden, the financial analysts and bean counters are trying to figure out if B & N stock is worth more than eight bucks a share.  And oh, BTW, amazon.com is selling for over $1,000 per share. Looks like another brick and mortar headed for boot hill, in this case helped along by their own insane doings.