Thursday, July 22, 2010 and a Mea Culpa

Friends, I have to tell Amir, the Network Sommelier, that he was right.  Earlier this year, he purchased one of those nifty portable Flip Video Cameras so that we can make vlogs on the go as we're zipping about town.  Quite convenient - all you have to do is hold up the camera to yourself, press the red button, start talking and ignore the strange faces on the passersby.

Anyhow, a few days after he received the camera and fell in love, Amir received an email from Amazon telling him about the Flip Video Camera, how cool it is, what its uses are and that if he purchased it with a Flip accessory, he could get an attractive bundled price.  And yes, friends, the attractive bundled price was less than he actually paid.

Understandably, he was all sorts of confused, frustrated, angry -- he kind of went through the five stages of grief (here) and I went on that journey with him complete with him asking me to write about it.  And, objectively, I did think it rather odd that he'd received an email about a great product he'd already purchased let alone the fact that the great product would come bundled with another item at a cheaper price than what he actually paid.

I chalked it up to a weird processing mistake, "Maybe they meant to say that because you bought the Flip, you'd be interested in XYZ but instead something went awry with the programming."  I just didn't think it was blogworthy...  But he was frustrated enough to think it was vlogworthy.  See this little video:

So...  fast forward to earlier this month.  I had to buy a book for my next club meeting (hi S, S, S, T, C, K and M...  or Stick 'Em as I just noticed) so I purchased that as well as a milk frother for my daily cafe au lait from our good friends at Amazon.  I got the package shortly thereafter and all was well...  Until I got an email from Amazon touting the features and benefits of different (and fancier) milk frothers than what I had just purchased.  And, to Amir's point, it didn't even open with a salutation.  Instead, here's what it opened with:  

"Are you looking for something in our Small Appliances department?  If so, you might be interested in these items..." 

Mr. Bezos, I was interested in something in your Small Appliances department and that's why I purchased it.  Thanks for letting me know that it wasn't special enough for you to remember.  And, oh yeah, thanks also for letting me know what I purchased was probably a bad decision.  I'm going to sulk for a bit and think about what could have been amazingly frothy cafe au laits instead of what I'm having in real life.

Okay - that was melodrama.  This is not life altering in the slightest.  My cafe au laits are perfectly frothy.  But, what it does is give me the case of the bummers.  How can it be that Amazon of all companies makes this boo boo not once but twice?  And who else is getting this feeling of disconnect from them especially in this age of super turbo super socialized CRM?  If this were a much smaller outfit and/or an outfit just starting out, I'd understand and forgive it.  But, this is Amazon.  This is the company that asks us to rate past purchases and recommendations so that they can refine what's presented to us further...  because they want to personalize the experience!  

This is also the company that bought Zappo's last year.  Last month, as you recall I wrote two posts about Zappo's (here and here).  Zappo's tagline is "Powered by Service" and Tony Hsieh very much believes that your culture is your brand and vice versa.  As I mentioned then, their great success is borne of their personalized customer service and they very much "walk the talk" when it comes to their customer service philosophy.  It's that commitment that garnered the $1.2B price tag, that results in 75% of daily orders being repeat business and that 1Q results were 50% greater than 1Q results last year.

So if Amazon is structured for refined recommendations and customer specific content...  and Amazon bought Zappo's for that level of customer service commitment that has made Zappo's so successful...  How was it that the emails we received didn't reflect recent purchases?  It's so odd and, honestly, not aligned with previous experiences with them.

What about you all?  Have you had this happen to you?  I'd love to hear your stories.

Until Next Time,

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


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  1. No surprise, big companies operate in silos.

  2. Two ideas Parissa:
    1) the gnome monitoring page visits didn't realize you bought something that day
    2) maybe you'll send back the first and step up to the 'latest and greatest' from Amazon (I can't imagine this theory holding water if the original purchase was from Amazon though).
    I have to believe, though, that Amazon is smarter than the witnessed behavior, so its curious....

  3. Thanks "Publius43" for the ideas. Thought provoking! Either idea is plausible but also give me a case of the bummers. I can only say, like you, "it's curious" that this happened not once but twice.