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A Fantastic Place to Shop But Aside From That...

  • Jul 3, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+1
It's admirable to see that so many people love Amazon.com.  I really enjoy the place.  I showed up to Amazon in September of 2000.  My first review was of a strategy guide.  It's still there.  The horrible paragraph of a review... the type of review I'd later come to hate.  I didn't actually make my first transaction from Amazon until about 2006.  Plenty here have commented on how Amazon is a great place to shop.  And I won't fault them.  It is a marvelous place to shop.  You can find just about anything there.  The way the site has expanded, even since 2000 is amazing.  It used to be that there was a limit.  But now it is almost limitless.

Yet there's so much more to Amazon.com than simply shopping there.  Many who have been at Lunch were probably at Amazon first.  If that's the case you know Amazon was about reviewing as much as it was about shopping.  You also know that there were many discussions to get involved in as well.  This is a huge side of Amazon that I don't think should be ignored.  We'll talk about the shopping, but let's not forget that Amazon.com is also a community.  It's as a community where many of Amazon's problems come into account.

So let's talk about the shopping.  It's never been easier.  You can buy things, used and new.  This means you can also sell what you've got on Amazon if need be.  While some people have had problems with shipping and whatnot, you can usually bet that it's something you can get worked out.  Either with the individual seller or Amazon themselves.  And if you get a seller who has managed to scam your or something, you can easily work with Amazon to get your money back.  There's also a seller feedback system where you not only rate the transaction, but the seller as well.  And people take their seller feedback very seriously.  When you rate them they're looking.  Some even pride themselves on it.  You can see things in their seller profile such as "100% Approval Rating".  They're proud of that, and you can tell that some sellers really don't like doing a disservice.  Of course, not all fumbled transactions can be blamed on individual sellers or Amazon for that matters.  Sometimes stuff just gets lost in the mail.  Other times you might receive it late.  If you ever question what's happening with what you ordered, you can always contact the seller or Amazon.

Amazon is also in several other countries in case you're into importing.  I've commonly ordered things from Amazon.co.uk and have even posted reviews there.  So there's nothing out of reach when you go shopping on Amazon.

However, even with shopping there is a bit of a problem with that.  The first is buying stuff used.  When it's at a good price, it's great.  But sometimes people are price-gouging.  I'm a self-proclaimed gamer.  A gamer who also happens to enjoy collecting strategy guides.  So I also review a lot of them.  Check out the Versus Books Final Fantasy VII: Ultimate Guide on Amazon.  It's a rare strategy guide.  When it was on the shelf it cost ten dollars.  As of writing this review... it cost $100 to buy a used one.  This is ridiculous.  But Amazon doesn't limit how much you can charge for such things.  And the rarer it is, the bigger price people tack on it.  Rare books, movies and whatnot are expected to cost a lot of money.... but a strategy guide?  You think that's bad, look at some of used prices for the Final Fantasy VII video game.  It quickly skyrockets... on the first page.  It's a little crazy sometimes.  Shortly after Michael Jackson passed away a used copy of the "Thriller" album went from costing $1.99 to costing you $32.00.  The price has since come down, but the point is that people are sometimes greedy and if you want to see greed at its best, find a rare item on Amazon used.  It'll cost you a load of money and often times the seller doesn't provide it in the best condition.  If I'm paying over $100 for a video game that was just recently twenty bucks... I don't want just "good" condition, it better be "Like New."  Unfortunately you can't see pictures of what it is your ordering from any particular seller.  And a term such as "Good" means something different.  For one person "Good" condition means a book looks like it's never been opened.  For another "Good" condition might simply mean, "It has all the pages."  That means the spine could be broken or coffee stains could be on the pages.  "Good" is such a subjective term when we're talking about the condition of items.  Especially items we can't see for ourselves.  We have to put our trust in the seller.  I once ordered a book where the person put down it was in "Good" condition.  When I got it... pages were falling out and the spine was badly damaged.  That's not "Good" condition, but to the seller it was (either that or I was scammed, and I'm guessing I was scammed).

Then there's Amazon's review system, which used to be a lot of fun until they implimented this new review system.  Every time you look at a product on Amazon, you have a chance to see reviews for it.  Amazon doesn't screen these reviews or even make sure they all correspond to their terms of use.  I do the best I can with each review, but sometimes it can be depressing to see that the review which is only two sentences long with five mispelled words, all lower case letters (OR ALL CAPS), with little grammar structure stole the spotlight from a well thought out review.  I've often looked at some spotlight reviews and thought to myself, "How did this get spotlight?"  Because sometimes you look at the review just quite literally says, "dis iz teh kewlest ting EVAR!" and it has spotlight with 2 of 2 votes.  I'm pretty sure I could find a better review while sitting in the stall of a public restroom (and it would begin by saying, "Here I sit broken hearted...")

Since Amazon has gone to a newer system, it's a lot harder for your review to get votes... at least positive votes.  Because now every reviewer has "fans" and Amazon hasn't been clear on whether or not fan votes get counted.  It's great to get rid of the campaign voting, but it sort of worked in reverse.  They got rid of positive review campaign voting... at the expense of doing nothing about the negative review campaigning.  It's great that they fixed how the rankings work, at least.  Before it used to be that you could hold a top spot by writing a large breath of reviews (even if they weren't that helpful like Harriest Klausner).  Now your helpful review percentage actually means something.  But now getting your review to get some attention is hard.  If you make it into the spotlight you can only pray that you don't get a non-helpful vote.  Otherwise you're out.  Amazon has said that this is to give new reviewers a chance to move up and establish themselves.  It was never one establishing himself in the first place that was the problem. 

Beyond that, Amazon hardly enforces their terms of service.  You're supposed to write about the product, yet you can always find dozens of reviews that do no such thing.  Almost any review you find under the latest Ann Coulter or Al Franken novel is usually not about their particular book, but about one's political position.  It's a review forum... not a message board.  This is against their terms of service, but they don't do anything about it.  Other times they have a tendency to just simply not post your review at all.  On many occassions I've had to contact Amazon to find out why my review wasn't posted.  Other times I've been checking my profile to find out that Amazon deleted a review or two without my knowledge.  When I contacted them on this they told me they didn't know what happened.  The review was reposted, sure, but it's the fact that it was taken down and they didn't know why in the first place.  In short, there are quite a few technical glitches that happen within Amazon's system.  If it were only a couple of times I might ignore it.  But it happens quite often.  

There are over 5 million people on Amazon.com.  And when Amazon discovered they had a huge community, even of people who got addicted to just browsing reviews, they decided to expand.  There are now several forums, and every product has its own forum as well.  And, to top it all off, every single review now has a comment system.  What could be better, right?  Well, the fact that the internet is not always the best place for discussion.  And no place shows that better than some of the Amazon discussion boards.  Just about any discussion can devolve into a bunch of squawking birds.  As a guy who typically reviews video games, I often browse the video game forums.  Some of the discussions are enough to make you claw your eyes out.  Almost every discussion devolves into which system is better, or why one system sucks.  I've never seen a discussion under video games where they didn't devolve into six year olds.  And video games is just the tip of the iceberg.  Wait until you discuss politics!  Now talking politics online just sucks on general principle.  It's why I don't do it very much.  But on Amazon you get the feeling World War III could start any minute (and how bad would it be to see World War III start because of some stupid discussion on Amazon that got off topic anyway?).  You want one of the worst of the worst?  Go to the discussion boards on those Twilight books.  

The community on Amazon.com is a headache.  There are very few who can be civil human beings.  One is able to vote on discussions.  Each time someone posts you can vote whether or not it adds to the discussion.  Even this has it's setbacks, which is the same as the reviews.  People often vote based on whether or not they agree with you.  Get enough "NO" votes on adding to the discussion and your post gets hidden.  You can click to show, at least.  It's not so much that your post gets hidden, as it is that a lot of people have their post hidden because a lot of people didn't agree with it.  Most times, however, you might agree, perhaps that post shouldn't have been shown, but it can feel like you're being provoked to look at what was posted.  

The individual comments on reviews are just as bad.  While a review is often able to get some good feedback, there is still the fact that some people just can't go without insulting.  I've been insulted on amazon a lot... but criticized very little.  People are so nitpicky, but they take certain things to the extreme.  You can write one sentence criticizing someone's favorite video game, book or movie etc., and the rest of your review can be praise, but they'll focus on that one sentence and post death threats in your comments section.  I overexaggerate a little.  It's not that you'll get flooded with negative comments... but they'll be the ones you remember.  And, of course, online it's easy for people to hide behind an identity.  When they say, "In real life you'd never say that..." it's true... because in real life if you said some of the things you've seen in online message boards you'd probably get knocked out... shot... maimed... the list goes on and on.  In spite of these problems Amazon doesn't move.  Some of what's posted in comments does violate their terms of service.  Well, what good are terms of service if you don't... enforce them?

Even worse is that Amazon doesn't give any reviewer a way to regulate his or her comments.  I get a lot of nasty comments on Amazon.  I'd sure like to be able to disable them or something, but you can't.  You can "Ignore this customer," but that is about as useful as a parasol in a hurricane.  If people can't be respectful about commenting then I, as the author of a review, should be able to restrict comments if I so choose.  If Myspace and Facebook can let people have control over their own business... why can't Amazon?

Amazon.com is a great place to shop.  It's still an okay place to review, but it has only become a worse online community.  Between all the people who have to throw around insults and can't discuss things like adults, it's a wonder why anyone really wants to participate in any discussion there.  It's a great place to shop but it is overall a terrible place to have discussion.  Many people just aren't friendly or respectful.  I love shopping there and I love reviewing, but not much of anything else.

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January 01, 2011
Yeah, I pretty much don't review in ammie anymore. I don't care about my ranking there these days but I still occasionally check for comments. I'd delete all my reviews there, but it is the place I began this hobby so I owe ammie for that. :)
 
July 03, 2009
Oh, and good point on those discussion boards. It's one reason I try not to discuss religion or politics on Lunch, although sometimes people go so overboard and false that I MUST put them in their place without devolving into a six year old. I do my best. Good review.
July 04, 2009
I'm not exaggerating when I say some of those discussion boards were the worst boards I've ever seen. It's like stepping into a bar filled with fighting drunks... and they're all wielding broken bottles!
July 04, 2009
Agreed. There's a certain segment of our population that likes the anonymity of the internet so they can cut people down with complete impunity because of their anonymity, so they hide behind some handle and think it's funny living in their mom's basement typing out vitrole. Ya know!
July 04, 2009
Dude, that's almost exactly what I believe.  People enjoy the anonymity of the internet so much they lose all respect.  Probably because they soon realize that no one knows who they are and because they're typing a bunch of words.  As I've said before: Online even the most mature 40 year old man can devolve into an immature six year old brat!
July 04, 2009
Agreed!
 
July 03, 2009
Excellent review and I agree with many of your points. Dianetics often get hit with criticisms and name-calling that has little to do with the book for example. There were over 60 one-star reviews that had nothing to do with the book, just name-calling. Oh, and when the review system changed they made me from 12,000 to 5,000,000 reviewer ranking. I kid you not. I was so mad I deleted all my reviews and started over again. Now I'm around 12, 000 I think. I enjoy buying old VHS and DVDs and the occasional book. I even got a used copy of "New Moon" from the infamous Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame to write another review. I pray to the Gods that this frakking book is better than the last piece of drek. But I digress. I also "love" it when people write their shopping experiences as reviews and give one-star comments which pulls down the item's ranking and Amazon does not handle. Really annoying. I understand the foreign Amazon sites have different rules and standards but I don't know if they use the same review system. Check out my Amazon reviews and mark them all helpful, not that any of them will count! Thanks. http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1C58YXM2A30CY?ie=UTF8&ref%5F=sv%5Fys%5F4
 
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About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQAMZN) is a US-based multinational electronic commerce company. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, it is America's largest online retailer, with nearly three times the Internet sales revenue of the runner up, Staples, Inc., as of January 2010.

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com, Inc. in 1994 and launched it online in 1995. The company was originally named Cadabra, Inc., but the name was changed when it was discovered that people sometimes heard the name as "Cadaver." The name Amazon.com was chosen because the Amazon River is the largest river in the world, and so the name suggests large size, and also in part because it starts with 'A' and therefore would show up near the beginning of alphabetical lists. Amazon.com started as an online bookstore, but soon diversified, selling DVDs, CDs, MP3 downloads, computer software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, and toys. Amazon has established separate websites in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and China. It also provides international shipping to certain countries for some of its products.

In 2010, Amazon's decision to remove Wikileaks from their servers resulted in numerous calls to boycott the company, with many people particularly incensed that Amazon then went on to sell copies of the Wikileaks material, despite using this material as its reason for removing Wikileaks
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