Nick S. writes: A fascinating article about the ways in which people exploit and/or navigate the process that Amazon has set up for managing claims/problems with sellers (the article is mostly about the dirty tricks side of it in which rival sellers create problems for somebody)
Amazon is far from the only tech company that, having annexed a vast sphere of human activity, finds itself in the position of having to govern it. But Amazon is the only platform that has a $175 billion prize pool tempting people to game it, and the company must constantly implement new rules and penalties, which in turn, become tools for new abuses, which require yet more rules to police. The evolution of its moderation system has been hyper-charged. While Mark Zuckerberg mused recently that Facebook might need an analog to the Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes and hear appeals, Amazon already has something like a judicial system -- one that is secretive, volatile, and often terrifying.
Amazon's judgments are so severe that its own rules have become the ultimate weapon in the constant warfare of Marketplace. Sellers devise all manner of intricate schemes to frame their rivals, as Plansky experienced. They impersonate, copy, deceive, threaten, sabotage, and even bribe Amazon employees for information on their competitors.
The actual infraction can be as slight as the indictment is broad. Stine has a client whose listing for a rustic barn wood picture frame was deemed unsafe and taken down; it turned out the offense was a single customer review that mentioned getting a splinter. (The customer had actually given it five stars.) The seller was allowed back when he promised to add "wear gloves when installing" to his listing. Another seller was suspended for selling Nike shoes that were "not as described." After he'd filed appeal after appeal proving the shoes were genuine Nikes, Stine's team figured out the problem: some buyers complained the shoes were too small. That seller was let back on after promising to add a line to the listing recommending customers wear thin socks.
"That's what we call 'speaking Amazon,'" Stine says. "In my mind, I imagine a checklist, and it doesn't even have to make sense. It's just that the previous appeals hadn't included this all-important proactive step they were going to take to prevent the complaint that the shoe was too tight."
John Harris knew selling on Amazon was a "state of constant warfare," and he had taken defensive measures. He sold survival gear -- firestarters, compasses, combination firestarter-compass-watches with paracord wristbands -- and in the world of Amazon, his account was a locked-down bunker with a panic room. He had trademarked his wares and registered his brand with Amazon, giving him a streamlined method for booting hijackers off his listings. He'd even built his own software to instantly send out cease-and-desist letters the moment someone tried to steal his Buy Box.
Typically, the prompt legal threats were enough to scare off competitors, but one September morning last year, he woke to see an interloper had remained on his listings through the night. Strangely, Harris realized, they had also found a way to steal his own seller name, SharpSurvival. His account had been transformed into the generic Seller123. He reported the imposter to Amazon, as he'd done countless times before. But this time, nothing happened.
Over the following days, Harris came to realize that someone had been targeting him for almost a year, preparing an intricate trap. While he had trademarked his watch and registered his brand, Dead End Survival, with Amazon, Harris hadn't trademarked the name of his Amazon seller account, SharpSurvival. So the interloper did just that, submitting to the patent office as evidence that he owned the goods a photo taken from Harris' Amazon listings, including one of Harris' own hands lighting a fire using the clasp of his survival watch. The hijacker then took that trademark to Amazon and registered it, giving him the power to kick Harris off his own listings and commandeer his name.
(via Bruce Schneier)
Heebie's take: Long but absolutely riveting. It is about the dirty tricks, as Nick says, but it's more interesting than if it were limited to just that.
Before break, I was sitting near some Hispanic parents who were grumbling about filling out the race/ethnicity breakdown for their kids on paperwork, and how Hispanic isn't considered a race, but there's white (non-Hispanic) vs white (Hispanic) and how that's annoying when you aren't white. Some of them check "other" instead of white (Hispanic). There was one Syrian parent who was super annoyed that he is considered white on those forms.
This is definitely a situation where the language is out of date, and I know the historical reasons for who is considered Caucasian or whatever, but "white" in 2018 has a specific meaning and "white" hasn't meant Hispanic or Syrian in my lifetime. I don't know the best way to do it, but it's dumb to make people check boxes that are so infuriating to them.
Hey it's Christmastime! We're in Denver with Jammies' family. How are things with you?