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Amazonfail Why Retailers Should Care Gay and Health Books Dropped

An article in today’s WSJ by Geoffrey Fowler And Jeffrey Trachtenberg titled, Amazon Error Removes Gay, Health Books from Search details how Amazon mysteriously  removed more than 57,000 books from its sales rankings and main search page including adult, health, and mind & body books.

The Seattle company was then hit by criticism from the authors of those affected books, mainly those focusing on gay themes. You might say, “So what, that Internet site doesn’t affect me.”

What interests me and should interest you, isn’t what dropped off the search or what Amazon’s problems on an Easter weekend were, it is how all of this was found out.  Through Blogs and Twitter.

amazonfail_dv_20090413114448jpgAuthors and bloggers were tagging their posts with the keyword “amazonfail” as they discussed the incident. Much of the outcry started after a publisher, Mark R. Probst, blogged about a message he received from an Amazon representative after noticing that rankings disappeared from “Transgressions” and “False Colors,” two new gay romance books.

I’ve written a lot about the happy side of social media, how attracting people is harder than being where they are, how instant communication leads to productive relationships and how fans are able to follow you.

The lesson from this episode is how quickly the word can spread about something you do wrong to a customer.  It’s not limited to sites like www.yelp.com or www.TripAdvisor.com. Another good blog can be found about amazonfail at Jackie Huba’s site

Thirty years ago when I was selling Nunn Bush shoes at their store at 7th and Grand in downtown Los Angeles, I had a customer open the door, take off his shoes and throw them at my head  – about 30 feet.  He told  me the “damn soles wore out in a week and if you don’t replace them right now, I’m going to complain to the Better Business Bureau.”  The older gentleman I worked with collected the shoes with the holes in the soles, threw them back at the guy almost striking his head and told him to “stay the heck away or I’ll call the cops.”  We never heard a word or saw the guy again.

Nowadays that same guy could have entered his information into his Blackberry or iPhone with “#Nunn Bush shoes” to a Twitter post or “Nunn Bush shoes” as tags in a blog post or even started www.ihatenunnbushshoes.com.

My point isn’t that he could have been right or wrong. (Though as a side note I will tell you leather soles wear three times faster when they’re wet so don’t, as that guy did, wear thin Italian loafers during the rainy season walking on concrete.) It is the tools he and any disgruntled customer now have to influence customer opinions about your business and how quickly it can snowball.

Ignore the Internet at your own risk.

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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on April 14, 2009.

This entry was posted in Retail Sales and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Amazonfail Why Retailers Should Care Gay and Health Books Dropped”

  1. Jackie Huba says:

    Great commentary on the lessons of #AmazonFail for every business! And thanks for the link to my blog post : )

  2. [...] point is much like my post on Monday about Amazonfail, you cannot be in business and think anything will just “calm down,” if you wait it [...]

  3. [...] last week we saw Amazonfail where “someone” mysteriously removed gay and health titles from Amazon.com.  Then [...]

  4. bobphibbs says:

    Thanks Jackie, I found your article a couple hours later and updated the post because you detailed all the posts in an east to read format.