Beware the effects of “greater efficiency.” It can lead to chaos. Housekeeping, at my retirement center, recently sent residents a memo about upcoming changes in the maid service schedule. Curious residents dialed the extension number provided, hoping for more information. Unfortunately, the receptionist hadn’t a clue, leaving people frustrated, as if they’d been directed to a door behind which stood a brick wall.
I’m old enough to know systems, like the humans who design them, can malfunction. But, Amazon’s current business model has dystopian aspects. Understandably, the company must accommodate 6 million sellers on their Marketplace platform. To manage the high volume, they’ve devised a single response to complaints, or to products that receive too many gold stars. The latter is a statistical anomaly and therefore treated as a fraud.
When either incident occurs, the company blocks the seller. No questions. No query. Not even 3 strikes. You’re out. To be reinstated, the offender submits a form that allows him or her to plead guilty and apologize. (The Secret War Behind Amazon Reviews, by Josh Dzieza, excerpted from The Verge.com in The Week, Jan. 25, 2019, pgs. 36-37.”)
But what if the charge is false? Irrelevant! Fill out the form and apologize.
One seller, outraged by the presumption of guilt, flew from Shengzhou, China to Seattle. When he arrived, no one at Amazon’s headquarters would see him. He wandered the halls, looking dazed until a receptionist wrote down a number for him to call. He recognized it at once. It was the number to apply for the form that would allow him to plead guilty and apologize.
Amazon may be happy with its system, but is it efficient? Sadly, no. Entrepreneurs have found a glitch. By damning a competitor with praise and awarding a product too many gold stars, they can knock a person out of the system. While the accused is busy filing an admission of guilt, the accusers have the croquet field to themselves.
I say croquet by design. Like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Jeff Bezos has created a universe where everyone is guilty. “Off with their heads!” How’s that for a company motto?