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I'm an Amazon seller. I sell a small ebook. I think my wife sells a few things too.

So you guys are saying if she logs on to her account from my computer suddenly neither one of us can sell on Amazon ever again?

Does this seem a little draconian to anybody besides me? Random rules -- no doubt put in place for good reasons to prevent fraud -- haphazardly applied to people and resulting in a lifetime ban from being a seller?

I have no problem with Amazon running a clean shop. In fact, I wish they'd do more to make it that way. What I have a problem with is systems of rules that are put up without any feedback mechanism in place. So instead of some real, live person listening to complaints and eventually coming to an understanding that this is totally whacked, thousands get dumped in the trash can until somebody finally manages to make a public relations case out of it? Completely unsatisfactory.

This is just poor systems design, Amazon. This is exactly the same systems problem many are having with PayPal, and for exactly the same reason. Be as strict as you like, but always include the possibility that you might be wrong. Because if you have no self-correction mechanisms, people aren't going to like you much. I know I just started thinking very carefully about my relationship with Amazon. I'm sure a lot of other folks did too.

Assuming the story is correct (and based on how others have vouched for the OP here I have every reason to believe that it is) the crime that Amazon has appeared to commit here (I like to reduce things down this way) is that according to the story there is no reasonable appeal process.

We regularly get fraud orders and we follow a certain procedure to yank those but you can call us or email us and you will get a response.

We are actually very interested in knowing whether we've made a mistake so we can refine the process further. (As PG said he wants to know the future success of companies YC rejected for the same reason.)

Just guessing what type of stuff you do, and also guessing how the organization at Amazon is set up, many times the guys at some level really do want to know where things went haywire. The problem is that they farm out this support work with scripted callers and such limited options for a real conversation that you've effectively shot yourself in the foot (if not shot your entire leg off)

At some high level of abstraction, 50-thousand-feet or so, the message is "support work is overhead which does not directly effect the structure of operations. Their job is to run the business machine that we've created. So we'll cost this as any other overhead, find the cheapest, best way of providing it, and do the correct thing."

But the problem is that anytime anybody talks to the customers, there is all sorts of information exchanging that's not in some policy book. This nuanced and in some cases subtly-patterned information is extremely difficult to manage in a traditional fashion. In this case, the message from Amazon is clear: we do not trust you, we will not tell you why, and we will never do business with you again. While that's a great message for Sammy Spambot and his legion of Makov-chain-generated ebooks, it really sucks for all those false-positives real human beings sitting in their living rooms trying to make buck during a tough recession.

So yes, I can understand very well that people in every business want systems that self-correct, and put in places ways for that to happen. The problem is that for all their good intentions, the end result for most of them is a structure that's rigid and communicates important customer opinion data poorly. But it's created that way usually for what seems like very good reasons. We have met the enemy and he is us.

How true. In a small organization the distance from the source of discontent to someone with a brain is short. So even if the person who answers the phone is stupid the caller senses that, complains and gets someone higher up who might give them what they want just because otherwise they can't finish lunch.

Additionally the distance from between aggravation to a person who can do something (or it becomes their problem) is also very short. Large organizations can put something in place because the person who has to fend off the anger (front line) is far removed from the person at 50k feet who thought up the policy.

There is also a lack of empathy. In a previous business I owned I did all the jobs (ran equipment, worked sales, counter work the whole thing). So I had empathy for the people doing those jobs. I knew what it was like to stand and deal with an angry customer. But the people that I hired had never done any of those jobs in many cases (they had only managed). As a result they didn't have empathy and made all sorts of jobsian "just do it" policies and rules.

Some things people do though make you laugh and there is no "information ... in some policy book" for every situation. We had a charge policy with a minimum floor charge of $10. One day I found out that someone came in and owed us $.25 on some invoice. So the counter person rang up a $10 charge and gave them $9.75 in change.

This makes me scared to use Amazon for selling stuff. I don't think I have the web presence required to prevent my account being locked down because of false positives. It looks like there really is no other option if their automated fraud detection system flags you...

> Random rules -- no doubt put in place for good reasons to prevent fraud -- haphazardly applied to people and resulting in a lifetime ban from being a seller?

Well, you're both private parties entering into a contract on "mutually agreed" terms, so you get what you sign up for.

Of course, where there's such an imbalance in size and power, it's unlikely that the mutually agreed upon terms are going to be anything but unfavorable to you, the little guy, so your only real option is to simply not play the game.

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