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C'est la Z

Lost in the Locked out of Amazon

A friend of mine reached out the other day, it turns out a friend of theirs was all of a sudden locked out of Amazon. Couldn't view videos, couldn't purchase, as far as I could tell and couldn't get to their paid for content.

Amazon said that the user violated their terms of service but didn't specify how or when and after a couple of back and forths they declared the case closed.

This is actually pretty scary.

Amazon is such a dominant player - there are plenty of things ranging from their original content - books to ebooks to daily necessities and food and even drugs these days. Just as Walmart has become the only option for some, Amazon has become the only option for certain things for others and to be summarily locked out with no warning and no recourse is both scary and should be alarming.

This is a result of both capitalism and tech. As single big players take more and more control and the human element disappears more and more both due to lack of storefronts and even lack of people responding to calls and emails consumers are left in a precarious spot.

I haven't been locked out of Amazon but recently had my own similar although less potentially damaging incident.

I docked a CitiBike at Union Square. The lock was good but their server didn't close the ride. I immediately called. The customer support agent noted that the station was offline and that they'd make a note of it on my account so that when things cleared up I wouldn't be charged.

The next day, I was charged. A couple of hundred dollars + $1000 more since they said the bike was never returned.

I spent far too much time emailing and calling and while Lyft, CitiBike's parent company readily admitted that my account had the notation saying I did it right and that they were in error, they refused to do anything. In the old days, you could usually get bumped up to a higher level but current systems are much better at preventing users from getting to people that can resolve problems.

Ultimately, the only way I as able to get a response and resolution was to publicly Tweet to Lyft and CitiBike with the problem and complaint. Once I did that the problem was cleared up in minutes.

Now, mind you, the only way this got solved was by publicly shaming the company on Twitter. That seems to be the only way to get real customer support these days and with Musk killing Twitter that avenue is sure to disappear.

This is the state of commerce and in many cases living these days int he US and those at the bottom economic rung are the most hurt - they don't have friends at companies that can help, alternatives to the cheapest services, and can't absorb the hit of "just paying the $2."

Not directly related but it makes me think about how sad things are when so much primary health care ends up being GoFundMe campaigns.

We have to do better.

Those of us who teach CS and Technology though have a platform to do better. As technology advances we have to ask more if we should rather than if we can and as teachers we have to get that mindset into our kids. In the short term I'm not hopeful for change but education is the long term and we have to do a better job collectively on all those things around the tech that drive policy and ways of implementing things and ultimately greatly affect lives.

As an unrelated end note I've been trying to post at least once a week these past few months. At least one blog post and one emacs video. Tomorrow I'll beheaded off to Utrecht, Brussels and Amsterdam with my daughter for a couple of weeks so there probably won't be any new content until I'm back. Looking forward to the trip - I think this will be the longest I've been away from home maybe ever.

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