Monday, October 27, 2008

Amazon.com's Search Engine Is Racist


There are many benefits to shopping locally. If I went to a local bookseller, I could always bring a reusable bag to carry home my purchases. I'd be putting money back into my community in the form of jobs and tax revenues. But, I've never quite brought myself to doing it.

Online shopping is easier for a person with a small one in tow. It is easier to compare prices; the search engine knows the products better; and there are no lines with impulse items at check-out. So, I dutifully recycle all of the cardboard boxes and hope it is enough. Well, no more!

At least not Amazon.com. A huge fire has been lit under me. Imagine my surprise when I discover through an LA Times article that the Obama masks are listed under the heading "arab terrorist costumes." They have a screen shot to prove it. So, I headed over to one of my favorite retailers and typed "terrorist costume." I tried to get my own screenshot, but, am not that tech saavy.

I vote with my dollars. I do not give my dollars to racists and I encourage you to do the same. What is worse is that they make it very difficult to call or email them. In fact, they don't give you a number, they ask for yours. So, spread the word.

UPDATE: I had them call me. As soon as I clicked the button, my phone rang. A lovely woman with a strong Indian accent asked what my concern was. I explained the issue succinctly. "I'm calling because there is a mask of presidential candidate, Barack Obama under the heading of terrorist costume." She didn't understand and asked again what my problem was. I simply repeated myself. She then asked for the item number. By the time I toggled back to that screen, the website had been fixed.

I got an email asking if I was satisfied with customer service. I clicked the link for "No." Here is my response.

"It was inappropriate for the website to include a mask of presidential candidate Barack Obama under the heading of terrorist costumes. Nor is it acceptable for Amazon.com to show traditional Arab clothing under that same title. The call center failed to understand that racism is not good for business. Until this problem is fixed and denounced, I will not be shopping with Amazon. Furthermore, I will encourage my friends and associates not to shop with you. I do not support racism in any shape or form."

I encourage you to have them call you and then send a follow-up email. Calls and responding to email complaints cost money. Show them that racism is never profitable. Thank you.

4 comments:

freya said...

I was sent here by a friend and can't help but chime in here...

This seems a little unfair to Amazon since tags are user generated. According to this page, it does violate their ToS to use tags that are "Profane or obscene language, inciting or spiteful tags", which I would agree applies to these.

I am appalled as well, but I don't think Amazon is to blame. I'm sure they try their best to catch things like this, but I'm guessing it's pretty rampant.

Christina Springer said...

Thanks for stopping by and chiming in Freya! You are probably correct that it was a user generated tag.

On the other hand, I wish their customer service department was as clever as you are. The problem was corrected. However, no other information was provided or any statements made that they would investigate this further and take action. If they had simply given me the explanation you provided, I would have walked away with a better taste in my mouth.

freya said...

Yes, by no means was that meant to be praise to Amazon's customer service! It seems that they believe you can only have cheap things or good customer service, in my experience. It's unfortunate that the business of one particular person doesn't seem to matter to them.

I can't believe the search also brings up traditional Arab garb. Just goes to show you how awful people really can be by taking the time to label these things as such.

Christina Springer said...

Thanks for checking back, Freya! I took the time to email them. This additional problem seems to have been "fixed."

Now, it seems as if you must search for "arab terrorist costumes" to get costumes which imitate traditional Arabic clothing. I believe a little more pressure may invite them to contemplate more pro-active investigations of tag usage.