Wishful Thinking


I have an Amazon Wish List, which is a great convenience for my out-of-town friends and family at the holidays.  And it is convenient for me, as well.  I think of it as a handy shopping list for when I win the lottery.

Recently, a relative purchased a gift for me that he said was purchased from my wish list. However, it was easy to see that it wasn’t on my wish list, and I certainly had no memory of putting it on the my list.

As it happens, the purchased book was one of the top search results when you search for my name  on Amazon.  Now if your name was Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, no doubt your closest friends would quickly see their mistake and not buy a book for you that you wrote. 

But Amazon is in the sales business, so if you search on their site for just about anything, they will show you something that they will be happy to ship to your doorstep.  As it turns out, the top two results were by authors with my last name.  There are so many different ways to browse and search on Amazon, that is easy to see how my relative was confused.

How could Amazon fix this? Or should they fix it? To them, even if I was mistakenly gifted a book I didn’t care for, it is still a sale. I can always return it. From a business perspective, there is no problem.

But, from a customer satisfaction standpoint there is, I think. We want to use a wish list to help satisfy our desire to be giving friends, even though we really don’t have the time to think about what Aunt Tilly wants for Christmas.  We use the wish list to smooth out the awkward act of giving, when we don’t really know what to give.  We can forget about the Totes gloves, instead we buy Aunt Tilly something from her wish list.

But if the outcome is a mistake, it just gives away the deception of the situation, and makes us all feel a little foolish. We didn’t have time to think about Aunt Tilly, so we just bought something, who knows what it is, but it arrived on time.   I would argue that a simpler interface might help.  There are too many ways to get something you don’t want with just one click.  

I now have a book I didn’t wish for, and a humorous story to tell about it.  But that isn’t the outcome anyone, including Amazon, really wanted.

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About Chris van Hasselt

I eat, sleep, play guitar...but wait, there's more!
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