Service malpractice

Amazon’s slimy dark patterns

An open letter to

Currently, if a user is browsing books and clicks an author’s name, the user is moved into the Kindle store.

Does this make sense? What about clicking an author’s name suggests an interest in Kindle content?

I do not believe this has anything at all about the user’s preference. It has only to do with Amazon’s preference. It is a blatant dark pattern — a behavioral economics “nudge” to get an extra fraction of percent of Kindle purchases, at the cost of user experience.

It is slimy. I wish y’all would respect your customers and rely on good service and honest persuasion instead of behavioral manipulation to maximize your profits.


The Design Grouch

Service malpractice

Feature idea for Notability

I just submitted a feature request for Notability:

I have an idea for a service Ginger Labs could offer to Notability users. Imagine this scenario: a user is experiencing some kind of technical issue. With the concept I’m proposing, the user could contact Ginger Labs and receive help resolving that problem. My hypothesis is that this would serve user needs more effectively than the current service, which consists of the user submitting a help ticket and receiving a message assuring them that “nothing is more important to us than helping you”, followed by literally months and months of apologies for not yet addressing the issue.

Service malpractice

“Your call is very important to us”

Hey, companies, please listen. When you put people on hold for long stretches of time, or when you take days and days to respond to a help ticket, how about dropping that bullshit about how important this call or this help request is to you? Because it is not important to you, and your blather does nothing but add another redundant drop of cynicism into the infinite bullshit ocean we’re all drowning in. 

The cliche is true, far truer than your marketing blather: Actions speak louder than words. The fact that we have all learned to expect long waits, says very loudly: “We know you’ll put up with this.”


OK, customers, now I’m talking to you.

These companies who claim to care so much about your very important call have calculated exactly how long they can make you wait without losing your business. They track it carefully. They know who drops off and they know the bottom-line consequences of drop-offs.

Shortening your wait time would require hiring more customer service personnel. That is expensive and most companies don’t want to spend money to make you any happier than they have to. They want to spend the least amount possible to keep your business and they want to pocket the rest.

Sadly, that customer service representative (CSR) who finally does speak to you after that long, infuriating wait might very well care how you feel. Many of them dearly want positive interactions with the people they speak with all day every day. But they are “the throat to choke”. Yelling at the CSR is yelling at the company. And so they are yelled at, harangued, bullied and threatened all day. Customers ask their names and address them by name frequently in an oh-so-savvy attempt to signal how they will be held accountable for how things go.

These CSRs are tracked closely and scored. They are supposed to keep your call as short as possible, so they can move on to the next pissed-off customer, and the next, and the next — as many as possible, to squeeze the most value out of them. The call centers are understaffed, so it is important to keep prodding them snd keeping them trotting as briskly as possible through their endless call queue every minute of the day.

CSRs are also scored on how much they can upsell and cross-sell to these customers, who are very much not in the mood to be upsold or cross-sold after sitting on hold listening to “we care” bullshit for the better part of an hour.

And then when it is all over, the customer evaluates them on how satisfied they are. Good luck, CSR.

And, understand: these CSRs are surrounded by posters and banners and huge screens that assure them that Our Employees Are Our #1 Asset. We Appreciate Our Employees. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work. And So On. They too are subjected to empty words belied by the most conclusive demonstrations of the emptiness of the empty words — but your bullshit sentence time lasted 20-40 minutes. Theirs is every minute of every day.  

Meanwhile, the folks creating all this misery are far, far away, hiding behind data dashboards, business intelligence applications and spreadsheets and totally out of earshot of your complaints. The only thing they hear from you is your complacent sticking around for more abuse, always almost, but not quite ever, willing to tell them to fuck off.

Moral: Most customer misery is produced backstage, far from view of customers, and the same misery affects everyone you’ll ever be allowed to talk to. So be nice to those poor front line people trying to help you. Instead, quit. If you can, discontinue your service online, so you don’t make that poor CSR’s day worse by putting a cancellation on their scorecard.