Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Up the Lazy River

Today's title refers to the Amazon, of course, as in Amazon dot com. Specifically, it refers to the flapdoodle that arose this past weekend over the de-listing of LGBTQQ titles from their rankings.

Apparently this is important. I don't know why exactly, but it is. I know this because my friend Rob Byrnes (aka FARB) had totally lost his shit was somewhat discomfited over it. And any enemy discomfit of Rob Byrnes is an enemy discomfit of mine. He was particularly incensed discomfited by it since he just had a new book (fabulous... you should read it... called "Straight Lies") published and, let's face it, authors these days count on e-tailers like Amazon to really move the merch.

So after I read Rob's rant piece (love the [lack of] alliteration) I delisted my shopping cart and wish lists from Amazon and sent a sternly worded email to some faceless drone in Mumbai who poses as their Customer Service Help Desk.

A scant 24 hours later I got a reply.

Then I posted this on Joe.My.God's blog:

"You wanna know what I think? I think that, for economic reasons only, the cataloging was outsourced to a country where ... well, let's just say that there's a totally different cultural bias regarding subjects such as "gay" and "lesbian" and "bisexual" and "transgendered" and "queer" there. A place where, in fact, the entire population remains largely skittish on the subject of sex in general.

And nobody in corporate bothered to double-check the work.

That's what I think. (the Amazon form reply was signed by Gajalakshmi S.)"

I stand by that theory. I think it was nothing more than the finance department trumping the editorial staff.

It's worse than a global conspiracy.

It's capitalism run amok. As usual.


Bev Sykes said...

So--are they gonna fix it or what? I have to admit that I'm not as incensed as Rob but I feel a loyalty over all of this. I hope they fix it before I get an itchy credit card.

JoyZeeBoy said...

In a word, 'yes.'

Rob spot-checked it, and so did some other writers, and they all seem to think that Amazon is being good to their word and undoing the damage.

I believe that Amazon was genuinely shocked by the enormity of the response -- and got off their butts fast to fix it.

Alan said...

I tend to believe them that it was a technical error rather than an editorial decision. OTOH, I have flatly and utterly refused to do any business at all with Amazon since they moved all their customer service jobs from Seattle to West Virginia, preparatory to moving them to Bangalore. feh

Rob Byrnes said...

And I agree that this was almost certainly a technical problem.

Ron, you are correct that my first reaction was somewhat of an over-reaction (although maybe not as bad as most voices out there) and I owe you and your readers an apology. I stumbled on it after the Twitterati had already made it an issue, and I more or less swallowed the party line. With a new book out, I was probably too close to the fire. My consolation is that wiser and more thoughtful people than me went wild over this.

All's well that... nah. No cliches. But thanks, Ron, for your support of me and every other LGBT writer (and thousands of other writers) who got caught in this unfortunate situation.

Hope you're liking the book! (Or, if not, won't post a 1-star review!!!!)

~ Sil in Corea said...

Delisting from India makes more sense than a hacker, since Amazon can't afford to let hackers on board. That would REALLY affect the bottom line!!!

Small bit of information: The official gov't line in South Korea is that there are no gays here, but every gay expat that I know has a local boyfriend.

JoyZeeBoy said...

Rob, thanks for keeping a sense of humor about my post (I do love you, dear lad). I was a little leery about doing it at first.

I still believe that some mid-management dodo outsourced the categorizing to some group (nameless) in some country (nameless) where LGBTQQs are even less well-tolerated than here.... and that nobody at the top at Amazon bothered about it until the shit hit the fan this weekend.

It is irrelevant if that categorizing took the form of a human being actually looking at a book and making a decision, or if they simply programmed their biases into snippets of computer code, which theory I've also heard and which was equally possible.

What is really amazing me, though, is how sensitive our nerves seem to be to these sorts of matters these days.

I think that we may have finally had enough.

Isn't that wonderful?!

(~Sil - I would find living in a society like Korea's insufferable. But that's only because I belong the smallest group of homosexual purists that exists on Kinsey's scale, the 4% who are born 100% queer.)