Upstream Amazon, but now with a paddle, finally

I wrote about my (now) 3-week ordeal when a tech over at Amazon.uk (Vishnu, you should be fired) for cancelling BOTH my UK and US account when I asked him to leave the US one alone. Three times.

My 5th attempt I tried using some ALL CAPS while writing in the chat with the support tech person. When the final result was another promise to email me with the login details, 4 times before without results, I asked who the boss was, and got a name. THIS time, I actually DID receive and email. But it directed me back to support. I click on the link, and I am back at square one. I go through the same process with the new tech, hoping this time something different would happen. Nope. SO I START YELLING FOR THE BOSS, FLIPPING OUT and pointing out this was my sixth attempt. The tech finally put me in contact with his boss, who discovered the problem and had my old account reinstated in less than 3 minutes.

The lesson from all this? I am going to find a way to save all my Kindle books locally, so I am not dependant on Amazon su- su- su- sucky support. Also, I am downloading all my highlights from books past. You never know how much you depend on something until you lose it. I was fortunate to get it back.


Amazon has me by the Books

I have had a frightening experience with Amazon over the new year vacation, and extending into the year, that has opened my eyes about the power relationship between seller (Amazon) and “buyer” (me) in digital commerce. I have ignored Cory Doctorow and EFF and their warnings about how buying hundreds of books (I have 320) at Amazon, they have power over you. For all of its daunted reputation, Amazon depends on having the power in the relationship. I cannot walk away. That leaves me begging for Customer Support. Long story below, I will try to get through it as quick as possible so you can see the effect. But this could happen at iTunes with your music. Google is a bit different because you can back up your content locally, so is more beholden.

Time for a Digital Bill of Rights.

Initial Question: I want to close my amazon.co.uk account because I have not lived there in years. I want to keep my amazon.com and my amazon.co.jp accounts open. 

01:57 AM GMT Vishn)u(Amazon): Thank you for contacting Amazon.co.uk. My name is Vishnu.
Am I chatting with Kevin Ryan?
01:57 AM GMT Kevin Ryan:, I am Kevin Ryan
01:58 AM GMT Vishnu: Hello Kevin ,hope you are doing good,I do understand your concern regarding the account close I will be very glad to help you with this.
01:59 AM GMT Kevin Ryan: Thank you, I wanted to make sure that will not affect the other two amazon accounts I have. 
02:01 AM GMT Vishnu: I have successfully closed your account 
02:02 AM GMT Kevin Ryan: Thank you. I can still use my other two accounts, correct?
02:02 AM GMT Vishnu: yes

Chat with Amazon.co.uk support Dec 28, 2018 (Excerpted)

OK, so then

10:51 PM PST Justin(Amazon): Hello, my name is Justin. I’m here to help you today.
10:52 PM PST Kevin Ryan: I recently closed my account at Amazon.co.uk and Vishnu, the tech, assured me that would not affect my Amazon.com account.
10:53 PM PST Kevin Ryan: But now I cannot access. The address is my@address.com
Here is the chat transcript
(Copy of Visnu’s transcript)

10:55 PM PST Justin: So you cannot access your Amazon.com account?
10:55 PM PST Kevin Ryan: That is correct.
11:01 PM PST Kevin Ryan: You there?
11:01 PM PST Josephine(Amazon): Hello, my name is Josephine. I’m sorry your previous chat disconnected.
11:04 PM PST Kevin Ryan: Visnu, when he disconnected my.co.uk account, also must have closed my main account at .com
11:06 PM PST Josephine: Yes, Kevin. Upon checking I see that your prime account in Amazon.com is closed.
11:07 PM PST Kevin Ryan: My main Amazon.com account is almost 20 years old, Prime, with about 320 books.
If you could resurrect it, please. 
11:09 PM PST Josephine: I understand your concern, Kevin. 
In this case, I’ll submit the form to our Account close team. 
11:10 PM PST Josephine: They will contact you within 24 hours
And respond to the E-mail.
11:10 PM PST Kevin Ryan: OK…Does that mean it will take some time over the holidays?
OK, I will be on the lookout for the email. 
11:11 PM PST Josephine: Thanks for your understanding, Kevin.
11:12 PM PST Josephine: Before that for security reasons, 
Could you please confirm …..(security check)
11:22 PM PST Josephine: I’m really sorry for any inconvenience this has caused for you, Kevin.
11:22 PM PST Kevin Ryan: As long as we can get it fixed.
11:22 PM PST Josephine: I’ve successfully submitted the account reopen form on behalf of you.
11:22 PM PST Kevin Ryan: OK. 
11:22 PM PST Josephine: You’ll receive an E-mail from our team within 24 hours.​

Amazon.com Customer Support with Justin (then Josephine, after line was dropped). December 31, 2018

We’re sorry that the Amazon US account was cancelled mistakenly by the previous associate.
We’ve submitted the Account Reinstatement Form regarding this matter and an Account Specialist /Escalation Specialist will get in touch with you
via email within 2-3 business days from now.

After phone support session with Amazon.com with Joe. Jan 2, 2019

Initial Question: My content and devices have disappeared.

02:04 PM PST Joel(Amazon): Hello, my name is Joel. I’m here to help you today.
02:10 PM PST Kevin Ryan: Long story. (recounts history)
Chat logs available. 
02:12 PM PST Joel: I am really sorry for the inconvenience caused. 
02:14 PM PST Joel: In this case I will forward this issue to our account specialist team. They will check and help you with this issue.
You will receive an email within 24 hours regarding the account issue. 
hope this works for you?
02:15 PM PST Kevin Ryan: This is the third time I have heard this message. 
02:15 PM PST Joel: There is no need for any concern.
02:16 PM PST Kevin Ryan: Right. Third time is a charm? I guess I will have to wait. Again. Thank you. 

Amazon.com Support chat January 10, 2019

The saga continues. I contacted Andrea by phone on January 11. I thought maybe being upset and angry might work–I’ve tried polite. I was gruff and impolite, just short of swearing–although I did say this whole scenario “scared the shit out of me”. I went through the whole process again.

Andrea: I relayed your information to the team trained to handle this scenario. You should hear back from them in the next 1-2 business days.
If you have any concern you can give us a callback at anytime.

And nada, nyet, nothing. Again. Time to consider legal action. Amazon just stole 320 of my books, and thousands of my highlights, which I often use for research and work.


Podcast Updates

I have been walking a lot lately, in competition with my friends to get as many steps per week. I now do about double what I averaged last year, now with 10,000 steps a day, plus the bike riding into work and back.

During these walks, I listen to podcasts, or music. Spotify lets me listen to Rosalía, a woman who mixes Flamenco and R&B. She grew up in the poor area of Barcelona where I had my first real job teaching English, in Llobregat. Good street music from the Andaluces who migrated north like the blacks in America, and were and are still treated similarly, but not quite as badly. But I digress.

I listen to podcasts more and more, as more channels pop up. So here is a list of my favorites. Top two: Political Gabfest on Slate with Emily Baselon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz. They all used to work together at Slate, but Emily is at the NYTimes Magazine, John Dickerson is hosting one of those morning shows, and David Plotz runs Atlas Obscura. But they get together each week to talk politics for an hour or so. Three topics. Emily has a screechy voice, but brings legal knowledge to the table, David is more conservative and promotes debate, John is the historian. They have a great rapport. Similar is the Culture Gabfest, with great conversation about things like Roma the movie, good music, reading and other reviews.

Rounding out news, the PBS Newshour with Brooks and Shields (10 mins) comes out on Saturdays (here) which is good because I can’t get the TV version. The Atlantic has a nice podcast, and I am just starting with The Argument at the NYTimes where liberals and conservatives debate issues.

I am terribly behind on music in the US, so Sound Opinions (like Siskel and Ebert) has two Chicago critics discussing the newest albums and tracks with an amazing depth of knowledge. For movies, a trio of young critics is both entertaining and informative on the Rewatchables. Great stuff.

Dan Carlin has slowed down a lot but what he comes out with in history is well worth listening to. Recently the Japanese part of WW2, in an installment about 4.5 hours long. Malcolm Gladwell and his Revisionist History bring new perspectives to events, challenging our assumptions. Did you know Brown did not want to integrate and didn’t want to fight the Board of Education, and that ultimately it was counter-productive?

Single-topic podcasts are really interesting too. Serial has 3 seasons now, the 1st and 3rd are great, the 2nd good. Each about 10 episodes of an hour. Shit-town is another great one. And of course, listen to the one that got all this started, This American Life.

So what you want to do is to go to a place where you can get these podcasts. Most people go to iTunes, but I prefer a standalone pod-catcher on my phone. But you can get podcasts on Spotify too.


Weakly Post #4

From Wired Magazine.

From Wired, you can get a Harley….electric! Wow. Want.

Here are some links to my posts this week. How to Pay Attention. The Pilot V Fountain Pen rocks. Best movie of the decade: Roma.

Other links I have found worthy of reading (I don’t recommend unless I’ve read it). Causes of Death in the US: #1: Cancer. #2: Heart disease. #3: Stupidity. How to Avoid Stupidity. (Thanks Bill Snyder). I love science. Especially when it debunks hysteria (a word originally applied only to women, but now to people like Marco Rubio and the DT. The Havana Embassy Mystery (Vanity Fair; long, but worth it.). Tim Herrera at the NYTimes shows us that one way to remember something is to draw it. Don’t write the word. Draw it. History will show that Nancy Pelosi is one of the most important politicians the US has ever had. During the Lehman shock, the 2008 debacle, she stood up for the people. The most adult in the room. We see why John McCain lost a few weeks later. (The Atlantic). Books have been changed, not so much themselves (they are the container) but everything around books has. An author from Japan tells of how production is different now. (Wired) What is the difference between a language and a dialect? A Swedish researcher has assembled some impressive data and come to a conclusion. How to murder somebody. The best way, according to the CIA, is by pushing them off a ledge. No guns, no explosions, no fuss. And it looks like an accident. Does the culture remember John Lennon? Looks like there is a halflife of about 15 years on verbal cultural memories. Written lasts longer. The other media are different (Nautilus). Busy streets make for a less engaged community. Fewer friends and acquaintences (Kottke). Here’s one to get mad about. Small towns in the US make money by fining poor people. It has become a business model. Weird time fold with a 50’s TV show. Texas western where a snake oil salesman comes to town and says the world is ending, and the only way to save yourself is paying him to build a wall. The huckster is named Trump. Really.


Attention! is important

The first of the 5 Digital Literacies in Howard Rheingold‘s book Net Smart is Attention. At first, I thought this was just a warm-up to the other literacies, one to get things going to study Critical Consumption (crap detection), Participation, Collaboration, and Net Structure. Then I started teaching with the book. Then I started doing research, and have come to the conclusion that Attention is the most important of the five.

I have noticed in my classes that there are more kinds of attention. I have noticed myself managing different levels of attention. Managing your own attention is key to all of the others. Indeed, meditation shows both how and why.

I have been able to focus more as a result of monitoring my own (lack of) attention. Here are 20 Ways to Win the War Against Seeing by Rob Walker (Medium). They are great ways to practice Attention, and will help you manage your own. Here is part of a newsletter (called Noticing) by Jason Kottke about, well, noticing things.

So here’s the skinny. The book is called The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday, will be out in May 2019, and can be preordered from Amazon right now. Walker describes it as a practical guide to becoming a better observer, “a series of exercises and prompts and games and things you can actually do (or reflect upon) to build attention muscles or just get off your phone and enjoy noticing stuff that everyone else missed”.