Automating Your Intelligence Away

Or, “An Open Letter to Bill Carr, Vice President at Amazon Prime Instant Video.” I woke up to the following e-mail:

Make the Most of Your Prime Membership

I’m sending you this e-mail because you are an Amazon Prime member who has not yet used any of the video benefits that you’ve already paid for. …

Bill Carr
Vice President
Amazon Prime Instant Video

This is one of the dangers of using automated algorithms and letting your staff sign your name to form letters. From the first sentence, this is false. I am using Amazon Prime Instant Video. I have not used any of the paid rentals, which is presumably what their algorithm keys off, but I have watched several movies and TV shows using Amazon Prime. So their algorithm is broken and is sending false messages that condescendingly explain to customers how to use a service they are already using. That’s amusing or annoying, depending on your mood at the time, and I hit “reply” to let Amazon know they have a problem with their algorithm.

Greetings from

You’ve written to an e-mail address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. …

Hmm. Mr. Carr, not only is your staff signing your name to form letters from a broken algorithm, they are then sending them from an account that does not accept replies, creating an informational black hole that keeps people from correcting the problem. You have an “unknown known”: your customers are e-mailng you to let you know about a problem, and your customer service system rejects it unless they follow a link to a web form, and I don’t know what happens from there because why would I go through extra work to help when they just rejected my help and I could just hit “delete”?

Okay, one last try, let’s forward the whole exchange to “”:

Greetings from

You’ve written to an e-mail address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. …

A hard part of working for a large organization is that someone else’s division can sabotage yours in ways you won’t even find out about through normal channels. And sign your name to it.

: Zubon