Amazon’s crummy messages

[Erica](http://www.ericaendicott.com) and I were looking to [switch cell phones and providers](http://heisel.org/blog/2005/05/24/cell-phone-suggestions/), so we decided to go with the [Amazon](http://www.amazon.com) [Razr deal I mentioned](http://heisel.org/blog/2005/05/24/cell-phone-suggestions/).

Thus started a descent into madness.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but given how well Amazon usually designs their systems, the process of ordering a cell phone with service can be a bit daunting.

Not long after we placed our order, we got this note from Amazon:

> There has been a delay in processing your wireless order. We apologize for
> this inconvenience. We are waiting for a final determination of service
> eligibility from the carrier. Unfortunately, Amazon.com is unable to
> process a wireless order until we receive approval from the carrier.
>
> At this point, you do not need to take any action. Routine delays of a day
> or two are not uncommon if carriers are experiencing high volume or system
> issues. …

And that’s where I stopped reading the note. After all, like most people, I scan my e-mail looking for the important info. I closed the note knowing this:

1. My order with Amazon is delayed
2. Because they’re awaiting final approval from Cingular
3. Cingular has to do a credit check (this is mentioned prominently while doing the order)
4. I don’t need to do anything

Great, I’m a lazy American — I’m good at not doing anything!

Apparently I should have taken that more to heart. A few days later, I checked the status of my order on Amazon’s Web site.

This is what I saw:

Amazon's crummy alert text

You can click the link to read the full message. But what it says is:

1. I haven’t been approved
2. I need to cancel my order
3. “We cannot proceed without some action on your part.”
4. In five days, if I don’t do anything, they’ll cancel my order.

That, my friends, is one of the worst error messages I’ve ever seen.

Let me get this straight… I need to cancel my order, Amazon can’t proceed without action on my part. **But**, if I don’t take any action, they’ll cancel my order.

Being a bear of very little brain, I canceled my order like I thought Amazon wanted me to.

Then, a few days later, figuring I’m going to have find another phone/plan/provider I re-read my e-mail from Amazon a little more closely. And I discover this nugget of wisdom (emphasis mine):

> Until this is resolved, it is possible that the information in the
> “Your Account” section of the Amazon site will **incorrectly** indicate that
> this order requires your attention and may **direct you to cancel** – please
> disregard this until we get more information.

A jigga-what?

So I reordered my phone/plan. Got the same note, got the same error message, did nothing. Now my phone is on its way.

Amazon,
what the fuss? (iTunes)

In an effort to be constructive might I suggest the following changes?

The first and most [defensive thing](http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/073571410X/37signals/103-2259896-2064613) would be to not have a message saying I need to cancel my order, when I **don’t**.

Absent that, your initial note should say this:

> 1. There has been a delay in processing your wireless order.
> 2. We are waiting on your carrier to complete a credit check
> 3. **Do not** take any action
> 4. If you check your order status on the site it may prompt you
to cancel. **Do not** cancel your order.
> 5. If your credit check is declined we will inform you and cancel
your order
> 6. If you have any questions you can contact our Cell Phones
> Specialists at 1-800-201-7575, Monday through Friday 10am to 7pm EST.

A six-point e-mail is much easier to skim/read and digest than a six *paragraph* message with nearly *300 words*.

Finally change your “error message” to accurately reflect the status of my order!

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
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One Response to Amazon’s crummy messages

  1. me says:

    hi ! ur blog abt amazon was really helpful.I was trying to buy the same fone with cingular and got the same email.I wasnt sure what it meant so I searched on google and found your blog .

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