Amazon behaving badly

The Net's No. 1 store has come under fire lately -- for weird listings, rude service, and censorship, among other crimes. Is it time to shop for a new online retailer?

Is the "world's biggest store" going through an awkward phase, or has it just gotten so arrogant that it no longer cares what its customers think?

First, the awkwardness. Cringester C. Z. visited Amazon's computing and Internet books page recently and found the following tome listed as the top best seller: YOU: Being Beautiful: The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty.

No, this is not a book about Ubuntu. It's about "rediscovering your beauty... but not some superficial and vapid pursuit that belongs to the mirror-loving, tight-pants-wearing narcissists of the world [pdf]."

When I visited the site, YOU was no longer on the computing bestseller list. But it is still listed as a programming book. There's a 30-second video of the authors on the book's landing page: Dr. Mehmet Oz -- a normal-looking if not exactly telegenic person, and Dr. Mike Roizen, who, well, have you seen Beauty and the Beast? He's not the beauty.

RoizenOz.YouBeingBeautifulVideo._SX320_CR0,0,0,0_PIen-us-vendor-play-shuttle-on,BottomLeft,0,43_.jpg

(I'm sure he's gorgeous on the inside. But if you look like a troll on the outside, maybe you should hire an actor to hawk your beauty book. I'm just saying...)

Wait, it gets weirder. Being in the book trade himself, C. Z. was curious about how this happened, so he e-mailed a note inquiring why Amazon thinks a beauty book belongs in the computing department. He got back a response from "Ravikanth K" that, well, speaks for itself:

From your message I understand that you're concerned about "Being Beautiful: The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty" is the best seller in the computer/Internet category? I browsed our website for you and found this item that most closely matches what you were asking for is a best seller book in our website and our website the best seller of books on internet. I hope this is what you hoped to find. However if you don't intend to know about this issue, please do write back to us by clicking this link below....

C. Z.'s conclusion: "Now I think I understand why the items in the Computers and Internet Bestseller list are so odd."

That's not the only oddness coming out of Amazon lately. An anonymous Cringester claims Amazon is canceling the accounts of users who return too many items. He posted an e-mail he claims to have received from Amazon on the SlickDeals forum:

A careful review of your account indicates you've experienced an extraordinary number of incidents with your orders and corresponding shipments. In the normal course of business, the occasional problem is inevitable. The rate at which such problems have occurred on your account is extraordinary, however, and cannot continue. Effective immediately, your Amazon.com account is closed and you are no longer able to shop in our store....If you were to open a new account, the same will result and it will also be closed. ... We appreciate your cooperation in refraining from using our web site.

Also: You are now forbidden from using the words "Amazon," "one-click," or "Bezos" in ordinary conversation. And if you could refrain from reading anything except e-mails from our customer support department, we'd appreciate it. Thank you. -- Amazon 

Then there are the reports of Amazon deleting user reviews criticizing the use of DRM in games like Spore and Crysis Warhead -- then blaming it on a "system glitch" when the story goes public. This is far from the only time Amazon has been accused of censoring user reviews it doesn't like.

So as we enter the holiday shopping madness, I've got to ask: Has Amazon jumped the shark? And if so, where else should we go to stuff our stockings?

Have an Amazon horror story -- or some feel-good news to share? Post it below or e-mail me here: cringe (at) infoworld (dot) com.

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