yell-monitor-l1Over the last few days, someone on one of the forums I frequent has started screaming bloody murder about a Kindle technical problem. I’m not going to say who or where (and I’d ask that any commenters who know who I’m talking about please do the same), because it’s not my intention to “name and shame.” I’ll just call him That Guy.

Anyway, That Guy has posted his rant across three different forum boards, accusing Amazon of “fraud” because he can’t get his e-books to sync to the second Kindle on his account from the “Manage Your Content & Devices” screen on Amazon. He posted a transcript of his interaction with an Amazon chat support rep, who explained politely that his problem was a known issue, they were working on the fix, and please try again within 24 to 48 hours. Meanwhile, here’s a $5 Amazon credit for the inconvenience.

Upon further investigation, the problem seems to have been caused by Amazon completely revamping its “Manage Your Kindle” screen last week. Judging by the announcement and ensuing discussion, it’s still not quite got all the bugs worked out of it yet.

Quite a few people are having problems, including That Guy. It’s his position that Amazon should have warned him before he bought the books that he might not be able to download them, and since they didn’t, they were committing fraud and he was going to complain loud and long about it (though as far as I’ve been able to tell with Google, he hasn’t done so outside those particular forums yet) as well as “report Amazon to the authorities for fraud.”

This is, of course, a fairly meritless complaint. Amazon didn’t have any way of knowing whether he was going to be affected by this problem. What he’s asking for is tantamount to warning everyone who wants to go outside that they might get hit by a car, mauled by a bear, struck by lightning, or have an Amazon delivery drone fall on their head. And he’s grumpy that the Amazon tech support rep can’t simply wave a magic wand and fix the problem just like that. (Furthermore, as far as I can tell, he didn’t even try any alternate ways of getting the content onto his Kindle, such as syncing from the menu of the Kindle device itself.)

Until a few months ago, I worked for more than three years in the tech support department of a major blue box (with yellow tag) retail chain’s store brands of television and other electronics. And I encountered people like That Guy on the phone many, many times. When it was going to take weeks for their TV to be sent off and repaired, or we could only refund them the exact amount they paid for a discounted TV which wouldn’t be enough to buy another, or they broke the TV themselves and were upset we wouldn’t cover it anyway, the accusations of fraud and the threats to invoke lawyers came out.

Entire web sites have been founded to share stories of people like That Guy. They seem to be endemic to our culture. People want their quick fix now now now, and will throw a tantrum if they don’t get it. Not a lot of empathy, I guess, or understanding that the person on the other end of the line is a lowly peon with no power to break the rules. Even their manager probably can’t break the rules.

Even Amazon, one of the most consumer-focused companies with the best customer service of anyone I’ve encountered, can’t fix everything immediately. That doesn’t mean they’re committing “fraud,” that just means that sometimes things break and it takes time for the technicians to go bang on things with wrenches to figure out what the problem is. The rep even said they knew what was wrong and were working on fixing it, and gave him $5. And still That Guy’s being a jerk about it.

To be fair, he says later on that he’s been having problems downloading books off and on for months. But he also says that most of the time if you try again after that it works, so I’m not sure what his problem is. He doesn’t like having to try again? Another person noted that even waiting just a few minutes and trying again had worked for other people having the particular problem he was having this time.

Don’t be That Guy. Remember that things break—even, or especially, high-tech things like e-readers. (All the more so if you know how depressingly terribly made most complicated programming projects are at heart.) Remember that the support person is just a peon making only a couple bucks over minimum wage doing the best they can, and if they can’t clear up your problem right away it doesn’t mean their entire business is committing fraud. Take a deep breath or two, relax, mind your blood pressure. Try a workaround. Remember how amazing the modern world we live in is, and that when one little thing doesn’t work right it’s not the end of that world.


  1. Well written Chris!!! It was an honor to have worked with you and called you friend.. Too many people think tech support have some kind of magic wand of “oh look it’s fixed”. People like Chris says, please don’t be that guy. Have some patience and understanding.

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