True story: last Friday my wife’s smartphone suddenly broke. It froze and wouldn’t come back to life. At around 10.00 pm I decided to check with Amazon. I bought it in July 2018, exactly a year ago. An Amazon Prime order, fulfilled by Amazon.
The Customer Assistance page asked me if I wanted to be called by Amazon’s CS by phone. “In less than a minute”, it said. I pressed “yes”, absolutely convinced that the one-minute thing was a “look-how-cool-we-are” stunt. The phone started ringing before I could reach it, about five seconds later.
It wasn’t a recorded message, but an actual human being, speaking my language and very kind too. I described what happened. He said that experts weren’t available at that hour but that I could get a replacement. If none was available, I would get a refund. Two minutes later a new €333 phone was on my way for a Monday delivery and I already had the waybill for the return of the broken phone.
We wrote a lot about “experiential” shopping and surely what Amazon provides is not experiential at all. But when you experience something like this and you think about what it would have been to go through any other shop’s process for tech assistance, repair or replace, you realize there’s simply no match.
No one can afford to act like that nor is logistically prepared to enforce such an efficient machine. These guys know that, if they’ll do anything that’s possible to please you, you’ll buy again, and again, and again. So, in the long run: is a €333 phone really worth the risk of losing a lifetime-value customer? No, it’s not.
I’ve been buying stuff on Amazon since 2010. Amazon knows very well my value as a customer. And they know that, in order to get this kind of service, most of the time I’ll be prone to ignore the environmental and human cost of letting such an immense wheel spin. That’s because I’m human, and Amazon might well be the first post-human retailer. Its machine-heart just wants to get the job done and, as long as it lasts or until it crashes under its own weight, it will have no competition. Why? Because it has post-human goals and preoccupations. It doesn’t even have to be profitable, its biometrics being more similar to those of a Nation.
Remember the mega-corporations that haunted William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” Sprawl? The first one may be already here.