Tuesday, 19 July 2016

"No comment" – now Amazon are removing even Neutral feedback. Do not buy from Polimil Ltd.

It’s no secret that Amazon’s review system is utterly corrupt and broken. It’s bad enough that Amazon and Sellers solicit reviews from buyers, even if your preferences have been set to specifically avoid that type of spam. But, as myself and other customers have found, they’re only interested in keeping those reviews that turn out to be positive. Any negative reviews are quietly deleted without announcement or explanation. It’s hard to see this as anything other than fraud. Because ratings heavily influence and inform the buying decisions of future would-be buyers. So giving the misleading impression of uniform satisfaction amounts to false advertising. Ironically, it's well known uniformly-positive reviews reduce buyer trust for the whole system in general. At this juncture, Amazon's customer reviews have about as much credibility as North Korean news media.

The above state of affairs is bad enough. However, a recent experience has left me with an even lower opinion of Amazon than previously. They are now removing even Neutral feedback. Yes, you heard that correctly. 3 out of 5 stars reviews are being deleted. It’s difficult to see this as anything other than even more desperate whitewashing than before.

I recently left a review like this*:

(* full disclosure:  I had to mock the above image up from a nearly-identical review I'd left another less needy seller about the same time. Because my actual review was deleted I can't show you that. My review was exactly as shown.)

Seem innocuous to you? Me too. However, it unleashed a barrage of harassment, abuse, and unfounded claims of "fraud" by the seller. And ultimately led to my review being deleted without explanation or notification by Amazon.

The harassment started about a week after I’d left the review. When I’d made the order, I had supplied a phone number to Amazon, to be used for delivery purposes only. The item was being delivered to my place of work, so I left the main switchboard number. Experience has taught me never to trust Amazon with any more specific or personal means of contact.

Instead of being used for delivery purposes, the seller in this case (Polimil Ltd) actually had the gall to use the above number to call my place of work and attempt to demand a reason why I had left such “negative” feedback? I happened to be on annual leave (and I wouldn’t have taken such a presumptuous call anyway.) However, rather than belatedly realise that they were behaving like an idiot, this prompted the following email from the seller:

The above message demonstrates some of the many reasons I don’t leave detailed feedback nor engage in discussions about the feedback I do leave. Not only is it presumptuous in the extreme to ask a customer to explain why they find your service merely “Fair” rather than outstanding. I generally find people that are unhinged and socially deficient enough to try and demand such impertinent conversations to be factually incorrect as well. In this case, Polimil claimed that I had made allegations that I had not in fact made. Namely that the goods had been delivered late and were not as described. As you can see from my review above, I didn’t even answer the questions about whether the goods arrived on time or were as described. That’s why those sections have “N/A” against them. My review in its totality was simply “3 out of 5 stars, no comment.”

Anyway, I responded as follows. And expected this to be the end of the matter:

Apparently this clear instruction not to contact me again fell on deaf ears, however. Because a short while later, I received the following email:

By this stage, “Nick” was starting to look like this guy here:

I find the best way to deal with companies that can’t take Do not contact me” for an answer is to ignore their repetitive ranting, and focus instead upon repeating the “Do not contact me” message. In this case, I also felt that this further contact warranted a complaint to the body that are meant to prevent this type of abuse of personal contact information: the Information Commissioners’ Office. My response was:

You’d think that would be clear enough, wouldn’t you? Apparently not:

At this stage “Nick” (Nick Dunkley, btw, I looked him up for the Restraining Order that would surely be coming if he persisted in this pathological nonsense) sent the message above. (Yes, for the record, that’s the 4th contact in one day, including the initial phone call. Two of which emails were sent after being told in no uncertain terms to cease and desist his harassment. I guess Do not contact me” means Persist until you are taken to Court” for some people):

By now, Nick Dunkley had gone full circle and ended up looking like this guy:

(That's Basil Fawlty, btw, for you millennial readers that make me feel old so often by failing to 'get' my cultural references!)

I must admit at this juncture to laughing out loud at the farce this had become. Polimil's inept display of customer disservice had turned mild, neutral feedback into a blogworthy piece of bad press.
The unprofessional way I’d been stalked by these lunatics after making this one-time, low-value purchase had already guaranteed I’d never consider purchasing from Polimil ever again. Only an idiot would persist in contacting a customer that had already said Do not contact me” twice, and who had promised further formal action in the form of a complaint to the regulator if the harassment didn’t stop.

I think that some Amazon sellers lose track of the fact that most customers don’t purchase from them. We purchase from Amazon. They are just a smalltime supplier to Amazon, of which there are many that can be easily replaced. Their business model is so fundamentally-flawed that they actually need to use a third party website to sell their goods. Whose only function is to insulate customers from them. And they need to pay Amazon for the privilege. Sellers are ultimately just a small fish supplier to Amazon, whose crappy customer service Amazon has unwisely tried to outsource to customers to deal with.

Behaviour like this, I believe, will ultimately cause customers to abandon Amazon in the same way we abandoned the High Street a few years back. You can only get away with so much customer abuse and dishonesty. On the high street, it was constant obnoxious upselling at the till that forced once-dominant companies like HMV out of business. Customers made their way onto the internet to avoid that type of tedious and unpleasant behaviour. I think that in time Amazon will also to lose their present place at the top of the supply chain. Because of Amazon's tolerating and encouraging the type of behaviour I and others have experienced from unprofessional sellers like this.

Anyway, as mentioned in the emails, I did contact Amazon to complain about this Seller's complete lack of professionalism, and their seemingly-unhinged staff. I asked for compensation for the harassment I had been subjected to. This was Amazon’s response:

So, a stock letter admitting no responsibility whatsoever by Amazon. Even though the seller stated that Amazon had “advised” them to contact me. Incidentally, I also found this illuminating discussion on an Amazon Sellers’forum. It demonstrates two things. 1) Even Amazon sellers themselves find obnoxious the constant nagging by some sellers for positive feedback. 2) Amazon doesn’t just condone or turn a blind eye to sellers harassing buyers for positive feedback in this way. Amazon goes out of their way to advise sellers to do it. So, I think it’s pretty credible that Amazon have equal or greater liability than the seller for the harassment they solicit from sellers upon buyers.

Anyway, later in the day there was a somewhat ranting response posted against my feedback by the seller. I guess by that stage Amazon had advised them they couldn’t remove my feedback, as I hadn’t given them any plausible rationalisation for doing so. 

I don’t have a copy of the Seller's full rant, but basically they accused me of “lying” and suggested my review may have been "malicious." I think it’s worth re-iterating at this juncture that I had done nothing more than give them a “3 out of 5 stars – Fair” rating, and posted the simple message “No comment.” Even though their subsequent Customer Disservice insanity wouldn’t have warranted nearly such favourable feedback.

This morning, I see that my review has been deleted entirely. So, reviewing Amazon's response above, apparently my feedback being "invaluable to us" and an undertaking that it will be taken with the "utmost seriousness" is code for "We will delete it as soon as we think your back is turned. All the Seller needs to do is rant at us like Basil Fawlty and we'll fold like a cheap suit."

I’ve contacted Amazon customer services this morning for an explanation as to why my feedback was removed, and have demanded that they reinstate it. I won’t hold my breath. I guess companies like Amazon can get so big they forget that they don’t control the whole internet. So this sorry tale of customer abuse and whitewashing gets posted on other review sites and my blog. Instead of being an innocuous “3 out of 5, no comment” rating on a website whose reviews they delete at will.


Update: here is some bonus insanity from Basil. I mean Nick Dunkley. I received the following email from him today:

You can't fix stupid. I find more and more this is the type of low intelligence alpha personality that you encounter as a buyer on Amazon. Which is why I give it a miss whenever possible. 

Still, it was something else to add to the complaint I sent ICO that demonstrates how unbalanced this buffoon of an Amazon Seller/Stalker is.