4 MIN READ
No, Amazon Doesn’t Think You’re Pregnant — It Just Had a Registry Glitch
If you shop on Amazon a lot, you can assume the website knows a lot about you.
Your last 12 addresses. Your taste in books and movies. Its algorithms can probably guess your favorite color.
Isn’t it fun that a shopping website knows you so well?
Maybe it was… until yesterday, when a glitch in the matrix appeared.
People received emails saying a gift was in the mail. A pudgy baby crawled across the top of the message, which stated, “Hello Amazon Customer, Someone great recently purchased a gift from your baby registry!”
Confusion ensued. Recipients wondered if they had started a baby registry by accident. Some people clicked the link to see what would happen, only to find it was broken. Customers who are actually expecting were disappointed to find that someone had not actually purchased a gift from their registry. Some people thought it was a phishing attack.
Jimmy Marks of Richmond, Virginia, and his wife are expecting, so when he read the initial gift email on his phone, he wasn’t too surprised.
“We are registered on Amazon and we’ve been receiving presents from people with no notes or with no indication of where the gift came from, so I thought the message was something my wife signed up for so that each time we receive a gift, we can see who sent it and add them to our list for thank-you notes,” he explained.
When the link in the email went to an error page, Marks shrugged and went about his day.
“Amazon’s gift registry setup is not ideal, for what it’s worth,” he told us via Twitter. Those frequent senderless packages make it harder to send timely thank-you notes — etiquette is still important, people.
Later the same day, Amazon sent apology emails to the affected customers. “Earlier today, we accidentally sent you an email from Amazon Baby Registry,” it read. “We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”
An Amazon spokesperson verified the glitch with this emailed statement: “We have notified affected customers. A technical glitch caused us to inadvertently send a gift alert e-mail earlier today. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”
If there’s one thing large companies are terrible at, it’s apologizing with any modicum of sincerity, am I right?
Amazon Doesn’t Care About You. Really.
Speculation in our modern town square, aka Twitter, might indicate that Amazon was trying to drop a few hints, mother-in-law style
Some people surmised that because they’d bought baby-related items in the past, they landed on the glitch list. Others called Amazon insensitive for sending a baby-centric email to those who have suffered miscarriages or struggle with infertility.
But I’m here to tell you this: Amazon prides itself on being a technology company just as much as it is an e-commerce store. And technology isn’t perfect. Amazon still has a hard time figuring out which box is the right size for shipping my order.
You’re not a person to Amazon. You’re a customer number with a purchase history who probably hollers at Alexa too much. I know this. You know this.
But Amazon, like so many other technology-focused companies, offers convenience. And so we let our guards down.
Every time we sign up for a loyalty program, we know the coupons we’ll get are tailored to our past purchases. Every time we shop through a rebate site or app, we know our consumer data is sold to some mathematical equation in the sky.
One academic study found an “overwhelming majority” of students would give up three of their friends’ email addresses in exchange for free pizza.
When offered the chance to set up encryption to protect those friends’ email addresses, students started the process, but gave up before completing it. Laziness is a factor, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research senior fellow Susan Athey noted.
But consumers have also resigned themselves to an online existence where their choices about privacy don’t really matter.
“Generally, people don’t seem to be willing to take expensive actions or even very small actions to preserve their privacy,” Athey said in a release about the paper she cowrote on the topic. “Even though, if you ask them, they express frustration, unhappiness or dislike of losing their privacy, they tend not to make choices that correspond to those preferences.”
We let our guards down a long time ago. When a mistake like this happens, you sort of have to chalk it up to the reality of our online existence.
Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder who often ponders the possibility of a quieter life in an isolated cabin in the woods.