I hear you, Sam, and I'm totally with you: It's insane that Amazon, sweet, goofy, drunk-on-success Amazon, is so robotic and officious in dealing with the world of human beings. But in my late-night, unable-to-sleep, probably-too-drunk-to-be-up-sitting-at-the-computer-Slogging-but-whatever state, I must interject: Isn't it kind of a misfire to automatically fault companies for wanting to make money? Is it some insanely right-wing proposition that corporations start up with the express purpose of making money, giving products and services to people who want them, paying their employees so their employees can buy food and shelter and iPods and find a mate and be productive and happy people, or raise productive and happy families, or give their money to the causes of literacy or marine biology or art, or if they really strike it rich then invest in a world-class soccer team or fund HIV research or whatever and so on and so forth? You write: "This whole escapade illuminates the issue that Amazon is a money-first corporation"—um, that's what corporations are—"that only acts when the bottom line is threatened." Hm. So you're making an argument against the free market?
Cuz, like, the thing Amazon does? It's a pretty amazing thing, when you think about it. You have two choices: (1) you can get in your car and go to the store to get something, or (2) you can sit down in your own home in front of a magic but intuitively designed portal that remembers who you are, shows you everything you could want to know about a product, including what other people who bought it thought of it, and then at the click of a button will send you whatever it is cheaper than you could get it if you went out and got it yourself.
At least Amazon isn't, like, say, the banking system—the banking system is totally insane. They invent money, and then they charge you all this money to borrow money, just penalize and penalize and penalize you with interest, and if you can't keep up they'll swallow your house, or your car, or whatever you have, and then they take huge risks with that money/house/car they've sucked out of you until the whole system collapses, and then they just invent more money out of thin air to charge you exorbitantly for, with pretty much no fundamental/final/appropriate repercussions for what they've done to you and everyone, or even much discussion of how fucking weird it is that they just get to make up money when they need it. As far as I understand from reading the paper lately—and I fully admit that sometimes I only half understand, or downright do not understand at all—the banking system is a bureaucracy built out of entities who move paper around and make stuff up.
At least Amazon does something tangible and good—making a video camera or a vacuum or every book Mary McCarthy ever wrote appear at my door—and makes that process cost me less time and money than it used to. If they were better to their customers, would that make them a better company? Yes. And would that make them more money? Yes, yes it would.
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: I agree exactly with most of what Sam's saying. I'm just picking on one slight semantical issue because I saw an easy way to get from there to my current rage at the abstract, punish-everyone-else, make-up-new-wisdom-to-reward-the-people-who've-already-been-rewarded banking industry (and like I said, I'm drunk). But Sam writes in an email, "If not for the Twitter splosion, Amazon may have never considered this issue cost-effective to address." That's true, and a more important point than the sideways point I'm making.