Amazon’s personalization problems

Published March 3, 2012

I understand how Amazon tracks what I buy and makes recommendations of other things I might like — “people who bought X also bought Y.”

Well, sort of. It drives me nuts every time I buy a gift for someone, because it assumes that I like whatever it is, and then proceeds to suggest other things. Whatever picture of me it’s building is pretty screwed up.

The other day I was curious to see if the old, wall-mounted pencil sharpener that my Dad has was still made, or at least what its successor was. So I looked at some things on Amazon that were close, satisfied my curiosity, and moved on with my life.

Not so, Amazon. Today I had a bit of marketing e-mail:

Andrew Kantor,

Are you looking for something in our Writing Supplies department? If so, you might be interested in these items.

* X-Acto Ranger 55 Table- or Wall-Mount Heavy-Duty Pencil Sharpener, Black, 1 Unit (1001)

* Charles Leonard Inclusive Pencil Sharpener, Multi Hole, 8 Sizes, Silver, 1 per Box (89508)

* Kikkerland Camera Pencil Sharpener, Black (SC12)

* Stanley Bostitch All Metal Antimicrobial 8-hole Manual Pencil Sharpener With Dual Cutters, Black (MPS1-BLK)

* Stanley Bostitch Vacuum Manual Pencil Sharpener, Black (MPS1SC-BLK)

* Westcott School iPoint Manual Pencil Sharpener With Microban Protection

* X-Acto Model KS, Vacuum-Mount Pencil Sharpener, Chrome Receptacle, Black Base, 1 Unit (1072)

* Stanley Bostitch QuietSharp6(TM) Classroom Pencil Sharpener With 6-holes And Quiet Motor, Blue (EPS10HC)

I wonder how long this will go on. Dudes, I was just curious about something. I should be able to browse without you jumping to conclusions.

Imagine walking through your local department store, stopping to smell a cologne as you passed by that section, and suddenly finding yourself surrounded by sales people saying, “We saw you’re looking for a fragrance. How about these?”

Aieeeeee! Sometimes “just browsing” really means “just browsing.”



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