Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Amazon Apologizes for “Ham-fisted Cataloging Error”

brokebackAmazon won’t come out and say exactly what happened to its sales-ranking system over the past few days. But it is sorry, and it would like the Web and its customers to know that it wasn’t singling out books aimed at gays and lesbians. Here’s the apology:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles–in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon’s main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

That isn’t going to mollify Amazon’s most vocal critics in the blog- and Twitter-spheres or the ones who ascribe the screw-up to either homophobia or nefarious hackers. But it’s almost certainly going to be the last word from Amazon (AMZN), which is about as tight-lipped as a publicly-held retailer can be.

Wall Street analysts have to beg Amazon to part with even basic financial details. If you think Jeff Bezos and company are going to get into the workings, and failings, of their online catalog, I admire your optimism.

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