I bought a book. Books are good. Amazon sent it to my house. That was nice. I read my book. I liked it. I wanted to tell the world about my reading experience. Amazon let me review my book. That was nice. I typed my review, and Amazon flashed me a message that my review was submitted. That was nice.
I kept checking to see my review online. I waited three days to see my review. It never showed up. I typed the review again and submitted it. Amazon thanked me for submitting. After two days, the new review hadn’t appeared. I typed and submitted it again. But that didn’t work.
I thought about the possible reason why Amazon did not want my review. Perhaps it might have something to do with the Germanic name that I had used as a pseudonym to submit the review. I use a pseudonym because I don’t want a seller to get angry and track me if I write something bad. I use a German pseudonym, “Hartmut.” (I like to pronounce the vowels in Germanic names.)
I suspected that Amazon might not like my Germanic name since it did not match the name on my credit card. So I changed my Amazon name to a closer version of my actual name, even though the syllables are not as fun to pronounce. I submitted the review again. Amazon thanked me. I waited two days. The review did not appear.
I began to research possible reasons why my review was not posted online. I read reports on seller sites and Reddit. Apparently, Amazon is getting very suspicious about whether or not a reviewer is a friend of the author. There is speculation that Amazon is sniffing IP addresses and social media sites to try and determine if a reviewer is a friend of the author, and rejecting reviews on that basis. I am a friend of the author of my book.
My name is Hartmut. I am a friend of the author of my book.
I emailed the author and told him that our friendship might be a reason my review was not being posted on Amazon. The author disagreed. The author felt that the reason Amazon did not like my review was that I used a fake German name to post the review, and this concerned Amazon. I explained that I had temporarily tried to switch to a version of my real name to submit the review, but that didn’t work either… The author suggested that I submit a review about a different product, so that we could diagnose the extent of the review posting problems. I did not want to do that because I had a headache.
I lay down and decided to contact customer service at Amazon about the issue of the review. Amazon let me into a chat with customer service. That was nice. I typed that I was concerned that my book review had not been posted. I was told that that sellers change. Then I was told that a review could be submitted from the product page. Then I was told to click the review button on the bottom left of the product page. Then I was asked the reason for my chat. I realized that I was likely talking to a bot, and so I asked, “Are you a human being?” I was told that customers may write reviews. I typed, “Are you a human being or a bot?” I was asked for my item number. I said, “I believe you are a bot, because the answers you are providing are absurd.” I accused it of being a bot three times.
A human immediately took over the chat. The human wanted me to take a screenshot of my review. I told the human I did not know how to do that on my iPad. The human gave me instructions about holding down two different buttons simultaneously. I tried to follow these instructions, but the iPad began to shut down, so I let go of the buttons and offered to copy and paste an exact copy of the review text and the confirmation message instead. The human agreed to this. So I copied and pasted.
Suddenly a new human took over the chat for some reason. I explained the situation to the new human. The new human’s name was Mragank. I had trouble typing this name. I accidentally typed it Mrogank, and then Mrogamk. I apologized for misspelling the new human’s name. I explained that I had difficulty typing that name, since my eyes are bad, and I apologized again. The human named Mragank did not appear to accept my apology. He or she said that he or she would look into the situation. Three little circles at the bottom of the screen began to flash in sequence.
Mragank said I would be contacted in 48 to 72 hours by another team. I asked if the team would be comprised of humans. Mrogank said yes. I asked if that team would have access to the chat record. Mrogank said yes.
I waited 96 hours to the second. The team of humans did not contact me. I did not know what to do. I decided that maybe the author was correct, and Amazon did not like my Germanic pseudonym. I decided to use a more sensual name to entice Amazon to post my review. I decided to use the name “Tasha.” I am familiar with that name, because in college, five of the women in my dorm wanted to change their names to “Tasha.” At the time, I didn’t understand that, so I asked my sister. She said it was because “Tasha” was a sensual name. I didn’t understand that either, because the name “Vanessa” seemed more sensual than “Tasha.”
I changed my Amazon pseudonym to “Tasha-Vanessa.” I typed the book review again and clicked “Submit.” Amazon thanked me. That was nice. For some reason, I was in the mood to talk again to an Amazon bot. I clicked back to Amazon customer service and began a chat. I decided to investigate the bot’s language ability. The bot asked how it could help me. I wrote “Voulez vous coucher avec moi?” The bot asked me to be more specific. It then instructed me to list my order number. I told it, “Furu ike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto.” The bot did not respond. Then it asked, “What is the nature of your question?” I asked the bot to provide information about the precise type of bot it was, and the name of its governing software.
The bot did not respond. I asked the bot to confirm that it was in fact a bot. I told it that I suspected it was a bot. I accused it of being a bot three times.
A human entered the chat. I told the human that I was sad that Amazon would not post my book review, and requested the reason for this rejection. The human told me told me that his or her name was Damian. Damian told me that he or she would assist me. But Damian did not type anything more for seven minutes. I asked Damian if he/she was still there. Damian said yes. I asked Damian if he or she was happy. Damian told me to have a nice evening, and stay safe, and wash my hands.
The author telephoned me and asked if I had tested the Amazon review process by reviewing a different product. I said I was just about to try, and typed another review, using the name “Tasha-Vanessa,” about the organic monk fruit I had purchased. I typed a very negative, one-star review. It was a negative review, not because of the product itself, but because Amazon had told me that I had exceeded my allowable purchase limit of organic monk fruit, and thus would only be sent one bottle. I clicked Submit. Amazon thank me for my submission. After three days, my review did not show up.
I was sad. I decided to chat with a librarian. I went to the public library site and clicked “Chat now with a librarian.” I said I wanted to chat about monk fruit. The librarian asked me what I wanted to know. I said I wanted to know all about it. The librarian asked if I wanted to know if it was safe and natural. For some reason, I found this arousing. I asked her if she thought it was natural. The librarian told me that we could not discuss religious issues. I asked the librarian her name. She said her name was Sasha. I asked her if she would marry me. She said that’s sweet, but let’s just be friends. I asked her if people who were just friends could get married. The librarian told me the chat would end now. I was sad.
I decided to chat with Amazon customer service again, even though I knew I would be speaking to a bot. I clicked on “Contact.” I was told I was now being connected, and given the opportunity to type in a new box. I began, “Dear Bot, may you please let me know your name?” The bot would not tell me. I wrote, “Dear Bot, I think Amazon does not like me. It will not let me post reviews.” The bot asked me for my order number. The bot told me I could write a review on the product page. I asked the bot if it ever had the desire to chat with a librarian. The bot would not tell me. The bot said the chat would soon end. I accused the bot of being a bot three times.
A human entered the chat. I told the human that we needed to discuss the issues of the lack of posting of my reviews and the limitation of my Monk fruit purchases. The human asked which MoniQue album I was referring to, and then asked me to provide the order number for the MoniQue music item I had purchased. I asked the human if it was actually an advanced bot. The human did not respond. I told the human that I suspected it was an advanced bot. I accused it of being an advanced bot three times.
Five humans simultaneously entered the chat. They called me “Hartmut,” and I became frightened. I decided to turn off my computer and reboot my modem again. I unplugged the modem and counted slowly to twenty. Then I plugged it back in. I turned on my computer and changed my Amazon name to “Pumpernickel.” And then I decided “Lancer” was better. I bought another book. Amazon will send it to my house. That is nice.
R. Sebastian Bennett was the founding editor of The Southern Anthology. He taught Fiction Writing at U.C.L.A., the University of Louisiana, and Muskingum University, where he directed the Creative Writing Program. His writing has been widely published in U.S. and international venues, including American Book Review, Arkansas Review, Brooklyn Review, Columbia Journal, Fiction International, George Washington Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Indiana Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Manhattanville Review, Mississippi Review, New Orleans Review, NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH, New World Writing, Oxford Magazine, The Southwestern Review, Texas Review, Tulane Review, The Worcester Review, The William and Mary Review, Wisconsin Review, Alécart (ROMANIA), Modern Literature (INDIA), the Galway Review (Ireland), The Nippon View (JAPAN), and Paris Transcontinental - Sorbonne (FRANCE).