Positive customer service experience with Amazon

I recently read Vanessa Woods’ book Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo. If you haven’t already read this book, I can highly recommend it. It’s part history lesson, part love story, and part research paper—an engaging and thoughtful read!

This was my first ebook purchase from Amazon.com, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I read the book mostly in the Kindle reader on my new iPad, but I also read a few chapters on my iPhone when I didn’t have my iPad handy. I found the reading experience with the Kindle app very enjoyable. The text was very readable, and rendered crisply on the high-DPI retina displays of my two iOS devices. The Kindle app remembered my place in the book, even when I resumed reading on a different device.

I did notice a few minor annoyances though, and I took the time to report one of these to Amazon:
In the “Bonobo Handshake” ebook, the floral ornaments in the chapter headings (as well as the small ornaments between sections) are rendered poorly:
1. They are tiny and do not scale well on high DPI screens such as the iPad 3;
2. They lack transparency, causing the background of the ornament graphic to clash with the page;
3. They contain ugly visual artifacts of the image compression algorithm; and
4. They are displayed only in black-on-white, so they appear jarringly out of place when viewing the book as white text on a black background.
To my surprise, I received a reply almost immediately. Following the link in the email, I soon found myself in a web chat with a helpful fellow at Amazon named Dinesh. After I explained exactly what I was referring to by ‘floral ornaments’, he was able to see the same problem. He thanked me for bringing it to his attention, and offered to refund the purchase. I explained to him that I didn’t think this was necessary, and that I just wanted to bring it to Amazon’s attention so that the author’s work could be presented in the best possible way. Dinesh thanked me again, and told me that he would inform the appropriate team.

He then did something that I didn’t expect: he granted me the original purchase price of the book as a ‘promotional credit’—in his words, to make up for the inconvenience, and to thank me for taking the time to provide feedback. I was already happy that what many would no doubt consider a very minor nitpick had even been taken seriously. I was positively delighted that Amazon valued me enough to compensate me for my input.

I am quite impressed by this experience, and I will be shopping at Amazon.com again soon.


Sex with friends

In a recent Psychology Today blog post, Heidi Reeder addresses an issue that’s been much talked-about in recent years: sex between friends.

The idea that one shouldn’t have sex with one’s friends seems odd under even the most cursory scrutiny. If not friends, who? Strangers? If you meet someone interesting and jump into bed before you even know the person, how smart is that? Shouldn’t you establish a sort of basic friendship first?

An objection often raised is that introducing sex into a friendship will inevitably cause hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and estrangement. The same could be said though of any sexual relationship. Sex inspires strong emotions.

The things is, sex isn’t the problem. Emotions are not the problem. The problem lies in how people react to their emotions. If people treated one another with respect, and communicated their thoughts and feelings, all manner of strife could be avoided.

If two people respect each other, they will be honest with each other, and will therefore also trust each other. Without the dishonesty of deception or hidden agendas, the misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations that can often lead to hurt feelings will largely be avoided.

Friends who have known each other a long time are obviously more likely to have a high level of mutual respect. However, even relatively new acquaintances can treat each other with respect. Some people are just naturally more trusting and respectful than others. One’s baseline level of trust hugely influences how one treats others. E.g., if you basically expect others to be trustworthy, you will be more honest with the people you meet. Both genes and past experiences surely influence this basic level of trust of others.

Whether in friendships or committed relationships, most of the emotional hurt arising from sex is actually due to poor communication.

Here’s a good set of rules to follow:
1. Ask for what you want but make it clear you will respect the other person’s answer.
2. Don’t do anything that would be disrespectful of the other. If you’re not sure, ask.
3. Don’t assume that sex means deeper emotional commitment or exclusivity.
4. Likewise, don’t assume it’s just a bit of fun.
5. Talk it over and don’t be afraid to speak from your heart.


Truth in advertising

There’s been a lot of talk about how unrealistic standards of beauty depicted in the media affect people, particularly women and girls. There’s plenty of evidence that people are affected by the images they see, and that men and women judge themselves and one another in part based on these images.

Reaction to this has included legal measures, including an Israeli law banning very thin models from advertising and a French law mandating warning labels on airbrushed photos.

This got me thinking: why isn’t there similar outrage over unrealistic standards of prosperity, power, and  happiness in the media? Most images in the media depict unrealistically wealthy, powerful, and contented people.

If laws are to be consistent, these unrealistic depictions must also be regulated, labeled, and curtailed. Take, for example, an advertisement for an expensive watch, car, or necklace. The warning label at the bottom might read:
Warning: the lifestyle depicted in this advertisement can be attained only by extreme luck, and placing money above humanity—sacrificing ideals like loyalty, friendship, fairness, and love.
The cost of this product could feed 1,400 starving children for a year. If the all of the present population of the world lived as extravagantly the person depicted in this ad, the resources of an estimated 10,000 Earths would be required. 
The happiness depicted above is an unattainable illusion—a carefully trained facsimile for which the model was handsomely rewarded. No true or lasting happiness accrues with the purchase of this product.
I welcome more truth like this in advertising.