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November 29, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Amazon's thank-you list

Amazon1_1 Felix Salmon points out:

If you set up a wedding registry with Amazon, they helpfully have a "thank-you list" view.
Amazon says, "This list can be used as a reference when sending your thank-you notes after the wedding."

However, if you happen to be given something which is no longer for sale, it drops the item off the list, and is replaced with a useless statement saying, "This product is no longer available."

Of course you don't care whether it's available or not, you only care what it IS, so that you can send your thank-you note, but Amazon won't tell you that.


I guess I'm the first to say *BROKEN*.

Posted by: Loren Pechtel at November 29, 2005 12:39 AM

Yeah, that is prety useless.

Also does that mean that the person who bought that item wasted their money?

how pointless

Posted by: kip at November 29, 2005 02:29 AM

Broken? Yes. Annoying? Yes.

Wasted their money? Of course not, it's not like the person didn't get the gift, and it's not like they can't just look at the damn card that came with the gift.

It's also understandable why Amazon would do this, since persumably it would require that they maintain data in their live database about stock items that no longer are stocked. If you generalize this to their entire line of a bazillion items you can quickly see why it would be unmanageable. However, there should be some way for the report to query a second off-line database or something. Or at least just store a product name, even if no further info is available.

Posted by: Brian at November 29, 2005 04:04 AM

Brian it's probably even easier than that. If you've ever used databases, it would be easy enough to create a column called "StillSellingThisItem" and set it to 1 if they are, and 0 if they're not. That way you can still retain the description of the item, even if you aren't saving the image. Then again, they have the option to read the first few pages of most of the books they sell, so if they're worried about the space taken up by a 9 KB jpg for an item they no longer sell, I'd say their priorities are screwed up.

Or what we do for one of the projects at my job is to keep database table sizes manageable, we export records from the live database to a secondary table once that record is no longer needed. Totally broken.

Also, it's broken that people rely so heavily on computers. When I was opening my wedding gifts, I wrote a brief description of the present on the inside of the card.

Posted by: Manni at November 29, 2005 10:31 AM

What is broken,the office I work in keeps a roster in Excel...a database in Word...contacts in Outlook...they update them and print them out every month and store them. For 15 shopping centers! This is for tenants and vendors. I have tried to tell them they should at least use Access...

Posted by: JAC at November 29, 2005 12:41 PM

What happens when you click send thank you e card?

Posted by: John at November 29, 2005 01:28 PM

Click send thank you e-card and you probably send a message "Thank you for your gift of no longer available".

Posted by: Dennis at November 29, 2005 06:13 PM

It's not broken. It would be nice if there were a database that showed the items, but you didn't pay for anything, did you?

Disappointing, yes... broken, no.

Someone pointed out that they use database space to store pages of books. That’s not the same thing; that space could result in sales. Keeping obsolete items in a database for someone who didn’t track who gave them what is of no value to them, nor should they be expected to accommodate anyone in that situation.

Besides, per the quote, it says “REFERENCE”.

Posted by: kinda at November 29, 2005 10:19 PM


maybe you didn't buy anything yourself, but by registering with amazon, you certainly generated a lot of business since all of your guests...bought you things. so yes, its broken.

Posted by: yeah at November 29, 2005 10:48 PM


References should be reliable and accurate.

Posted by: Andrew Hoffman at November 29, 2005 10:51 PM

I'm pretty sure Amazon keeps info on no-longer-available -- if you go back and look at old orders, it still says what you bought. It doesn't say you bought an "UNKNOWN ITEM" or whatever. And it doesn't remove it from your order history -- otherwise the total would be wrong. So I don't see why they can't keep the listings for the thank you notes as well... so I say it is broken.

Posted by: ML at November 30, 2005 01:16 PM

Well I think amazon shot themselves in the foot with their last change. We're kind of old school here and gifts for whatever reason should be a surprise. Since the wish list owner now knows what was purchased, we look at it and have to go somewhere else to buy it so it remains a surprise.

To be sure, I assume amazon wants to cut down on returns because of duplicate purchases and can't blame them in that regard. But the problem is that they may have cut their sales in half to begin with once more people realize that the way their list works has changed. The list owner now knows what they are getting beforehand just by checking what was purchased. Time will tell I guess.

Posted by: g guy at November 30, 2005 01:22 PM

g guy,

If you don't want to know don't look before the presents are given.

A solution might be to put an expiry date on the registry, and only have the list accessible after that date.

Posted by: Sean P at November 30, 2005 05:48 PM

It's...well, it _is_ broken - but I can see why.

I strongly suspect that the information on the "Thank You" is just a link to their main "items for sale" database. So, basically, when they no longer sell that item, what you've got is a dead link - that "This product is no longer available" is just their version of a 404 page.

Of course, your account retains a list of everything you bought - available or no - but that's _your_ account (and an entirely seperate database). In order to use that information to maintain what the product was for this "Thank You" list, they'd - essentially - have to link it to _other_ peoples account information, which is probably illegal due to privacy concerns.

Oh, you could solve this problem. They could keep yet another database of "no longer have" items up and change the link to that as necessary. But to be honest, this is a lot of extra work for them for a problem that probably comes up very, very infrequently. If enough people had the problem - and complained - they'd do it. But for right now they don't see the need to waste resources to fix it.

Posted by: David at November 30, 2005 07:15 PM

Well, "Yeah", you do make a good point. However, the thank you list is a courtesy. While there may be overhead costs involved, no one was actually CHARGED a direct fee for thank you list or the registry. It is not broken, it is simply disappointing. If the service was paid for, then by all means, complain away! Complaining about this is like complaining about the after dinner mints at a restaurant.

Andrew... a reference is not meant to be an all encompassing list. References are the equivalent of Cliff Notes. This is why “for reference only” appears so often. Meaning, you should refer to the original document for the most accurate information. Turn right after the first light is a reference. Turn right after traveling 6.5 miles is reliable and accurate.

For #$&**!! sake, the list was set up online, from the comfort of someone’s own home, sitting down, perhaps sipping an evening cocktail. The people who bought the gifts, also sat on their butts, placed the order, maybe even had it gift wrapped by Amazon!! They show up at wedding, enjoy free food, a few beverages of choice in a social situation and leave behind a gift that they merely had to type a few forms to purchase? How much easier can it get?! It’s not enough that the gift purchase was completed without leaving the home?

Heaven forbid you should actually have to be courteous and keep track of who went to the trouble of buying you what. My parents and grandparents found it easy to send a thank you note for each and every gift at each and every occasion. It was called paper and they mixed it with consideration and just a little bit of effort.

What’s broken is that people complain about a free service that fails to accommodate their laziness in full.

Posted by: kinda at December 2, 2005 09:30 PM

I like how the submitter blurred his friend's name, but left his shipping address. (zip+4 is unique to any propery in the US.)

Posted by: mybadluck22 at December 4, 2005 03:50 PM

Hey Mybadluck,

I always assumed the +4 was just a more localized region of an area code. I read your comment, did a quick search and thought, "Wow, I'm an idiot for assuming!!"

However, do a search you you will find this:

"such as a city block or a group of apartments or an individual high-volume receiver of mail, or any other unit that could use an extra identifier to aid in efficient mail sorting and delivery. Use of the plus-four code is not required, but it helps the Postal Service direct mail more efficiently and accurately."

It IS a more specific region of a zip code, not a specific address...

Posted by: kinda at December 12, 2005 10:00 PM

Mybadluck, zip+4 is NOT unique to any property in the US. It is unique to a several-block section or sometimes to a building or a floor of a large building.

Posted by: David Walker at March 10, 2006 01:16 PM

I agree with you the way you view the issue. I remember Jack London once said everything positive has a negative side; everything negative has positive side. It is also interesting to see different viewpoints & learn useful things in the discussion.

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