No good deed goes unpunished.

by Holland-Mark | March 26, 2010

For my birthday this year a dear friend bought me a Kindle. Upon receiving it, I was reminded of my attitude towards that little Amazon device only a year earlier: it was stupid. Why would I need a digital book? I have lots of books – real books – and I can read those just fine. Oh, how silly and naïve I was. Within days I was hooked. Couldn’t put it down. My Acute New Yorker Anxiety was relieved by having my subscription moved to the Kindle, where it silently arrives each Sunday night. (The back issues are automatically archived so I don’t feel like a failure.) I went from being a reader to being an avid reader. I was flying through books, three or four a week.

And then my screen died. Dead. Like a computer screen that’s been struck by lightning. And I was right in the middle of one of my most anticipated reads of this year. Panicked, I went to to try to figure out what to do. The customer service page told me that if I gave them my phone number a customer service rep would call me back immediately. I did, India called, and upon uttering the words “broken” and “Kindle” my call was whisked away to a Kindle Specialist named Bernie.

“It’s broken,” I told him.
“Really broken? You tried to restart it,” he replied.
“Dead,” I said.

Bernie told me that my new Kindle was being shipped out to me immediately, free of charge. And, because I was so concerned about not being able to find out what the hell is going on with Mattia in The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Bernie authorized Saturday delivery. I couldn’t believe it. Bernie didn’t even ask me if I dropped it, poured water on it, accidentally set a cup of tea on it. He didn’t seem to care. He didn’t care that I “got it from a friend” and had no proof of purchase. I was a Kindle owner. My Kindle was broken. Bernie was going to make everything okay again.

After I hung up the phone I got to thinking. This level of customer service was too good. Even for Amazon. I’ve been through the return song-and-dance before. A pair of boots rubs a blister after three wears, but I can’t return them because I wore them. I’ve even gone toe-to-toe with Amazon before. Why on earth were they being so good to me? I deduced that it was one of three things:

1. Upon checking my buying history they realized that I’d been ODing on Nora Roberts novels, self-help books, and the New Yorker, which meant I was some crazy, liberal cat lady on mood stabilizers that no one, least of all Bernie the Kindle Specialist, wanted to deal with.

2. Upon checking my buying history they realized I have no self control and have purchased no less than $200 worth of reading material in the month I’ve owned the Kindle.

3. Amazon is scared shitless that the iPad is launching next week.

I certainly don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I can’t help but feel Amazon’s benevolent Kindle customer service actions have less to do with policy than panic. Kudos to them, though. The iPad release will hardly be noticed by this girl. I’ll be eyeball-deep in my Kindle.

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