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  • WILLIAM A SLOAN

Algorithms and Blues

Just before Christmas, Amazon sent me a cat tunnel, a whisk, and size 38 jeans.

I don’t have a cat, what the hell is a whisk and size 38? Are you kidding me?



Obviously not meant for me, but being the good citizen, I tracked down Amazon Customer Service, which only took three hours and a devoted dog sled but we found them and they were very nice and explained to me that someone else in their system has my name and wires got crossed and algorithms got misconstrued, and, well, there you are.


Where exactly? I mean, I have a cat tunnel...


So, I said,”Should I send them back?” and they said, “No, they wouldn’t be accepted because the Amazon system doesn’t recognize screw ups like this, so I should either keep them if I could use them – size 38 jeans? I don’t think so – or just throw them out. So, I asked,”What about the person, the other William Sloan, who was supposed to receive these things?” And they said,”That isn’t your problem.”


Customer service at its finest.


I held onto the unwanted goods for three weeks because, I don’t know why – maybe my doppleganger would claim them? Uh, that would be a No. And so, I let them go and took them to GoodWill, which seemed a kinder gesture, if only in name, than the cold rushing waters of the Amazon.


However, Amazon being Amazon and all, and algorithms being algorhythms, ever since that day, my e mail and social media outlets have been sprinkled...ok, bombarded with a non-stop display of ads for cat tunnels, and whisks, and size 38 jeans! As if one wouldn’t be enough in each category, if I had in fact received them. And if the algorithm really worked, they would know that I no longer felt the need for said objects, so, KNOCK IT OFF! But they don’t. Because they’re Amazon. And Google. And Meta. And it’s their world. We’re just visiting...and shopping...and occasionally getting the free merch. Free useless merch.


And breathe...venting session over. But seriously, tell me you can’t relate.


The algorithms that orchestrate our ads are starting to orchestrate our lives.

– Eli Pariser

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