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The Human Margin

Reader comment on item: Amazon.com's Koran Desecration Problem

Submitted by Doug Anderson (United States), May 24, 2005 at 16:41

(I sent this email over to Patty Smith of Amazon after I read Daniel Pipes' article on 5/22. I, too, got back the Amazon form-letter reply.)

Ms. Smith,

re: your customer Ms. Basarudin and the defaced Koran

I am a small book seller over at eBay and I am writing to urge you not to cut off the bookseller, Bellwether Books, seller of Ms Basarudin's defaced Koran, from Amazon. The apologies and recompense measures that Amazon has already committed towards Ms Basarudin seem well-intentioned and indicative of excellent customer service.

In all business transactions there is a margin that can best be described as "a human margin" that is extremely hard to regulate. If someone along the chain of supply is hell-bent on writing offensive words on a specific product – even on the envelope before the product is mailed out - how can he be stopped? We could eliminate all possibility of hate scribblings by not having mail order products and services in the first place. Eliminate human interaction altogether and viola - you terminate "the human margin" as well. A business can only establish an open and actively enforced policy of no-tolerance for hate scribblings (in this case on books); Amazon seems to have done so, as well as Bellwether.

I sympathize with Ms. Basarudin; I know how I love getting books in the mail and I know it would be shocking and dreadful to receive a treasured book so defaced. However, Ms. Basarudin and the Muslim Public Affairs Council's request that you drop Bellwether completely strikes me as unreasonable and excessive towards a company with a near spotless service record. Online book buying is nearly totally customer driven and no seller would ever intentionally alienate a customer in such a manner.

Thank you for your attention to my request,

Doug Anderson, Seattle
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