feeling boxed in

In a situation that feels eerily similar to the tyranny that TiVo used to exert over me–when I was unwilling to give the thumbs down to its suggested programs that I didn’t actually hate but didn’t really want to watch–I think Amazon.com has intimacy and control issues.

Specifically, the Gold Box (also known as “Thom’s Gold Box,” since Amazon insists on calling me by name every chance it gets, even on other people’s web sites, and apparently in an effort to lull me into thinking it’s my good pal: “Welcome, Thom.” “We have recommendations for you, Thom.” “Here’s the page you made, Thom.” “Thom, see what’s New for You.” “Thom, sell your past purchases and earn $654.10.” “We want you to assassinate the prime minister now, Thom.” and so on) simultaneously intrigues, frightens and frustrates me.

First of all, the deals just aren’t that great… I mean, 15% off a frying pan? Come on… I’ve got a fistful of Bed, Bath & Beyond and Linens ‘n Things coupons magneted (yes, I know, but it feels like it should be a real word) to the refrigerator that typically offer me at least 20% off a single item, with new coupons arriving weekly. Yet I keep looking at my Gold Box, thinking that some day, maybe, it really will offer me a widescreen plasma TV for fifty bucks, the tease.

But instead, like a trenchcoated man on the streetcorner offering faux Rolexes, it keeps pushing items from Amazon’s new jewelry store down my throat– “Psst, Thom, want to buy a pair of cultured pearl earrings?” Fully a third of the bargains it offers me every day consists of expensive yet inexplicably really unattractive jewelry.

Then there’s the paranoia-inducing Let’s Make a Deal approach the Gold Box takes once during each session– “You choose the store from which your next offer is going to come”–leaving me convinced that, in the same way I always get in the slow checkout lane, the better deal, the one I would finally have snagged, was in one of the stores I didn’t choose, while I got stuck with the goat behind curtain number two.

And, finally, there’s the alarming kidnapper’s tone it takes: “Choose this offer RIGHT NOW or NEVER SEE YOUR STRAND OF CULTURED PEARLS AGAIN!” “Now you’ve done it, Thom. Because of your carelessness, this wireless access point will soon be wearing concrete boots and swimming with the fishes!” I keep expecting to see, “We know where you live, Thom, and we’re going to come over there and take back the stuff you already bought from us.”

What a bully. I’d leave and find a new relationship with another online merchant but, you know, I’ve got ten new Gold Box offers coming tomorrow.

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