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Amazon's Little Holiday Gift
Anyone hear an Echo? They know who you are.
RENO/MAHWAH (Rixstep) — Given that it's the holiday season, you'd wager that a lot of people in the US would be sending presents to friends in Russia, right? After all, there are some 300,000,000 in the one country and another 150,000,000 in the other?
But wait a minute. For it's not specifically for residents of the US - it applies to anyone purchasing through Amazon. And after that, shipment falls to UPS and their international subsidiary i-Parcel.
Here's what happens once you make a purchase.
Thanks for your order. We'll let you know once your item(s) have dispatched.
So far so good. The good part comes the day after.
Thank you for purchasing from Amazon. i-Parcel is Amazon's parcel delivery partner and we are eager to get you your delivery as soon as possible.
We are required to submit your passport number during the clearance process - no additional fees are assessed with fulfilling this requirement, and it is used for customs clearance purposes only.
If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at email@example.com. Please be advised your shipment will not be able to export from the US until we have received the information.
Thank you for your understanding.
Note: the above applies to the recipient (in Russia) and not the sender (somewhere outside Russia). The implication is it's - wait for it - Russia's fault.
But only a fool would give passport information away - and not to the Russian authorities who issued the passport in the first place, but to UPS somewhere in the great US of A.
So OK, shit happens, Trump is president, just cancel the order, right?
Wrong. The parcel has most likely not been moved yet, but Amazon mark it as being shipped.
Oh yeah - Amazon are fully willing to accept a return and issue a refund - as soon as the parcel arrives at its destination, not before.
So the whole thing - none of this is announced up front, of course not - becomes an elaborate frat boy 'fuck you' to Vladimir.
We thought you'd like to know that we've dispatched your gift item(s). Your order is on the way, and can no longer be changed.
But the parcel is not 'on the way' - ask i-Parcel.
Thanks so much for reaching out. Sorry for the inconvenience caused to you. I need a little more detail from you so I can find your shipment in our system. Do you have the i-parcel tracking number?
(Amazon already sent all the info to i-Parcel, the complete message has already been sent at least twice to them - and it's even at the end of the above letter.)
Oh it gets better still. This comes a day later.
We want to make sure you're happy with our customer service. Please let us know by answering one quick question below:
How would you rate the support you received?
Good, I'm satisfied
Bad, I'm unsatisfied
Your friends at UPS i-Parcel
Trying to contact Amazon or i-Parcel directly is pointless.
Your message could not be delivered to one or more recipients.
So what's going on here? Are the Russians really so paranoid about funky packages arriving from the other side of the Iron Curtain? Can't Russian customs contact recipients instead of a US company connected to Jeff Bezos asking for this info? Is there any danger that someone in the US connected to Amazon wants this information? On the off-chance, for example, that Jeff's contacts in Langley are keen to know?
Let's quote a former employee in that East Coast location.
Amazon will soon be indistinguishable from CIA domestic ops - everything is in place, and has been for some time. I know it's increasingly difficult (that's by design too) but I recommend avoiding transactions with Amazon - the less info they have on your personal tastes/preferences, the better.
Because they - Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, DoubleClick, Google, YouTube - all operate in each their own vacuum and aren't really interested in knowing anything about you personally, right?
I have a friend who showed me how Google Photos really works, how it scans photos that you upload, how it can read everything on them - the titles of the books on your bookshelves, the brand and model of your television, your kitchen appliances, everything.
Ultimately they'll be able to recognise your sense of fashion, your brands of clothes, the luxury items you've purchased - all from the party photos you've uploaded. And put that together with all the other data they have on you, and it starts to get downright frightening.
They know who you are. And what they don't know already today, they'll know soon enough.