Did Amazon Cave On Kindle Fire Special Offers?

It appears Amazon is bowing to consumer pressure and removing the “Special Offers” (ads) from it’s next generation Kindle Fire Tablets. Previous Kindles were sold in two versions, the regular version and a discounted “Special Offers” version which displayed advertising. Users could buy the cheaper device and later pay an addition fee to get rid of the advertising. Everyone knew the rules of the game and few complained.

Then Amazon got stupid.

On the day of the announcement of the new Kindle Fire tablets,  Amazon was unclear on whether the ads could be removed or not.  Multiple users reported contacting customer service reps and being told the ads could be removed for a fee. (as it could on earlier tablets)  The day after the announcement however, Amazon said otherwise, stating users were stuck with the ads no matter what.   The push-back was immediate and  fierce so Amazon did an about-face and announced the following day that users could pay to remove the ads.

Amazon then, for reasons known only to themselves, chose to sell only the Special Offers version of the tablet but drop the “Special Offers” moniker, leading hundreds (or thousands) of customers to buy the tablet not realizing they had to pay an additional $15 to get rid of the advertising.

The reviews were brutal.

2.8 out of 5 stars
5 star:  (14)
4 star:  (10)
3 star:  (10)
2 star:  (15)
1 star:  (20)





Customers turned to Amazon’s own review system to castigate them. Of those 35 single star and 2 star reviews, the vast majority of them were customers complaining about the ads and the fact Amazon cut corners by not supplying a wall charger, only including a micro-USB cable that could be used to charge the tablet via a USB port at a fraction of the speed of their $20 add-on accessory charger.

The device should have gotten 4.5 stars or more but is stuck at 2.8 and facing the prospect that it could only show two yellow stars if it gets a few more bad reviews.

Yesterday Walmart entered the picture, dropping the bomb that they were no longer going to distribute Kindles in their stores. Walmart gave a vaguely worded statement about seeking out products that brought value to their clients and such, but it didn’t take long for pundits to speculate Walmart decided to quit distributing advertising for their competition.

With all that as a backdrop, I turned on my Kindle Fire HD today and the special offers were gone without a trace. I contacted 2 other people I know who report the same thing. I checked Amazon and google news and saw no announcement. It does not look like a technical error because in the place of the full page ads are now high-res stock images and the area to swipe to see the ad is now replaced by a clock.

It appears at this time that Amazon caved and removed the advertising.

This whole episode could have been avoided had Amazon not made several unforced errors:

  1. They were unclear on the day of launch.
  2. They apparently did not  inform their CSRs of their new policy, causing them to mislead customers.
  3. Reversing course the first time was unavoidable but it just caused more marketplace confusion.
  4. They epically failed to provide an accurate description of their product.  The description did say the special offers were included, but it’s is also about 24 web inches long. The product name should have said the special offers were included as it has in the past.
  5. And most importantly, it abused the relationship of trust they had built over the years with their most loyal customers. Many people spoke in the comments of how many years they had been loyal Amazon customers and how they were personally offended by the whole thing.

Amazon fell for the modern marketing trap of treating their customers like prey and not partners. Cell phone carriers have (so far) been able to do this but there are too many alternatives in the content delivery marketplace to make such a dumb mistake.  Combined with the controversial call to not include wall chargers, Amazon is tossing years of goodwill out the window.

Let’s hope as word spreads that the special offers are gone they do not suddenly change again, putting the special offers back now would only be rubbing salt in fresh wounds.





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