Here’s hoping no Amazon workers were harmed in the sending of this email

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As the birthday of my three children approaches, this reminder from hits my inbox.

Paul McNamara,

Thank you for visiting You recently added items to your Shopping Cart. If you haven't already purchased or removed them, simply visit your Shopping Cart to complete your order.

082015blog amazon email to mcnamara

My first thought was that this is pretty slick; I was there just the day before checking out prices on a Nintendo 3DS XL … and the next day here’s a nag note reminding me I fell one click short of completing the mission.

But then other thoughts began to creep in, too … such as: This kind of system must require an enormous amount of work from a company now infamous for demanding an enormous amount of work from its employees.

Maybe some Amazon software engineer developed an ulcer, lost his marriage and hardly ever sees his kids any more so that his employer could remind me that I really, really need to get off my ass and complete this birthday gift purchase.

Noticing the carefully couched wording – “if you haven’t already purchased or removed them” – I couldn’t help but imagine the days-long meeting where Amazon marketers argued and clawed at each other over whether this caveat was necessary or not. How many were sent packing for taking the wrong side?

And what if someone – a new hire, perhaps – had the audacity to actually question whether such cart-checks and email prompts make sense at all. “Some people might find it a bit creepy,” I could hear this naif suggesting before being reminded she doesn’t work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (I hope EFF hires her.)

Finally, paralysis by analysis set in.

If I complete the purchase, all the Amazonians who played a role in landing the apparently endangered sale will be rewarded with yet more requests to squeeze yet more sales out people like me who keep putting items in the Shopping Cart but don’t actually buy the stuff fast enough.

If I don’t complete the purchase, well, there will be hell to pay once that disappointing data hits Jeff’s desk.

I didn’t bargain for this kind of anxiety when I signed up for Prime.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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