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Amazon.com Recommendations Understand Area Woman Better Than Husband

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Amazon.com Recommendations Understand Area Woman Better Than Husband

January 9, 2007 | Issue 43?02

SANDUSKY, OH?Area resident Pamela Meyers was delighted to receive yet another thoughtful CD recommendation from Amazon.com Friday, confirming that the online retail giant has a more thorough, individualized, and nuanced understanding of Meyers' taste than the man who occasionally claims to love her, husband Dean Meyers.

Meyers said she was pleasantly surprised to receive three e-mails from Amazon today alone.

"To come home from a long day at work and see the message about the new Norah Jones album waiting for me, it just made my week," said Meyers, 36, who claimed she was touched that the company paid such attention to her. "It feels nice to be noticed once in a while, you know?"

Amazon, which has been tracking Meyers' purchases since she first used the site to order Football For Dummies in preparation for attending the 2004 Citrus Bowl as part of her husband's 10th wedding anniversary plans, has shown impressive accuracy at recommending books, movies, music, and even clothing that perfectly match Meyers' tastes. While the powerful algorithms that power Amazon's recommendations generator do not have the advantage of being able to observe Meyers' body language, verbal intonation, or current personal possessions, they have nonetheless proven more effective than Dean, who bases his gift-giving choices primarily on what is needed around the house, what he would like to own, and, most notably, what objects are nearby.

"I don't know how Amazon picked up on my growing interest in world music so quickly, but I absolutely love this traditional Celtic CD," Meyers said. "I like it so much more than that Keith Urban thing Dean got me. I'm really not sure what made him think I like country music."

Meyers said she was especially moved that the online merchant remembered that she had once purchased an Ian McEwan book, and immediately reminded when the author released a new novel. Moreover, despite only having had 37 hours of direct interaction with Meyers, Amazon was still able to detect her strong interest in actor Paul Giamatti, unlike husband Dean who often teases Meyers about her nonexistent crush on Tom Cruise.

Meyers said that her husband, whose gift choices have never reflected any outward recognition of her desire to learn Spanish, nor of the fact that she looks terrible in orange, rarely, if ever, communicates with Meyers while away on any of his frequent business trips.

"I was having some tea from that Nebraska Cornhuskers mug Dean got me for Valentine's Day, when a little e-mail from Amazon popped up out of the blue," Meyers said. "Just completely out of the blue."

"It was nice to know that on my birthday, someone or something was out there thinking about me, and what boxed sets I wanted," she added.

Though "it could only be a coincidence," Meyers admitted that she became emotional during a recent "bad day" when the site recommended the DVD The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg. "Dean and I saw it on one of our first dates, and I remember it being such a great night not just for the movie, but how everything felt so natural, how we seemed to be on the same wavelength," Meyers said. "It was the first time I thought, 'Yes. This is the one.'"

While Amazon is almost always accurate, the company does occasionally make a gift recommendation that does not suit her tastes, such as a recent suggestion of camping gear and an all-weather backpack. Still, Meyers lauded Amazon's attempts at spontaneity.

"At least it's trying," said Meyers, whose husband will once again surprise her with their fourth romantic getaway to his hometown of Kenton, DE sometime in March. "And maybe I would like camping if I ever tried it. Amazon's usually right about these things."

Meyers, who has spent the past 15 years with a man who still believes she enjoys attending car shows, said she has kept her Amazon recommendation e-mails a secret from her husband so as not to corrupt the "deep and unstated understanding" between her and the popular website.

"Sure, I could send him the link to my Wish List, but that really defeats the purpose of gifts, as far as I'm concerned," Meyers said.

For his part, Dean has promised to make a concerted effort to pay closer attention to his wife's habits in order to choose more appropriate and tasteful gifts. He said that she will be "pleasantly surprised" with his new strategy, enrolling her for the next three years in the Oprah Book Club.

"I know she's really into The View, so I just figured this would be perfect," Meyers said. "And I know she'll love taking moonlight drives on our new riding mower together, too."

? Copyright 2006, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.


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All Amazon does is keep a list of what you buy, put in your wish-lists, look at and rate.

So if you buy Calculus for Dummies, Amazon might suggest the Calculus Workbook for Dummies.

It works pretty good for books, dvds and music. Sometimes what they recommend misses the whole ballpark but they get better with more data (orders, wish list entries and ratings).

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Cole Parker wrote:

Des, does this mean you're not sitting home praying Amazon will profile you next?

Yes Cole, as I am an atheist you could say that. :icon1:

jamessavik, I really don't have an objection to suggestions from being profiled by places like Amazon.

What I dislike is them bombarding my email with the suggestions as if they were my buddies who had my best interests at heart.

That seems a bit phony to us Aussies.

I wouldn't object to say, clicking a button that would let me access the profile and their list of suggestions.

But I haven't bought anything from Amazon so they don't even know I exist and I think I will keep it that way. :icon1:

Think about the situation that could arise if Dude or Nifty were to keep profiles on us and then emailed us suggestions like:

Hi DesDownunder, How are you? We notice you recently wrote a story entitled "My Secret Gay Sex-life," and thought you might be interested in the following titles...blah, blah.

That might cause problems in some households, especially if the wife or kids found it. Hmmm Could be the basis for a story? :icon1:


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Amazon allows you to set your email preferences so spam really shouldn't be a problem.

I write a number of book reviews for Amazon and Ebay. In fact I won an E-bay gift certificate which was fun. It wasn't HUGE but it was lots better than a slap in the face with a frozen fish.

I'm on an Amazon list that alerts me of any new titles from Springer, Dover or O'reilly (Addison-Wesley) as I'm toying with the idea of setting up a website to sell professional books.

Just what the cats need: more books to sleep on.


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jamessavik, I have no problem with you initiating Amazon's service to suit your own purpose. In fact I think it is good they offer the kind of service that allows itself to be customised to the end users requirements.

I just didn't like the idea of unsolicited email based on my previous purchases.

Pleased to hear you won a gift certificate. Congratulations. :icon1:

And thank you for explaining about the Amazon preferences being selectable.

I am less wary of using them now. :ohmy:

Best of luck with your book venture. :icon4:

Cole Parker wrote:

Des, I think you're something like me. EVERYTYIHING seems to be a possible basis for a story!

Everything? Well except perhaps for morning rituals in the bathroom. On the other hand even that might make a good horror story for young people. :icon1::icon1:

Yes Cole I must admit I see potential everywhere too. Getting it into an acceptable story form is not that easy though. :icon1:

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Oh, damn, you mean... Amazon won't accept my offer to a secret, midnight skinny-dipping tryst, followed by a lovely gay commitment ceremony in June? I'm, I'm... so crushed. Amazon! :crying: I...I thought you cared!

LOL, actually, they probably should take me up on that tryst, or at least give me stock options, since I've been a good customer.


Yes, it is possible to *exclude* items from their recommendations decision-making. This is handy, if you don't want someone to look over your shoulder and discover you like (gasp) science fiction...or more sensitive topics. However, it also means that Amazon won't tell you about such things which you might indeed like. You could turn the preferences on and off, I suppose. Personally, I'm glad I don't have to worry about that, or only rarely. ("Yes, I do buy gay-friendly books and CD's. You should check 'em out.")

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I thought it would be fun to list amazon.com recommendations. Here are mine; I think some of them are right on, some are very funny, and some very bizarre. I've marked the ones I own in blue, all but one of them I bought from amazon.com and have an *. You'd think if they can come up with a list of my favorites, they'd be able to find things I bought from them and not put those on the list. :icon1:

1. English Rebel Songs 1381-1984 [iMPORT] *

~ Chumbawamba

2. Getting It

by Alex Sanchez

3. 10 Years of Hits [iMPORT]

~ Ronan Keating

4. Outfield Menace

by Mark A. Roeder

5. Wicked Angels (Southern Tier Editions)

by Eric Jourdan, Thomas J. D. Armbrecht (Translator)

6. The ABC's of Anarchism [EP] *

~ Chumbawamba

7. Magellan 730387 12v Cigarette Lighter Adapter Cable for the eXplorist Series

by Magellan

8. Myst Uru: Complete Chronicles *

by UBI Soft

9. GPS Mapping

by Rich Owings

10. In Lust We Trust [iMPORT]

~ Ark

11. What We Did Last Summer

DVD ~ Robbie Williams

12. The God Delusion

by Richard Dawkins

13. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

by William Strunk Jr., et al.

14. A Portrait of Andrew

by J.P. Bowie

15. A Self-Portrait

by J.P. Bowie

16. A Portrait of Emily

by J.P. Bowie

17. First Draft In 30 Days: A Novel Writer's System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript

by Karen Wiesner

18. A Portrait of Olivia

by J.P. Bowie

19. A Day Without Rain

~ Enya

20. Cracking the AP Calculus AB and BC Exams, 2006-2007 Edition (College Test Prep) *

by David S. Kahn, Princeton Review

21. The Man in the White Suit

DVD ~ Alec Guinness

22. From Now On [iMPORT]

~ Will Young

23. The League of Gentlemen - Christmas Special

DVD ~ Corrie Greenop

24. Canon Powershot S2 IS 5MP Digital Camera with 12x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom

by Canon

25. You're Beautiful [CD-SINGLE] [EXPLICIT LYRICS] [iMPORT]

~ James Blunt

26. Twenty Epics

by Susan Groppi, David Moles

27. Mahabharata (1989) (2pc)

DVD ~ Erika Alexander

28. Philosophy for Kids : 40 Fun Questions That Help You Wonder ... About Everything!

by David A. White

29. Unwritten [iMPORT] *

~ Natasha Bedingfield

30. The Catcher in the Rye

by J.D. Salinger (Scenario)

Colin :icon1:

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Why do I get the feeling this woman also enjoys getting telephone calls from telemarketers too?

Uh, take a look at the source for this story. It's The Onion, and the story is very tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic -- like all of the stories on this website (and newspaper).

I know of a couple of gay groups who are irate about Amazon, because of the fact that the site closely "watches" all your buying habits, and then makes suggestions on similar things it determines that you might want to buy. So if I log into Amazon, and a friend is watching over my shoulder, he might see a book titled "100 Ways of Men Pleasing Men" or something like that, which would sorta out me.

Me personally, I'm amused by it, but I can see why some would find Amazon's marketing efforts a little intrusive. I rarely find their suggestions to be helpful, but I readily admit I have some pretty eclectic tastes.

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Here's a chunk of my Amazon "Recommended for You"

(I don't own any of it as I rate stuff I own)

Practical Amateur Spectroscopy

by Stephen F. Tonkin

Children of the Mind (Ender, Book 4) (Ender Quartet)

by Orson Scott Card

Mastering Delphi 7

by Marco Cant?

This Is Not a Test

DVD ~ Seamon Glass

Fourier Transforms (Dover Books on Mathematics)

by Ian N. Sneddon

The Mathematica GuideBook for Symbolics (w/ DVD)

by Michael Trott

Canon Digital Rebel XT 8MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 Lens (Black)

Cataclysmic Variable Stars (Cambridge Astrophysics)

by Brian Warner

Geometry of Complex Numbers

by Hans Schwerdtfeger

Understanding the FFT, Second Edition, Revised

by Anders E. Zonst


by Horace Lamb

Electromagnetic Fields and Waves

by Vladimir Rojansky

Hewlett Packard 49G+ Graphing Calculator

Special Functions & Their Applications

by N. N. Lebedev

Fourier and Laplace Transforms

by R. J. Beerends

CRC Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Second Edition

by Eric W. Weisstein

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