Oz Blog News Commentary

Amazon’s bad receipts

February 22, 2021 - 02:56 -- Admin

When I (or someone else in my household) orders something from Amazon, i get emailed a receipt. This is useful because then I can see what was ordered, whether it is the right thing or shout at someone who ordered something we already have.

Before August 2020, they looked like this.

Now they look like this.

The difference is that I now know (a) something was ordered and (b) what price it was rather than (c) what was ordered which is a pretty important piece of information.

I thought I had just flipped a setting and couldn’t find it. Turns out it was intentional. It was all about the data. For instance, I often send receipts to delivery apps like Shop so that I can see what has arrived and what hasn’t across all platforms. I also use it for reimbursements. But, of course, I can still do the delivery bit but I don’t know what it is unless I use Amazon’s app.

When I complained on Twitter, Amazon (known for their good customer service) were responsive but …

“Simplified” my arse! Guess what, it isn’t easier and I didn’t ask for it and I don’t recall anyone complaining about it. Here is John Gruber:


I’ve noticed this too, but hadn’t really thought about it until I saw this post from Michael Tsai (based on tweets from Paul Rosania and Andrew Chen): Amazon no longer puts a list of items in order confirmation and shipment notice emails. Almost certainly they’re doing this to thwart email-scraping data harvesters from obtaining information about Amazon sales. All sorts of companies harvest this info, and people volunteer to let them do it (including Edison Mail, the iOS mail client whose recent egregious bug granted full access to email accounts to random other users — at least they’re up front about it in their “how we use data” statement). Edison is far from alone in this — there’s an entire cottage industry of email clients and “tools” whose entire business model is based on scraping their users’ email for e-commerce trends.

So, from the Department of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Amazon has responded by removing product information from its emails. One reason this change was merely a low-grade annoyance for me, personally, is that I allow the Amazon iPhone app to send me notifications, and these notifications include shipping updates and delivery confirmation. If you’re notification-permission-averse — and who isn’t these days? — I recommend making an exception for the Amazon app. I can’t promise Amazon will never use these notifications to send you an ad, but in my experience they only send me notifications regarding things I’ve ordered from them — their notifications serve me, not them. And Amazon’s website and app continue to have a nicely searchable archive of your entire order history — mine goes back to the Clinton administration, which feels like another epoch. But it was nice having your own searchable archive of purchased items right in your email.

File this in the — everything Amazon does is for the customer claim — whenever we have antitrust law suits regarding them.