Amazon makes empty boasts about another holiday season

Amazon is making it seem like consumers signing up for its Prime service just in time to take advantage of free two-day shipping on last-minute gifts is a victory. But, much like its celebration of a record-breaking holiday shopping weekend in November, the company hasn’t offered many details about its boastful posturing.

The disingenuousness begins with the company bragging that 3 million people signed up for its Prime service in the third week of December. That seems like a victory — Prime customers are far more likely to remain loyal to Amazon than shoppers who don’t want to pay around $100 per year for access to the service.

But it doesn’t count the number of people who might have signed up for free trials — Amazon often pushes customers to give Prime a try — just so they could get free two-day shipping during the holidays. As long as those people cancel within the grace period, all Amazon really did was eat customers’ shipping costs.

Even worse are the boasts Amazon makes about the number of devices it sold or how many people watched something via its streaming video service. Those claims, much like similar ones made after Thanksgiving, are represented by percentage increases that never provide a baseline for accurate comparisons.

As I wrote when Amazon pulled the same stunt last month:

Yet the fact remains that we have no idea what any of this actually means for the company. Just look at its claim that it sold six times as many Fire TV products this holiday shopping weekend as it did during the same weekend last year. Does that it mean it sold 6 million this year? How about 42 million? Nobody knows!

The reliance on percentage increases wouldn’t be so baffling if Amazon didn’t get rather specific in other areas. The company knows how many timers its Alexa device set, the candy bought through its store, and what movie people watched on Christmas. (Over four million, gummy bears, and “Interstellar,” respectively.)

Amazon was also willing to share information about the last holiday delivery it made — enough for anyone close to the person to identify them, provided some of the items were given away as gifts and the recipients happen to stumble across a press release touted by a large tech company. Here’s what Amazon said:

The last Prime Now order delivered in-time for Christmas was delivered at 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve to a customer in San Antonio, Texas. The order included Blue Buffalo Dog Treats, an Gift Card, the all-new Fire tablet, Fruitables Dog Treats, LEGO Star Wars Death Star Final Duel Building Kit, Moleskine Classic Notebook and Stove Top Stuffing Mix.

This means Amazon was willing to share more information about what a Texan procrastinator bought at the last possible moment before Christmas than about the devices it sold, the amount of time people spent watching videos through its video service, and how many of those Prime subscribers kept their memberships.

And here I thought the creepiest part of the holidays was Santa’s omniscience.