Amazon Prepares for Zombie Apocalypse

Want to strengthen your customer relationships? Go beyond legally required disclosures. Communicate in a clear and forthright way.

Amazon is revered for being a very forward-looking business. So, with the inclusion of a “zombie apocalypse” clause in its latest terms of service, should we all be worried? It’s right there in paragraph 57.10 of the company’s Lumberyard games development engine, a 3D game design program for use with Amazon Web Services (AWS): AWS-Zombie-Clause In this paragraph, Amazon notes the program is not intended for use with “life-critical or safety-critical systems,” except if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declares the presence of a “widespread viral infection transmitted by bites or contact with bodily fluids that cause human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization.” Translation: If the zombie apocalypse comes to pass, you can use Lumberyard for whatever the heck you want. All right, so Amazon is injecting some humor in what are typically long, boring and dense terms of service that, let’s face it, no one ever reads—for any company. But the fact that the flesh-eating undead can be referenced in a document like this with almost nobody noticing speaks to a larger and more serious issue: Disclosure documents like Amazon's are an awful way to communicate important information to your customer. Companies bury important details in opaque disclosures they count on no one reading. Examples abound—coverage exclusions for your insurance, service fees for your bank account, cancellation fees for your gym membership, price increases for your cable TV package or conflicts of interest for your financial adviser. Organizations hide behind these disclosure documents and point to them as evidence that anything important is, indeed, revealed to the customer. But here’s the key these companies are missing: Disclosure is not a proxy for transparency. Indeed, as practiced these days (with pages of unintelligible fine print), disclosure is the antithesis of transparency. So let’s start referring to disclosure documents for what they really are: a tool businesses use to convey information they don’t want anyone to see. Until more companies reject such disingenuous practices (like Southwest Airlines has done with its Transfarency strategy), consumer trust in businesses will continue to erode. Do you want to strengthen your customer relationships? Go beyond the legally required disclosures and start communicating with people in a clear and forthright way. That sends a signal to your customers that you’re advocating for them and helping them avoid unpleasant surprises, whether that's in the form of excessive fees, conflicts of interest or, even, the zombie-induced fall of organized civilization. That’s the kind of advocacy from which loyal brand advocates are born. This article first appeared at Watermark Consulting.

Jon Picoult

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Jon Picoult

Jon Picoult is the founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience advisory firm specializing in the financial services industry. Picoult has worked with thousands of executives, helping some of the world's foremost brands capitalize on the power of loyalty -- both in the marketplace and in the workplace.


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