My letter to Amazon about To Train Up A Child, and their utterly disappointing response.

Good morning, and Happy New 2014. Hope it’s going well for you so far. I know we’re only 4 days in but I thought I’d check in and see how you’re going. Looks like you’re doing okay. Keep up the good work.

Remember before Christmas I was a bit p***ed off that Amazon were selling a book which encourages beating children with sticks? Well, I wrote to their UK PR Manager about this.

What follows is my letter to Amazon and their detailed and lengthy response. Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Please take a look and let me know what you think, and what you think I should do next.

Also, please RT and share this post if you still think Amazon should withdraw this book from sale. I’m not giving up on this, despite the fact their response is… well. You be the judge.


My letter:

“Dear Ruth,

I’m writing as we met briefly at Maggie and Rose at the Kindle event, and I’m hoping you might be able to help with something I’m involved in.

I, and many others, are appalled that Amazon are selling the book To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl. If you take a look at the comments section concerning the book you’ll be able to see just what people think about this book.

I know this issue has been raised with Amazon in the past, and despite numerous emails I’ve not received a response on this matter. I understand the office of Nadine Dorries MP has, along with NSPCC, and the email received states;

I would like to clarify that Amazon does not endorse the content of any book that it offers. This book has been widely debated in the media, and on Amazon, for many years, and anyone who wishes to express their views about this title is free to do so on its product page on our website.

And many people have commented, and many people have expressed shock that Amazon sell this and want it withdrawn from sale. The groundswell of opinion here is that Amazon are profiting from a book which encourages child abuse and a book which has been linked to the death of three children.

The NSPCC’s stance on this is as follows.

This week the BBC in Washington featured a piece about this book and last week I was able to speak to the journalist about this matter. I understand he was going to contact Amazon, but I’m not sure if he did.

If you’re in any doubt as to how the authors feel about this matter then…

And on a BBC World Service interview, one of the authors backtracked on the above but the evidence is there. He has in the past said that people want the booked banned. This is impossible and not what we are asking for. All we are asking is for retailers to take responsibility for what they sell.
The World Service interview is here and begins at about 27m 10s and I hope you take the time to listen to this.

I also hope you can take the time to respond to this email.

Simply put, a lot of Amazon’s customers are upset that Amazon sells and stocks a book which encourages child abuse and there is no doubt that this book does. I have read it and it cites beating babies with sticks, it suggests putting tempting items in children’s reach and hitting them when they touch these items, to train them up, like one would train up a stubborn mule. This activity is, surely, entrapment, as the outcome will be that a child will be beaten, and to sell a book which encourages such behaviour, or suggests parents beat children with sticks, rulers, belts or tree branches is what so many people are upset about.

Many have said they will boycott Amazon. Over 200,000 names on petitions have called for Amazon to stop selling this book. Over 400 customer comments ask the same.

And despite the email mentioned above, we know that Amazon have removed books from sale in the past when people feel that it is inappropriate. When people have complained. And many many people feel that this book should also be removed from sale. So I would ask you to do all you can to help in this matter. Please remove this book from sale.

Waterstones, Foyles, Wesley Owen, Hive Stores have all stopped stocking and supplying this book after we contacted them and we would ask Amazon to do the same.

I have blogged about this on numerous occasions. My most recent post which links to all of the previous ones is here.

I know of people who have written to their MP’s on this matter, and all have expressed their shock that this item is for sale. The attached letter is from someone who contacted their Welsh MP on this matter and I hope gives you some indication of how far this could go.

And by ignoring customers requests to remove this book from sale, which Amazon have done with similar items on previous occasions after similar requests, Amazon are showing terrible disrespect for their customers, and many feel that Amazon are profiting from a book which encourages child abuse, and has been linked with the deaths of children. This, as you probably know, does not look good on a PR level.

I look forward to hearing what Amazon are going to do

Have a great weekend and a wonderful Christmas, if we are not in contact beforehand.

Spencer @adadcalledspen

Amazon’s response:

Dear Spencer,

Hope you are well.

Amazon does not endorse the content of any book that it offers. This book has been widely debated in the media, and on Amazon, for many years, and anyone who wishes to express their views about this title is free to do so on its product page on our website.

Very best, Ruth

Ruth Attridge  | Ltd  |  UK PR Manager

*Checks email again*

Is that it? Is that their response? Merely cutting and pasting the answer I’ve already received and quoting it back to me?

Next step… well please let me know what you think I should do next. Short of chaining myself naked to some railings and writing to The Times I’m not sure what to do next.

And please make your feelings about their response known here, if you can, so I can send them all back to Amazon. So Amazon know just what people think.



19 responses to “My letter to Amazon about To Train Up A Child, and their utterly disappointing response.

  1. Wow her response is appalling! She literally copied and lasted from your original letter and stated the exact same Amazon response which you included.
    Amazon can withdraw it, they are choosing not to which is not on.

  2. What a joke! She actually copied and pasted the Amazon response from the text of your letter to her. That shows such a lack of respect as if your well planned and researched letter wasn’t worthy of an equally planned and considered response. How very rude.
    I know Amazon have cocked up in the past by selling products that have led to upset with the general public and they have had no problem discontinuing the item, why not for this book??

  3. Hi Spencer,
    It was a great letter, wether it was actually read I don’t know – the lazy stock response suggests not.
    It’s very hard to know where to go next as they seem unwilling to enter into dialogue on the subject so I imagine its pretty much like hitting your head against a brick wall.
    What would make them listen? A dent to their sales I’m sure but they have so much power I doubt enough people would get behind it.
    Sorry that’s not helpful is it but I am thinking – hopefully someone else will have some better ideas, or just ideas full stop!

  4. What is your ultimate goal? Personally, I would be looking for ways to prevent child abuse. Will Amazon removing this book help that cause? Doubtful. No offense, but you are directing your anger and energy toward the wrong target. People who are willing to abuse a child don’t do it simply because they read it in a book. I can read about about what someone thinks is an appropriate way to discipline a child, but my internal moral code tells me that physically harming a child is wrong. Banning/burning books has historically never been a successful tactic. When you try to get retailers to stop the transfer of knowledge, where do you draw the line? It’s up to the reader to determine how they wish to act, not the person or company that sold them the book.

    • To reiterate my point, over 200,000 people on petitions have asked for Amazon to remove this from sale. Over 400 commments from customers have asked the same. The point is about Amazon sellig a book which does advocate violence towards children, and they have removed books from sale under pressure from customers before.
      This is not about banning or burning books. Never has been and never will be. It’s about asking a retailer to take a responsible attitude to what they sell under their Parenting category.

      • Make no mistake, this IS about banning books from sale. With a catalog of 2,000,000 titles, there will always be content that people find objectionable. Think for a moment like Amazon, they do not want to be in the business of deciding what is and is not objectionable content (hence the reply you received twice), they are in the business of selling books. They use an algorithm to determine how well a title is selling and whether or not it should be reordered. Content is not a factor.
        You mention they’ve pulled titles in the past, but are you sure it was them? Perhaps the author or the publisher requested the title be pulled, perhaps the sales were so low that the algorithm determined it shouldn’t be reordered. You don’t mention specific titles so it’s hard to say why they were actually removed, just that they are no longer for sale. But here is where we fail…we expect companies to act as our moral compass and pull down titles we find objectionable rather than hold the people who commit these horrible acts against children responsible. If you want to make an impact, get to the customers who are actually buying the book. Ask Amazon to package the book with other information about child abuse, but don’t ask them to ban the book from their library.

      • The mistake you’re making is in understanding my point of view, which is not about banning books.

        For me this is about safeguarding children and asking a company profiting from sales of a book which advocates violence towards not sell a book is my right. And the right of others. If they don’t they don’t, if they do then that’s their choice to listen to customers who have taken time to contact them and ask them the same and act. Not as a moral compass as you suggest, but to respond to customer complaints.

        I appreciate the time you’ve taken to put your views in writing, but any future comments where you tell me what I’m thinking will not be approved. And while a debate is good and healthy on this topic, I’ve stated my point clearly and I won’t discuss this any further with you on this page.

        You’re entitled to your views, and I’m entitled to mine. And mine are with the NSPCC who are key campaigners in protecting children from such abuse, and work tirelessly to do so. I’m still of the belief that this book should be removed from sale.

        Thank you for your comment.

      • Thank you for letting me share my thoughts on this topic. It sounds like we both agree that child abuse is an atrocity that cannot continue. I can agree to disagree on the tactics that should be used to help prevent it. Thanks again for your time and good luck to you.

  5. Awful.

    To provide that cut and paste response to your well crafted letter is taking the pee.

    I would forward similar letter to ceo and then failing that i would initiate a boycott amazon campaign.

    I for one have stopped using them!

  6. Wow. Seriously? I’m guessing Ruth Attridge was advised by her superiors to repeat the official company line on this, but … seriously? To repeat it, when you have already used these exact words in your email to her? It just feels a bit disrespectful. I’m utterly shocked that Amazon haven’t removed this book for sale, and I have been (and will continue to) boycott Amazon until they do.

  7. Her response is totally disrespectful. It’s blunt and lacking in any real explanation which means basically that they don’t have a good enough answer as to why they are still selling the book and can’t dignify you with an intelligent worthwhile response. Unfortunately it is such a powerful organisation that I imagine they are used to ignoring the public and getting away with it. My biggest worry is that even negative press can help sell something and this book has had so much media coverage that it could even be helping promote it’s sale. I don’t have any answers Spencer, I wish I did. Have you contact the PM direct? Might be worth a shot. Maybe if everyone was to contact no.10 direct with a letter or email of complaint then someone might take note. Sorry if this is a useless suggestion, I think you’re doing a great job, don’t give up yet.

  8. Appalled, just appalled at Ruth’s rudeness and Amazon’s unwillingness to even discuss this like adults.

    It’s not like it’s a book with some rude words in that have upset a few fragile souls – this advocates abuse of our most vulnerable.

    Spencer, I wish I could think of what to do next. I fear that Amazon will just laugh it off as their sales are so huge they don’t care. The corporate conscience appears to be driven by the profit margin and nothing else 😦

  9. Interesting how you’re only willing to approve the comments that agree with you. Dissenting viewpoints are ignored. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. Oh yes, that’s exactly what you’re complaining about with Amazon. The big difference is that you actually solicited feedback whereas Amazon did not. Once again, banning any book is a bad idea. Where do you draw the line? Go after the actual people harming children, not a reseller of a book. The book doesn’t force people to do anything. People make their own choices. If you want Amazon to do something, ask them to include information about child abuse when they ship this book.

    • Your previous comment, which I will now approve, went into my Spam folder, which I don’t check because. So please don’t criticise me without knowing the facts. I’ve not criticised this book without reading it and to reiterate my point again, this is not about banning a book at all. I have made this point clear many times.

  10. Amazon’s response here is awful. They have removed products from sale on their website in the past when they have been criticized for ethical reasons (e.g. fancy dress costumes that were seen as being offensive to people with mental health issues).

    This issue that you’ve talked about here is far from the only issue that I have with Amazon. Did you see the Panorama documentary before Christmas about how they treat their staff in UK warehouses? And then there’s the methods that use in order to minimal tax on their UK profits… I’m going to try to avoid them as much as I can in 2014.

  11. Pingback: To Train Up A Child: Update | Understanding Childhood and Parenthood·

  12. Pingback: Are @amazon now selling a guide to rape? | @adadcalledspen·

Please leave a comment. Thank you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s