I was searching for a wireless optical mouse on Amazon, and I found that my item was out of stock, but was available on z-Shops. On z-Shops, Amazon has implemented an eBay-style dialog between buyers and sellers, with feedback scores and merchant ratings. (An indication that we measure the things we're really interested in.)
In the Amazon system more than in the eBay system, at least at first glance, there is a more lengthy dialog between the buyers and the sellers. Could this be a byproduct of Amazon's allowing longer-length responses? It would be interesting to know -- this would be an example of social process constrained by technology.
There were certainly more lengthy and detailed complaints. For example: "RUN FROM THIS SELLER! I HAVE PURCHASE A CAMCORDER FOR $1000 AND IM STILL WAITING FOR IT! I ASK FOR A REFUND BUT THE SELLER WONT SEND IT OR EVEN ANSWER MY EMAILS!"
This was followed by an equally lengthly and detailed answer: "1st - This customer is referring to a sale that took place outside Amazon.com. 2nd - This buyer is misrepresenting the sale. The buyer received new camcorders but still dissatisfied. Upon return of items, demanded refund, then camcorders, then refund, then camcorders....back and forth."
It occurred to me that what we need at this time is a trusted arbiter - someone or some authority who acts in a fair and balanced way to resolve the dispute. It would be trivial for a dedicated ombudsman to request records and other justification to clear the issue up witha ruling. Stretch goal: Make the documents public and allow people to vote (non-binding) -- a true jury of peers. Overwhelming public disagreement with "verdicts" could trigger a re-opening of the decision -- a second opinion for example.
On an unrelated note: Why don't dishwashers allow you to fill them up with liquid soap, then automatically figure out the minimal amount of soap to use? What design genius at Whirlpool missed this feature?