So, I should explain that I unfortunately speak from experience. Once I had a Mechanical Turk account, and now I do not. Poof! Gone.
Next, you're probably wondering, "Pete! Big-shot online freelancer with all these clients you keep posting work about on your Twitter feed - what are you monkeying around with a microwork site for?"
Well, kinda "just for fun", the same reason many others cite. Because I'm a book junkie, and so I set up a little game for myself: I would only use the balance from a Mechanical Turk account to purchase used books from Amazon. This keeps me from spending larger amounts of free cash on books (I'm not kidding about the 'junkie' part!) and also gave me a little motivation to use my free time to pick at little productive tasks when I'm too worked-out to pay attention to serious work, but not quite lazy enough to go build yet another castle in Minecraft.
Mechanical Turk "hits" are all simple things like moderating image uploads or answering a question for a nickel or some such. Likewise, used books on Amazon can go for as little as a penny (plus shipping, of course) so the two were a good match for each other. I used the books to research more about stuff I'm paid to write and blog about (in my main work, not Turk) and also I referred clients who had small breadcrumb-sized jobs to Turk because sometimes that's just an easier way to manage it. It was a handy little tool on my freelancer's workbench, like that one screwdriver that's just the right size.
That is, until the beginning of this month, when I was simply greeted by this page when I logged in:
That's it, no warnings, no emails, no explanation, nada. May I point out, I used my "professional" name for the account; it was part of my online presence. I've had the account for years, never had a problem. I had an excellent record and high ratings, even got some customers asking for me by name. I am familiar with the terms of service and there's no possibility that I violated them.
And now I've sent them four emails asking for a resolution to this matter - and have heard nothing back!
Now, this isn't about the few dollars still in the account (still accessible from my account proper at Amazon.com, which is not suspended). But for one thing, this is damaging to my online reputation, to imply that I do something worth suspending me over. But most of all...
...it's just plain rude. I don't recall that I have ever been treated as rudely by a major corporation before. Even the unruliest company has the good graces to shoot you a letter explaining why your account went flatline, no matter how bogus that reason may be.
I also known several other people that this has happened to. But not knowing how they manage their accounts, I suspected perhaps that they did something wrong. But now that it's happened to me, I know that this can happen for no reason. Googling around, I have also found many other users of Mechanical Turn who share the same story.
Bottom line, I think those of us who have been mistreated so need to make more noise about this. I am willing to assume good faith - a bug in the system, a glitch in the works, not enough staff to oversee the algorithms, or some such. Amazon, while not walking on water, has demonstrated in the past that they at least want to try to do the right thing. I was even eyeing the Kindle for an option in ebook publishing, when I plan to take the plunge of publishing my webcomic or other works, but now I'm more hesitant. My trust has been chipped.
Anybody else out there have a similar story? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, or post about it on other sites. We can get to the bottom of this together!
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