Mayday icon from Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX

Mayday Icon

Although I’ve never owned a Kindle, I’m familiar with them because they are so prominently featured on’s home page (which I visit often).   Something about the recently-launched Kindle Fire HDX caught my eye:  the inclusion of a Mayday button.

Tapping on Mayday brings up a video chat window with a tech support person.  This person can help you with your device problem (or any other Amazon-related issue) in real time, 24/7.  They can even “draw” on your device screen to illustrate where you should go, what you should do.  The service is completely free.

Jeff Bezos gets a thumbs up on this one.  Best Buy’s Geek Squad and the Apple Genius Bar have both saved me in the past, but I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I don’t have to make an appointment for Geek Squad to come to my house (and wait for them, and pay them), or make a Genius Bar appointment  (and drive myself and the Device of the Day to an Apple Store). I hope this model is such a huge success that it spreads to other businesses.

And what’s up with Geek Squad these days?  They partnered with AARP (AARP members a hefty 29% discount on Geek Squad in-home and phone tech services), but then Best Buy laid off 600 Geeks.  In her Aging in Place blog, Laurie Orlov bemoaned the layoff, and characterized the loss of Geek Squad’s in-home services as the “cannibalization of face-to-face retail by Amazon.”  Yes, I know:  the irony of this in light of Kindle’s 24/7 Mayday support.

As many of my older students have observed, the environment in the average Apple Store is hostile.  I’ve counted up to 40 employees at a time in one store, all holding separate conversations or sessions with customers.  There’s no sound muffling, it’s difficult to filter out the other conversations.  The employees typically talk to these older customers about things unfamiliar to the customer, and speak much more quickly than they can follow.  All in all, it’s not a pleasant user experience.  [A former Microsoft employee told me that the experience is much calmer in Microsoft stores, but I haven’t heard anything from older customers, or checked it out myself yet.]

Ten years ago, there were no Apple Stores or any other source for Mac support anywhere near my parents’ town in Florida.  They thought they would be better off with the locally-ubiquitous PC crowd, so they switched.  This has resulted in numerous painful phone sessions during which I’ve tried to troubleshoot a problem for them, or tried to explain to them what they needed to do, or how to find what they were looking for on their desktop.

At one point, I downloaded a remote desktop-sharing app that would allow me to see my mother’s computer screen.  In order for it to work, the application sent her a code to enter onto the corresponding web page on her end.  After a long and frustrating time (she kept mistyping the very long URL), this actually worked well enough that I could  point to or select the menus and items she was struggling with.  However, I was never able to get her to try it again.  She prefers to wait for technical support until one of her children visits her in person.

The Mayday model might not save the day for my mother, but many other folks are sure to latch onto it.  Those who are afraid of technology will have that extra bit of support to keep them afloat.  It could be a sea change!

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