It's an inviolable rule of the internet that if you provide people with a place to type words in public, chaos will follow close behind. Nowhere is this more true than the Amazon Gold Box forum, one of the internet's more delightful clearing houses of crazy.
You may have never seen the Gold Box forum, even if you're a frequent Amazon shopper. It occupies a strange substrata deep below the deals page crust and mantle. Scroll past Today's Deals, past the Lightning Deals and More, past the Savings and Sales Across Amazon, the Digital Deals, the Top Coupons, the Local Deals. That's where you'll find Amazon's deeply weird inner core. You'll be glad and horrified you did.
For those not familiar with Amazon's Gold Box, its basically the site's highlighted deal of the day. You can find it under the "Today's Deals" link at the top of the home page. The Gold Box forum, then, is ostensibly a place to discuss said deal. At the time I'm writing this -- it will change several times in the hour or so before I publish -- the top post is as follows:
Why are fat people allowed to use scooters at walmart, the isles are already crowded enough without them being slow and taking forever and then they are magically cured when they have to reach up for the bag of oreos on the high shelf.
There are 616 replies. The deal of the day is "Up to 50% Off Select Puzzles."
From there the topics range from slightly on point (kindle, Amazon Fire TV) to off-topic but sure-why-not (Does anyone think Colts had a chance to beat the Pats?) to uncomfortably personal (How does a nice quiet, shy guy find a date?, Hoarding, disorganized, OCD -- -HELP! (13)). There are even message board-based games (Song Thread 7, J-K-L game). All of these have been updated in the last 20 minutes. The hoarding thread alone has over 8,000 responses.
I'm not sure when I first noticed how deranged the Gold Box forum is. A few years ago? The oldest thread I've actually clicked on, though, according to Amazon's helpful "Recently Viewed Discussions" pane, is if your poop could talk what would it say?, from June of 2014. Here's a small sample of that discussion, which lasted a little over three months:
Yes, two out of four people thought "I put my poop in the freezer then when it freezes, i stab people with it" added to the discussion. Rightly!
I also can't say when the Gold Box forum first came into service as a sanctuary for wolf-face crazy, since the available archives only go 1,023 discussions deep, which only gets us to January 3rd. Of this year. That's an average of 53 new threads every single day, some containing thousands of responses, and very few of which have anything to do with discounted merchandise.
Somehow the fact that all of this is apparently moderated by Amazon in at least some small fashion makes it even more strange. Amazon itself occasionally posts deals-related items, and also actively moderates individual comments, although it's unclear where it draws the line. Here, from the "fat people allowed to use scooters at walmart" discussion, are three deleted comments in a row:
And one that still stands, despite a large number of downvotes and an inflammatory tone:
So the Gold Box forum seems like the unweeded front lawn of a foreclosed rambler -- a Yahoo! Answers soulmate, say -- but is in fact curated in some fashion. Just not enough for it to make any sense at all.
Again, it's not at all surprising that these discussions are taking place online. The internet is weird! But I'm fascinated that even Amazon's clearance bin can foment a community this active, this diverse, this frenzied, this outré. It's one of the most active online water coolers, full of opinions on everything from Aliens to y u mad*, despite -- or maybe because of? -- its complete disregard for its organising principle of Bluetooth speaker discounts.
I've originated one thread in the Gold Box forums myself: Why Do You Post Here?. It has zero responses (although one out of two people think the post adds to the discussion, which is also strange because so far it is the discussion) and got pushed off the first page in just over an hour. Which is fine. I suspect that, as with all perfectly formed oddities and unexpected gifts, to question it too closely would be the best way to ruin it.