The Amazon Promotional Code

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Earlier this week, I purchased Joshua Allen’s ebook “The House of Wigs” . If you don’t known Allen, he has a tremendously funny Twitter account, along with twenty years’ worth of bizarre, hilarious blogging. “The House of Wigs” was a secret diary he wrote while working as a copywriter for an Internet ad agency in the early 2000s. Though Allen originally wrote the site anonymously, he’s since taken credit and created a delightful compendium ebook.

Anyhow, immediately after purchasing the ebook, Amazon sent me a promotional code. That’s not uncommon — they often send these to keep customers using Amazon by offering something like a buck off a future ebook purchase or a free MP3. When I actually read this particular promotion, however, I saw that it was rather different:

  • Congrats!

    Because of your recent purchase from, you are receiving a promotion code redeemable for a free digital HD copy of Kung Fu Panda. The code will cover the full cost of this item.

Despite the fact that the promo email came immediately after the one containing my receipt for the ebook, I initially didn’t believe they could be related. However, verifying the order number the promotion referenced confirmed the cause and effect. My purchase of “The House of Wigs” earned me a free digital copy of “Kung Fu Panda” in stunning high-definition. This is both incongruous and hilarious.

My first thought was that this was simply random. That would be weird, but hardly impossible. When I began reading “The House of Wigs”, however, I saw that Allen mentions the name Jack Black repeatedly through the text. Due to his appearance, one of the bosses is dubbed “VP Jack Black”, and thus the actor’s name appears ten times throughout the short book.

My best guess now is that Amazon has some automated cross-marketing tool which has run amok. Something along the lines of “If they buy ‘I’m Chevy Chase…And You’re Not’, toss a free copy of ‘Vegas Vacation’ their way” makes some sense, even if “Give them a copy of Kung Fu Panda because they bought that book which includes Jack Black’s name a bunch” does not. If it’s all keyword-based, that’s pretty phenomenal, and I should start reading ebooks that repeatedly mention brand-name electronics or high-end luxury cars just to see if I can get lucky.

Yet as amusing as the possibility of this twisted robot logic is, in my heart of hearts, I’m hoping for another explanation. My deepest wish is that somehow, Allen himself finagled a bizarre deal with Amazon. Maybe he snuck the language into a contract their lawyers gave only a cursory glance, and now he’s holding them to it. Or perhaps Dreamworks is hoping to hype the forthcoming “Kung Fu Panda 3” by giving away countless digital copies of the first movie. Whatever the case, if Allen arranged for a free copy of “Kung Fu Panda” to go to everyone who buys his book, it really would be a masterful piece of performance art.

Update (December 23rd, 2015): Within a few minutes of posting this, many readers wrote to say they’d also received a free copy of “Kung Fu Panda”, despite their orders containing nothing at all related to Jack Black. A pal at Amazon then sent me this link. It appears that if you so much as look at Amazon before January 1st, you’ll get a free copy of “Kung Fu Panda”. While it is definitely related to “Kung Fu Panda 3”, coming to a theatre near you, the Jack Black connection with “The House of Wigs” is strictly a coincidence.

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