Pando

With Dash Buttons, Amazon is creating mindless consumers who buy goods without a moment's thought

By Nathaniel Mott , written on March 31, 2015

From The News Desk

Amazon's trying to make sure consumers never have to visit another store.

The company has introduced what it calls Dash Buttons to make it easier for people to order razor blades, detergent, and other everyday items with one tap. Subscribers to Amazon Prime will be the first to receive the devices on an invite-only basis; it's not clear when other Amazon customers will be able to use them.

Here's how the Dash Buttons work: Each Dash button has a different logo on it associated with the product they wish to buy. Consumers stick them to essentially any surface and push the button whenever they want to place an order. Repeat presses won't result in multiple orders -- Amazon doesn't want people to be surprised when a dozen boxes of Kraft macaroni & cheese show up at their door.

Amazon has also announced the Dash Replenishment Service, which allows manufacturers to build smart products that automatically order new items when their supply starts to dwindle. A coffee-maker that orders new coffee grounds? A pet food dispenser that makes sure Fido never misses a meal? Both are possible.

These announcements, along with grocery services, ever-shortening delivery times, and a small device that allows people to record a shopping list that syncs with their Amazon accounts, are part of the company's efforts to make shoppers rely more and more on its marketplace.

I'm both excited and skeptical about these initiatives. On the one hand, I often forget that I need to buy dog food until I go to fill my dog's bowl and realize the bag is empty, so it would be nice to have something automatically order more. The same could be said of basically everything I have to buy every few weeks.

But I can't quite shake some concerns about the products. What if Amazon decides to use them to advertise new goods? Might a company eventually be able to hijack my regular shipment of dog food with a sample of their product? And will the company take changing financial circumstances into account?

I doubt even Amazon knows the answers to those questions. (And even if it does, a company's priorities tend to change when their bottom line is at stake.) Yet that won't stop these services from giving companies what they've always wanted: mindless consumers who buy goods without a moment of thought.

Some might find that dystopian. Others will appreciate never having to run to the store to buy toilet paper ever again. Either way, it's clear that Amazon is making its way into our homes, one Dash Button or smart product at a time.