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I feared Amazon was always stalking me. The whole truth really hurt

Amazon knows exactly what you want to buy. Or does it?
chris-matyszczyk
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
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I was primed. Amazon wasn't.

(A screenshot from an Amazon ad.)

Chris Matyszczyk/Screenshot

I was bracing myself.

This was a big day, and it required more self-control than I feared I could muster.

I'm human. I'm partial to persuasion. You'd think, then, that Amazon Prime Day would reveal all my inherent weaknesses in one desperate charge toward unfettered spending.

I make the assumption, you see, that all the big web brands follow me around. They know everything about me. They know what I like, what I like to eat and even what I like to do when I'm not actually clutching one gadget or another.

On Prime Day, therefore, I expected to open the Amazon home page and discover the temptation that made Adam and the apple seem so very PG-rated. Prime Day is a big deal for Amazon. It has a lot of stuff it needs to shift. I'm a prime target for stuff.

You know me, Amazon. You really know me.

I gingerly squinted.

I felt sure Amazon would show me a raft of desirable things that were suddenly 20% off, or perhaps 30. If they were 50% off, they'd be in my cart within seconds.

Yet when I opened my eyes slightly wider, I felt odd.

Amazon's home page suggested an iRobot Roomba, an Oral-B electric toothbrush, Samsung phones and, oh, Levi's cutoff shorts.

Dearest Amazon, I thought you cared. I have no need for a Roomba. I went to the dentist only last week, and she said that I was brushing just fine despite my having European teeth. Samsung phones? But Amazon, you know I've been an iPhone person since Nokia lost its sense of, well, everything -- don't you?

And Levi's cutoff shorts? You flatter me, Amazon. Of course, I'm proud of my former soccer player's hamstrings and glutes, but you really want to put me in cutoff Levi's?

I scrolled down, believing that Amazon was merely being modest. Surely there'd be a special section of items specifically recommended just for me. And curated, as they say, these days, by machines that follow me around and know my complete innards.

As I scrolled toward the recommendations, Amazon shouted: "Don't Miss This Deal." Naturally, I stopped. What deal could this be? Why it was for a "L.O.L. Surprise! Movie Bigger Surprise includes O.M.G. Fashion Doll."

Surprise! I have no idea what this is. In that order, a painstaking examination of those words only tells me that this is a doll. Of some sort.

O.M.G, Amazon.

I'm special. So special.

Finally, though, the specific personal recommendations.

Amazon teased me with golf clubs. Alright, I play golf, but I recently bought some clubs. On Amazon. Why would I need more?

Next on the carousel of joy, Amazon suggested a FireTV stick and a surge protector, two pieces of technology I haven't ever craved.

The next recommendation was: "Color Wow Dream Coat Supernatural Spray -- Multi-award-winning anti-frizz spray keeps hair frizz-free for days no matter the weather with moisture-repellent anti-humidity technology; glass hair results."

At this, my heart began to harden like a Jeff Bezos bicep.

Amazon, we've been together for years. More than a decade. And no one ever told you that I don't actually have hair? What sort of intelligent snooping technology are you using? What IQ does it have?

This was like going on a first date, and your prospective lover peppers you with questions they'd prepared in advance without actually reading your dating profile.

Oh no, Amazon. You don't know me at all.

Amazon wasn't done.

Next on the personalized carousel came shaving products. Female and male. Is Amazon really in so much doubt about who or what I am? Or could its AI be tossing sales spaghetti up against the wall and hoping some of it sticks for an unaccountable reason?

You see, next came "NOCO Boost Plus GB40 1000A 12V UltraSafe Lithium Jump Starter Box, Car Battery Booster Pack, Portable Power Bank Charger, and Jumper Cables For Up To 6-Liter Gasoline and 3-Liter Diesel Engines."

And all this because I once bought a tire pressure gauge on Amazon? This is the most unimaginative, unaware snooping-based recommendation technology I've ever witnessed.

It knows very little. I fear it knows practically nothing.

As my evidence, may I point to the last four recommendations: The Elemis pro-collagen cleansing balm, a Wilson tennis racket, an Amazon sleep aid and Camco RV parts and accessories.

This was like watching a penalty shootout performed by giraffes. This was like watching an elephant climbing a flagpole. This was worse than Netflix's recommendation engine.

I don't use a cleansing balm, I don't play tennis, I sleep quite well, thank you, and I don't own an RV.

My Prime Day experience, then, was quite uplifting.

Perhaps tech companies don't know quite as much about us as we fear. Perhaps their machines are so linear that they really are like rudimentary nerds, entirely unaware of even the basic nuances of the human soul.

Perhaps there is hope, after all.

And no, I didn't buy anything on Prime Day. Well, apart from a couple of books.

But Amazon didn't recommend those.

Editorial standards

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