Saturday, April 18, 2015

One Trick Button

Let's say you are a coffee drinker. If you're like most addicts, it's the stuff that gets you going and keeps you going. And that means you always want to have a supply of Joe at the ready; perish the morning you come down and find barely a scoop remaining in the tin. Now, if you're the look-ahead type, that wouldn't happen because the last time you made a batch of brew you noticed you were getting low. And so you put it on your shopping list to pick up some on your next grocery run.

But then you had an early morning meeting, and the traffic on the way to the store was crazy, and you had to race to get your kid, and and and. So you put it off. Since you knew you had at least another morning or two in the can (so to speak), you didn't go out of your way. But then the weekend came, and man, how you looked forward to brewing a pot and curling up with the Times. Only when you opened up the can there was barely any left. Seems your better half made a pot or two, and neglected to mention it. That's not a happy face you're wearing.

When you come right down to it, you're not having a coffee shortage problem, you're having a coffee procurement problem. And to solve it (other than cursing loudly, then chasing the offender into the car and screaming at him to go the store and get more Maxwell House, because after all, the offender is most likely to be a "him"), you can now turn to the leader in "I want it now, I gotta have it now" technology. Forgot Apple and its watch. Amazon has got the button.

It's called the Dash Button. It's a little branded button, a bit smaller than a contact lens case. It comes either with a hook to hang it on your keychain, or an adhesive back that lets you affix to it to an appropriate place. It integrates with your home Wi-Fi system, and talks to your smart phone. Then when you press it, it does one thing and one thing only: orders a single product straight to your door.

Available for Amazon Prime members now, with wider rollout expected, each button is mated to a product, and has that product's logo on it. There are buttons for Clorox wipes and Tide detergent, for Kraft Mac & Cheese and Huggies diapers. Currently, about 130 items are available. So whether it's Larabar Uber Cherry Cobbler, Gluten Free bars or Gillette Fusion razor blades, all you have to do is press. The order is transmitted to Amazon HQ, and probably on your doorstep before you can say "Honey, we're running out of cat food."  

They are even taking it one step further. Starting this fall, for select products, you won't need to add the button or even press it. Certain devices are being designed to self-monitor your usage, ordering for you when the time is right. Called Dash Replenishment Service, you will find it in a Brita water pitcher, as well as the Quirky self-grinding coffee maker and a new model of Brother printer. In each case, when the time is right, the appliance will talk to your phone and automatically place an order for filters or beans or ink as needed. Then all you need to do is wait for the Amazon drone to drop it off on your front porch.

Do you really need this? You probably already have Amazon bookmarked, and the account info is likely memorized in your phone. But you still have to call it up, and boy, what a pain that is. It calls to mind Louis CK in his concert film "Hilarious." There he coined the term "white people problems" for the headaches that affect Americans in the middle to upper class. As he describes it, "This is when your life is so amazing, that you make up stuff to be upset about: ‘Why do I have to choose a language on the ATM machine? That's crap, I shouldn't have to do that!'" (Mind you, if you know Louis CK's work, you know I cleaned that up. A lot.) Or as Louie says it best, everything is amazing, and nobody's happy.


Marc Wollin of Bedford orders more from Amazon then he would like to admit. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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