More Flintstones than Jetsons

I bought an Echo Dot. A new Internet of Things gadget that promises to be a personal assistant. It is kind of like a genie because it can do magical things, just like Barbara Eden could do in I Dream of Jeannie!

I plugged my new-fangled gadget in and tried talking to it. “Alexa, what is the weather like?” “Alexa, what is the news?” “Alexa, give me the score of the Green Bay Packers’ game.” It worked beautifully! Although the Packers’ score was pretty disappointing.

Then I read the directions. I could order things from Amazon using my voice, and it would be delivered right to my home! Imagine my excitement! I’d seen TV ads where an Amazon drone delivered a package to someone’s front door. That is pretty cool, and I wanted a drone to come to my house. I had to give it a try.

I ordered laundry detergent. Detergent isn’t an exciting choice for your first Jetson-age experience, but I wanted to be practical. I also wanted to see how big the drone would need to be to carry a large, heavy bottle of Tide! (I wonder how often gun enthusiasts place orders and shoot the drones out of the sky).

“Alexa, order laundry detergent,” I said, and Alexa recommended my favourite brand and told me the price. “Should I order it?” said the friendly person who lives inside my new magical device. “Yes!” I answered excitedly and went out to my porch to scan the skies for the arrival of the drone.

A few days later, it seemed the drone might never come. Disappointed, I checked my mailbox and discovered a slip telling me I could pick my parcel up at the post office. This news meant 1) No drone, and 2) I had to drive 10 minutes to the “local” post office and get my package myself. And that drive takes me 5 minutes past the grocery store where I could have bought the laundry detergent as I usually do. This experience wasn’t seeming so magical after all.

I picked up the package at my local post office, which is a counter in the corner of a local drugstore. Ironically, a drugstore that sells… wait for it… laundry detergent.

The package was a huge cardboard box, big enough to fit two detergent bottles. Maybe I got a bonus for my first order? Maybe my order was processed twice? So exciting!

When I got home, I opened the big box and was surprised to see only one bottle of detergent and a lot of packing paper filling up the extra space. Not very efficient, Amazon!

Worse, when I took the paper and the bottle out of the box, there was yet more packaging. Amazon had placed the bottle inside a thick plastic bag to contain potential leaks!

Now, rather than being impressed with space-age delivery, I was left unimpressed, thinking about the billions of Amazon “home deliveries” and the accumulation of excess packaging and carbon associated with each one. George Jetson wept!

All in all, I used my space-age internet device and not only did I not get a drone visit, but I also had to drive twice as far to get detergent as I normally would. I also had to wait two extra days and then recycle a bunch of packaging that I would not have had to deal with if I had just picked up detergent on my next trip for groceries like I normally would.

My Echo Dot still does some Jetsons-age stuff, like automatically turning on my lights and coffeemaker. But as far as home delivery goes, it is straight out of the Flintstones.