Back in December, I bought an Echo Dot. One of the new Internet of Things gadgets that promises to be a personal assistant. Kind of like a butler. Or maybe more of 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 in the directions that I could order things from Amazon using my voice and it would be delivered right to my home! Imagine my excitement! I had seen the 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!

Echo Dot
The Space Age Echo Dot

I knew I was getting low on laundry detergent, so I figured I would order some. Detergent admittedly 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! (As an aside, I wonder how many gun enthusiasts order delivery to their home just so they can 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 that the drone might never come. Disappointed, I checked my mailbox and there was a slip telling me my package had arrived at the local post office and I could pick it up there. This 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 expereince wasn’t seeming so magical after all.

I picked up the package at my local post office, which is in a corner of a local drugstore. A drugstore which, ironically, sells… wait for it… laundry detergent. The package was a huge cardboard box, big enough to fit 2 bottles of detergent. Maybe I got a bonus for my first order? Maybe my order was processed twice?

Excess packaging.
Too much packaging!

When I got home, I opened up 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. The Tide bottle had been placed inside a thick plastic bag to contain potential leaks!

Now rather than being impressed with space-age delivery, I was left concerned about the billions of Amazon “home deliveries” and the cumulation of excess packaging and carbon associated with each one. This was not at all what I had envisioned.

All in all, I used my space-age George Jetson internet device and not only did I not get a drone visit, but I also had to drive twice as far to get detergent than I normally would.

More packaging waste.

And I had to wait 2 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 my lights and coffeemaker on. But as far as ordering stuff for home delivery, it is straight out of the Flintsones.