I was afraid Amazon was always stalking me. The whole truth really hurts


I was primed. Amazon wasn’t.

(A screenshot of an Amazon ad.)

Chris Matyszczyk / Screenshot

I braced myself.

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

I am a human. I am a proponent of persuasion. So you’d think Amazon Prime Day would reveal all my inherent weaknesses in one desperate attempt at unlimited spending.

I’m assuming, you see, all the major web brands are following me. 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 really sticking to some gadget.

That’s why on Prime Day, I expected to open the Amazon homepage 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 things it needs to shift. I’m a prime target for things.

You know me, Amazon. You really know me.

I squinted carefully.

I was sure Amazon would show me a whole bunch of coveted things that were suddenly 20% off, or maybe 30. If they were 50% off, they’d be in my cart in seconds.

But when I opened my eyes a little wider, I felt strange.

Amazon’s homepage suggested an iRobot Roomba, an Oral-B electric toothbrush, Samsung phones and, oh, Levi’s shorts.

Dear Amazon, I thought you cared. I don’t need Roomba. I only went to the dentist last week and she said I brush fine even though I have European teeth. Samsung phones? But Amazon, you know I’ve been an iPhone person ever since Nokia lost its sense of, well, everything – right?

And Levi’s cropped pants? You flatter me, Amazon. Sure, I’m proud of my former soccer player’s hamstrings and glutes, but do you really want to put me in the cut-off Levi’s?

I scrolled down, believing Amazon was only modest. There would definitely be a special section of items recommended especially for me. And composed today, as they say, by machines that follow me and know all my guts.

As I scrolled down to the recommendations, Amazon yelled, “Don’t miss out on this deal.” Of course I stopped. What appointment could this be? Why it was for a “LOL Surprise! Movie Bigger Surprise contains OMG Fashion Doll.”

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

OMG, Amazon.

I am special. Very special.

Finally, however, the specific personal recommendations.

Amazon teased me about golf clubs. Okay, I play golf, but I recently bought clubs. On Amazon. Why would I need more?

Then on the carousel of joy, Amazon suggested a FireTV stick and surge protector, two pieces of technology I’ve never craved.

The next recommendation was: “Color Wow Dream Coat Supernatural Spray – Multi-award winning anti-frizz spray keeps hair frizz-free for days whatever the weather with moisture-repellent anti-humidity technology; glass hair results.”

This made my heart harden like a Jeff Bezos biceps.

Amazon, we’ve been together for years. Over a decade. And nobody ever told you that I actually don’t have hair? What kind of intelligent sniffing technology do you use? What IQ does it have?

This was like going on a first date, and your future lover teases you with questions they prepared ahead of time without actually reading your dating profile.

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

Amazon wasn’t done yet.

Next came the personalized carousel shaving products. Feminine and masculine. Is Amazon really doubting who or what I am? Or could his AI throw sales spaghetti against the wall and hope some of it sticks for some inexplicable 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 liters of petrol and 3 liters of diesel engines.”

And all this because I once bought a tire pressure gauge on Amazon? This is the most unimaginative, unconscious, snoop-based recommendation technology I’ve ever seen.

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

As proof, I may 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 climb a flagpole. This was worse than Netflix’s recommendation engine.

I don’t use a cleansing balm, I don’t play tennis, I sleep pretty well, thank you, and I don’t have a RV.

My Prime Day experience back then was quite uplifting.

Perhaps tech companies don’t know as much about us as we fear. Perhaps their machines are so linear that in reality they are like rudimentary nerds, totally oblivious to even the basic nuances of the human soul.

Perhaps there is still hope.

And no, I didn’t buy anything on Prime Day. Well, apart from a few books.

But Amazon didn’t recommend it.