What’s in the Box?!: Amazon is Sending (Potentially) Creepy Free Samples to You

Posted on January 9, 2019

When you think of intrusiveness in technology, what companies come to mind? Maybe Apple, as wearable technology has become more ubiquitous. Maybe Facebook, who seems to have a new privacy scandal every week.

A name that doesn’t come up as often though, which puzzles me greatly, is Amazon. We’ve discussed before how Alexa may hear more than you think, and we’ve spoken about their ability to A/B test products to curate a store where you’ll buy, but a new samples tactic the company is using has the potential to come across as downright creepy. 

Free samples are a great sales tool. They provide a test of a product before purchase and get more hands-on experiences for potential customers. Amazon wants in on this phenomenon. The problem? Customers were apparently automatically opted into the samples program without the free samples being requested. These are samples Amazon thinks you might like. By analyzing customer habits and purchases, Amazon is attempting to curate your experience further by sending you things you didn’t know you wanted.

This is not to discourage your e-commerce store from using free samples as a tactic. They work. But you have to make sure your customers are aware that the samples are coming. I’m not sure I can conjure up many things much creepier than an unexpected mystery package showing up at my door. The movie Se7en trained me out of wanting to know what was in boxes. The entire project feels very unlike Amazon. The idea that customers are having to opt out of a service they didn’t know existed is a mind-boggling policy for the company.

Maybe the program will be a roaring success, and I’ll be happy to fess up to my false prediction. The balance between innovation and intrusion is increasingly blurred, so maybe people are more receptive than I think. 

But maybe, just maybe, people will find it as horrifying as I do that Amazon wants to do all the thinking for you.