Newsflash: Amazon knows everything about you. Wait, correction. Amazon THINKS they know everything about you. And in my case, they apparently think I’m an adult male who buys all of the paper products for what they must be assuming is an entire fire station. Otherwise I can’t imagine why would they suggest I need 48 rolls of paper towels and 3 cases of toilet paper every time I log in. Admittedly, I buy almost everything on Amazon.com. EVERYTHING. And YES, I account for online shopping on my state taxes every year, so get off my case tax nerds/David from my old law firm. But it’s just SO MUCH EASIER to have things shipped to me as opposed to going out in public and dealing with people. Plus, I live in an apartment complex and sometimes schlepping everything from my parking garage to my place is unmanageable. And don’t you dare suggest I take more than one trip – these arms were built for two things: hugging cats and carrying 15 bags of groceries at the same time.
I digress. Anyway, I got an email alert yesterday that my Amazon.com order had shipped and I got that sinking feeling of, “Oh no, I went online shopping after drinking a box of Cabernet AGAIN.” (You know the feeling right? No? Just me?) So, I hesitantly clicked on my order, just hoping it was something I could afford, but thankfully it was just some laundry detergent and toothpaste on autoship. Whew.
But, after I logged in, I started looking at all the additional things Amazon suggested I buy. Granted, most of it is cat food, nooks, and as previously mentioned paper towels and toilet paper (in bulk), but some of it was pretty out there, so I decided to do some research into why Amazon believed I would be interested in Dove Men’s Deodorant, an LSAT prep book, and one single mouth guard.
Apparently, Amazon uses a user’s purchase history, items in their shopping cart, items they’ve rated and liked, and what other customers have viewed and purchased to determine additional products recommended for you. According to an “Amazon spokesperson” (I’m curious if that is the actual title is on their LinkedIn profile), the mission is to “delight our customers by allowing them to serendipitously discover great products.” You guys KNOW the person that came up with that line was immediately moved to a corner office.
But then I was all, wait, I thought the whole point of serendipity is that it’s kind of accidental? Otherwise why the hell did they make that John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale flop about fate and gloves and ice cream or something? I was going to go on a tirade about the plot of this movie and how terrible it is, but fortunately that’s already been done for me here. Time well saved for you and me both.
So, Amazon spends all this money developing research on this fancy algorithm that places something I never knew I wanted in front of me, and then if all goes to plan, I see it and think, well gosh, how fortunate that I stumbled upon a Camouflage Outdoor Waterproof Speaker and Men’s Bodybuilding muscle pants today. I never realized how incomplete my life was until now. SERENDIPITY!!!
It seems kind of bizarre to me – and more than a little annoying, but it must work, since Jeff Bezos’ wealth has surged in the last two years, making him arguably the second richest man in the world. It’s not just Amazon either, if you are on social media at all you must have noticed that Facebook and Instagram are really into targeting their ads these days. Facebook is pretty open about it, in fact, for some light reading, you can find out all about their advertising here. Not surprisingly, most of the ads I see on Facebook are animal or politics related, with a hefty dose of “You won’t believe what these celebrities look like NOW!!!” click-bait articles, but if you go to your log on to Facebook and go to your preferences you can actually see what the algorithm “thinks” you are into. This is when it gets a little hit or miss because, while yes, I am into endangered species, animal welfare and nature, I am not into Fish (not fishing – just fish), Vultures, Motorcycles, or… Mesh(???). Can’t win em all Amazon! However, I have to admit they nailed it with Cat Communication and Leisure.
Instagram is no better, but their ads seems to be a little less obvious. In fact, sometimes I’ll scroll through and see a group of attractive people frolicking on the beach and my first thought is, okay, which one of these assholes didn’t invite me on vacation? Then I realize it’s an ad for a low-calorie malt liquor, which I immediately want to go purchase. Don Draper would be so proud.
I guess the only way to avoid targeting by social media or online shopping advertising algorithms is to go off the grid, but I picked the blue pill long ago, so that’s probably not an option for me now. Btw, that’s a Matrix reference for those of you who were having sex in college instead of watching sci-fi movies with the other nerds…
Speaking of, somehow the extended director’s cut of Dune just end up in my shopping cart, weird. Can’t wait to watch it in my new Men’s Bodybuilding pants. SERENDIPITY!!!