I can see two big reasons why nobody's taken this opportunity yet:
- data entry. The button simplified this in one axis, but people in this thread are listing the problems: access control, ordering more than one kind of thing, acceptability of substitutions.
- adversarial relationship. Nobody sensible is going to surrender their inventory management to a retailer, unless convenience really trumps cost. See also HP "infinite ink".
If you were willing to cover your store cupboards with cameras (!), you could track potentially track everything in and out. Maybe scan receipts as well. But this amounts to a lot of information about your home life and domestic economics, and I don't want to just turn that over to a company who'll exploit it. Perhaps what I want is "YNAB, but for food".
Edit: see this comment on "supplier-funded promotion": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19300292 ; the inherent tension of the Dash button is that it's convenience through disempowerment, it only "works" for the supplier if you buy more, or more expensive brands, than otherwise. That's what I mean by adversarial relationship.
The problem with these solutions is that they'll never be close to accurate because they don't reflect how people function. We don't keep pristine pantries with nicely organized shelves and perfect containers. We don't purchase the exact same foods consistently and without variation. And there's the unpredictable nature of life.
People's pantries are a mess from an inventory perspective and it's not necessarily because people are messy. Food stuffs come in a varying array of packages from the easily tracked (e.g. soup cans) to the difficult to quantify (e.g. potato chips). You would need a dizzying array of image and weight sensors to quantify things and even then you'd run into issues with things like rice, beans, or flour which tend to be put into custom containers.
People's eating habits, tastes, and cravings change almost on a daily basis. I might go through 8 jars of salsa in a month or spend 3 weeks two bananas a day and then not touch either of them for over a year. I might start a new diet that changes how I eat and then abandon it a month or two later. Keeping track of and automatically ordering items based on ever changing habits is impossible.
The unpredictable nature of life might result in my order of 3lbs of chocolate chips because I'm baking cookies for a school function and then not using them again for half a year or more. My mother might come visit for 2 or 3 months resulting in a routine purchase of certain foods right up until she leaves. I might have to go out of town for a few weeks and so I might stop buying perishables well ahead of my departure.
The reality is that no amount of monitoring is going to be 100% perfect and at the same time it adds mental load to the consumer because they need to remember to manage the process lest the end up with 8lbs of bananas the day after their craving ceases.
> Keeping track of and automatically ordering items based on ever changing habits is impossible.
Yes. That's why I think the system shouldn't automatically order anything, but provide you with stock level, usage information, and "hints".
Buying something on Amazon is easy. If I know what I want, and all my info is stored on Amazon, it takes 30 seconds tops. Shortening it to 10 seconds isn't worth it.
Now, if Amazon offered, say, a RFID scanner that could automatically reorder toilet paper or diapers or toothpaste if the number of units within 3 feet fell below a certain threshold... I would absolutely consider getting it. Delegating that decision completely so I never have to make it again sounds great.
Yes, I know they could still screw me over on price, so I'd check periodically to make sure they weren't ramping it up on me over the normal cost of the products. But even if they didn't, they'd still make more money by ensuring they sold the next units the instant they were needed, rather than whenever I remembered to reorder. Sometimes that's too late -- say, when there's a couple sheets on the last toilet paper roll and I have a near-crisis that involves crab-walking with pants down to the paper towels. Accumulated over a lifetime, those extra early days or weeks will really add up.
Both of those are so persistent because they are "free at the point of use". This also means they're free of the thought burden of financial decision-making.
My opinion is that the limiting factor isn't so much time per se as "executive function" - how much decision making does someone have to do, and how wary they have to be during the process. And as per the German discussion elsewhere in the thread, how much autonomy is it appropriate to take away from the consumer in financial transactions.
So, not so much "autonomous buying system locked to dominant retailer" as "self-updating shopping list and inventory". For the majority of people who still buy groceries at retail for near future consumption who are standing in the milk aisle trying to remember whether they have enough in the fridge already. I suspect that much of the HN commentariat is too well off to worry about milk prices, but that's unusual.
Of course, the problem with making a product that's very useful at saving money for people who don't have enough is that they can't pay a lot for it.
Items that had a dash button were by their nature consumables that would be needed over and over again. What's better for Amazon? A button that you may or may not remember to push or giving you a dollar off today's order in exchange for them shipping you a new container of Tide Pods  next month with no need to think about it?
Separately: they may have also decided that voice ordering of items (via Echo) was a better or easier play than dash buttons.
1 - https://www.amazon.com/Tide-Laundry-Detergent-Spring-Meadow/...
I have used the grocery features but not the pantry management because it would require my BF also record things he used/ate and that.... is a losing battle haha.
I also started to prefer actual physical stores. I am not dependent on amazons mercy when it comes to returns. Some items I can return for free at Kohls, some items I had to pay shipping and amazon customer service could not tell me WHY. Some representatives told me they no longer work with kohls, some told me "not all items are eligible", yada yada. In other words amazon is not a good company with clear guidelines.
To be honest now that I wrote this I will probably just cancel my membership.
I went out on the weekend to find a replacement for a sink drain stopper lift rod's ball rod part (ours rotted at the end and failed) at my local hardware store. They only sold an entire assembly for $24 (plus whatever ancillary plumbing materials I don't have like putty).
The entire drain assembly would have cost me over an hours work—if I didn't make a mess of anything. The part isn't urgent. Just until we get it we have no sink drain stopper. I was able to find the single part I needed online for less than half the price of the entire assembly, it will arrive on Friday, and replacing that part will take me all of five minutes.
Now if I wanted a replacement assembly, I'd probably shop locally. The same assembly on Amazon ranged from around the same price to $100.
You really want to know what you're looking for! For what it's worth, I'd never consider a dash button, either. But the online shop still suits me for some items. Also quite looking forward to them advertising similar sink parts to me for the next few years...
- Brick-and-mortar retail store: basic necessities. Cheaper for easy-to-find items. Relatively small selection.
- Amazon: Books and other items where selection trumps price, to an extent. I can get all sorts of books on Amazon that I couldn’t at a bookstore. I wouldn’t buy a perishable good on Amazon and they likely don’t have more niche items.
- eBay: Rare or used items. Compared with Amazon, used items are a lot cheaper (compare ‘ThinkPad X220’ on both Amazon and eBay). The largest selection comes from eBay, but it is also the most variable in quality.
I noticed the following trend: 98% of my shopping is done at brick-and-mortar stores (mostly groceries). 1.5% comes from Amazon. The remaining .5% from eBay is usually just what I can’t find from Amazon.
Mine diverges a bit. Because of the hours I work and the fact that I don't have a car, Amazon is more convenient even for a lot of small items.
So for us Amazon us probably closer to 20%.
eBay is maybe 0.0005%. I'm fortunate there's a reasonably priced local dealer for used/refurb computers. One who even has been dealing in Macs for ~15 years!
Come to think of it—most of our shopping at all comes from groceries. I can't bring myself to use any of those delivery services or pre-set meal services. I like to select my vegetables and meat myself as I grew up learning how to do.
This meant some items at Costco were expensive relative to what you could find elsewhere on sale, but it also meant it was phenomenally useful to figure out what items other retails were making obscene amounts of profit on.
If your assertions are correct, then competition is unnecessary since costco or any company would have the appropriate price/quality ratios. So we should only have 1 monopoly in every industry.
What's the point of having other large warehouse retailers when Cost is going to have the right price/quality? It's just redundant and wasteful.
I also know all of their net income comes from membership fees, which means the margins for their products is likely going into essentials (I haven't heard of their organization indulging on lavish pay and parties and whatnot).
Of course, as a buyer, it is in my interest to have multiple vendors around to keep them competing. Unfortunately, I don't have the resources to go to other wholesalers also. However, technology does tend to reward the most efficient with all of the gains, so we seem to be inevitably going towards a future with fewer competitors and at most 2 or 3 businesses dominating each field. I don't know how to solve that problem, since as a buyer, I greatly benefit from the conveniences the efficiencies of scale afford me, but I know in the long term, the tables can turn and the seller can gain power over the buyer.
Basically I’d never be able to trust I was getting a fair price at the instant I pushed the button.
I use camelcamelcamel a lot and haven't seen any discrepancy between what I Amazon shows me and what camelcamelcamel alerts. Maybe I'm mostly tracking slightly higher priced items and they're less subject to change?
Price transparency seems to be a part of why they are discontinuing Dash buttons. Amazon here is recommending users swap to Alexa voice devices (and suggests many Dash users already have), which has a voice flow for checking the price before buying.
Not that Amazon is the most trustworthy company in all respects, but this announcement certainly isn't because Amazon wanting to make people avoid checking item prices.
To be honest I'd still buy one just to tinker with it and see how far I can customize it to do something else, but Amazon wouldn't benefit from it so they'd have an incentive to block people from doing so.
the main deal breaker with the current setup is that the price might shoot up unexpectedly, but this could be fixed with the ability to set a price limit when you configure the device (eg, don't spend more than $5 on a pack of paper towels).
That being said, I can see why they stop selling them. An Echo Device can do the same. But I still think nothing beats the simplicity of just pressing a button. It's seamless. I hope they keep supporting them.
I like that it was smart enough to dedupe multiple presses. I didn't like that guests were compelled to push the button. I realized it was time to kill the experiment when I had a year's supply of toiletry.
I love the way European grocery stores are set up, especially the ones I've been to in Munich, where most people stop by on their way back from work to get food just for that night's dinner and tomorrow's breakfast. Super fresh produce every day without needing to make it a multi-hour chore one day a week.
And the one place worse than gov offices are the hospitals :(
It is hilarious that we save a few minutes here and there using fancy stuff like dash buttons, only to waste all that time at the doctor's office, DMV, immigration, permits...
Is that really true? I am not American and have never been there, and I don't know, but I wouldn't have imagined things were like that. I'm interested to know.
The closest that article gets to that is "More than 40 percent of Americans say they struggle even to make ends meet each month and would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense without real hardship" but to me that's not really answering the question
Me. I order my Queal (powdered soylent) in massive quantities. I've actually got a year ordered already, which ships quarterly. Before I tried to order a month or two at a time, not only as it's easier to manage delivery, but you get good bulk discount deals.
So for anything I order a lot of, I'm already trying to make it easier than a button press, or I want something that fits into my schedule easier than taking delivery (EU, we don't really leave things on porches).
Wonder if they'd have been okay with it if you had to select the item at the pricepoint - or if whatever speaker had Alexa asking you if $2.XX is an okay price?
However the buttons also chose the product, the buyer not only does not know the price, he is not sure which exact product he's going to get at checkout.
I'd need one for milk, eggs, bread, pasta, rice, cous cous, onions, peppers, etc, etc, etc.
So currently I just have a piece of paper hanging on the back of the kitchen door, that things get added to.
I immediately think of clothes detergent, toilet paper, shampoo, cleaning supplies with dash buttons--although I move frequently so I did not buy for these instances and I wonder if many people say they would buy them for those and then do not.
But to me, they fit the perfect use case: static location inside a cupboard, there is a fixed amount sent, the demand is inelastic and not seasonal, and the product itself doesn't change much (I don't need to compare when I buy, ever). That sounds perfect to me! I don't want to waste time and energy shopping for these 8 things.
I really wonder why this is the case and I'd love to understand why it couldn't work. Perhaps it was marketed to a more innovative audience and not to the people who do laundry, wash their dishes, etc? I hope I'm not generalizing.
For a while I also used one for cat food, but that's got a regular enough consumption rate that the button was replaced by a regularly scheduled order to ensure that we'd have more just before it ran out without having to think about it.
For people who use a lot of laundry detergent, I would imagine those people would be shopping a lot anyways for everything else they use a lot of, so it wouldn't be inconvenient to manual reorder online or at the store when they're already doing a mass order, and it might be confusing to have a mix of things on auto-reorder, buttons, and manual order.
I can't remember the name but I wonder if they're impacted at all...Then again, two years is an eternity in early-stage startup time.
Having just done this with something that required an element of reliability, I can confirm that this is quite easy.
Micropython is great, but I did have some reliability issues – it's quite unfortunate that the hardware watchdog timer isn't implemented yet for the ESP8266.
In the end I switched to using the Arduino port and platformIO, and it's quite literally the simplest code that might work.
That said, the price is ridiculous, If they had made the IoT button rechargeable or have a removable battery then I wouldn't have a problem.
I am now using a couple of these to control Yeelights via Node-Red, the latency is similar to a IFTTT recipe.
So when you buy a $5 Dash button for Tide Pods™, Amazon spends $11 to make it and ship it to you, of which you pay $5, Amazon pays $2, and Procter & Gamble pays $4. Amazon and P&G both gamble they'll make up the loss on the button with profit on your extra purchases.
This explains a bunch of weird features:
* The reason Dash buttons were only available for some brands is because only some brands had agreed to pay the subsidy.
* The reason they ship with the logo sticker already in place, instead of a single item with a big sheet of stickers? Because the sticker is for the company that paid the subsidy.
* The reason non-Prime customers couldn't buy them? Because if you don't have free shipping, they think you won't press the button enough to make up their loss.
* The reason the AWS button costs more? Because nobody's subsidising it (plus the fact they charge what the market will bear, obviously)
* Why would they discontinue them? Because it turns out the gamble on extra sales doesn't pay off.
Then again, I agree that most people willing to use a Dash button are also the kind of people willing to use an Echo, save the uber privacy concious minority.
Glad people are still finding a use for it!
> Airnoise is the brainchild of California resident Chris McCann, who repurposed the same plastic Dash Button that Amazon customers use to order toilet paper and detergent.
The longer term issue, since these are being discontinued, is getting your wifi credentials into the dash button. At the moment I use the amazon app to do that, but I'd guess they'll be removing that functionality. I recall reading someone reverse engineering that process, but I'm not sure what came of it.
Subscriptions are something I've tried a couple of times but have this problems for me:
- I don't know how often I need a lot of products. I could keep a spreadsheet for 6 months and figure it out but I don't want to do that.
- It's hard to remember "do I have a subscription for this?" so I wind up ordering anyways.
I do it for a variety of vitamins that I need, so it's less of a big deal for me if I stack up a bit extra on one thing, because they're just pill-bottle sized. It's nowhere near as large as having 5 or 6 too many laundry detergent containers on hand or something.
This is still non-zero maintenance, but it's less. I don't do it for the convenience anyhow, I do it for the discounts, especially for things that I can't get locally anyhow.
Instead my dash buttons have been repurposed as a control switch for my lamp that sits across the other side of the room
It was always a pretty cool thing though. Something to remember about the start of IoT
It could be interesting if it was direct with the merchant, on a Shopify kind of level or even from bigger suppliers. All while bypassing Amazon pretty much.
The irony in this working would be wonderful.
There is also a lot of sexis found by the Stanford University study which revealed that preferences for male or female voices depend on the subject matter. Both men and women prefer a woman voice when talking about people and how things relate to each other, but prefer a male voice for bare facts about objects. Additional there is also some racism in there as some nationalities go against this preference in user tests, leading to apple to have male as the default home assistants if you are British, French, Dutch or Arabic.