For those who find shopping too burdensome, Amazon is rolling out a Dash Button that nearly automates the whole process.
Each Dash Button is tied to a specific household brand, such as Huggies diapers, Bounty paper towels, or Tide detergent. Stick a Tide-branded button on your washing machine, for instance, and it’ll automatically order more detergent through Amazon when you press it. Hook a Gillette Fusion button onto your bathroom cabinet, and you can press to order more razor blades. The buttons are battery-powered and connect to Wi-Fi to place orders.
This might sound like a nightmare for families with mischievous children, but Amazon has put a couple countermeasures in place: The Dash button will only place one order until it’s delivered unless you tell it otherwise, and each order sends an email alert so you can quickly cancel if necessary.
The Dash Button will be free to Amazon Prime subscribers, but on an invite-only basis. Yahoo News reports that Amazon will select invitees based on ordering history, and they’ll be able to choose three buttons at a time.
Beyond the button itself, Amazon is also opening up its auto-ordering system—called Dash Replenishment Service—to connected-device makers. Early partners include Brother, whose connectors can order more ink when it runs low, and Brita, which sells a connected water filter that measures water consumption and orders replacement filters as needed. These services will become available this fall.
Why this matters: The idea of helping replenish essential goods has some promise—especially for things like printer ink that you might not notice during actual use—but it’s also ripe for mockery as a solution to an invented problem. Already some folks on Twitter are wondering if it’s an April Fools prank. (It’s not.)
All jokes aside, there is a downside here: Convenient as it may seem, Dash also serves to lock customers into specific brands at a single retailer, raising barriers to shopping around for better deals and superior products. Automation can be a good thing, but not if it means giving up all control in exchange.