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Amazon to start just sending you stuff and hoping you’ll buy it

When they inevitably make a Social Network-style movie about the rise of Amazon to full-blown Skynet omniscience, the equivalent of that film’s infamous ‘a million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars’ will come in the closing months of 2013. Deep into a late-night development meeting, containers of Chinese food strewn across a conference table, someone will finally crack and say what no one else dares: ‘why don’t we just send people stuff they didn’t even ask for?‘ Equal parts excitement and trepidation, the others will gasp, give each other the side-eye and stutter ‘but… but how could we ever get away with that?’ And the Archimedes who cracked this eureka moment will confidently intone ‘because we’re Amazon’.

Continuing the dystopianism evident in last year’s experiments with drones, Amazon has filed a patent for what it refers to as ‘anticipatory shipping’, using shoppers’ purchase history as a means of predicting which items will sell well in which areas and stocking local delivery hubs accordingly. Not only that, in some cases it will even have items ‘speculatively shipped to a physical address’ – which, obviously, might not take if it’s something a customer doesn’t actually want, but Amazon appear willing to take that chance, going so far as to suggest that these unsolicited deliveries be used as ‘a promotional gift’ to ‘build goodwill’.

That ‘promotional gift’ might not even be something related to what you’ve previously bought, with the metrics for anticipatory shipping also taking into account wishlists, previous searches and, most frighteningly, the length of time your cursor has spent sitting on a particular item on-screen. Bet all that time you’ve spent laughing at that canvas print of Paul Ross won’t seem so funny when the neighbours see it drop from the sky to your door.


Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

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