By Samuel Gibbs. Updated November 08, 2016.
The internet of shopping is finally here: magic-like buttons that when pressed have goods delivered to your door, without any need to log on to a website or get out your credit card. The branded Dash button’s are Amazon’s latest offering to make it easier to shop, so I bought a load of them to find out whether it’s the retail revolution we didn’t even know we were looking for.
There is no Dash button for ordering Dash buttons, so I looked though the 40 or so available and found eight for things I would normally buy. They’re £5 each, so I spent £40 for this convenience, but with the promise £5 would be taken off the first purchase made with each button making them free in the long run.
A box of boxes turned up the next day. Each Dash button comes in a small cardboard box. Unpacking them and setting them up was straightforward if a little tedious. For each one you have to do a little song and dance with the Amazon app.
Select the option to set up a new Dash, tell it the password to your Wi-Fi network, select the product and quantity and then hit save. The delivery and payment information is pulled from your Amazon one-click order settings; there’s no way to set per-item delivery locations.
It doesn’t take too long to set one up, but doing eight in one go got old really fast. Once activated though, that’s you done. In future all you have to do is hit the button -- although that proved to be too easy.
Thankfully when you have pushed the button you get until evening that day to cancel the order. When you’ve made an order a notification pops up from the Amazon app on the device you set up the Dash buttons with, but you can and probably should activate that notification on every device you own.
The first time the notification saved my bacon was when I installed the Dash buttons. They come with a sticky strip on the back and a small black hanging bracket that you can attach to a hook or similar. I chose to stick them in place out the way, next to where I’d normally store whatever it was. In the bathroom cabinet for toothbrush heads and Listerine, under the sink for bin bags, cleaning fluid, that kind of thing.
By the time I’d managed to stick them in place I’d already ordered a set of new toothbrush heads by accident, and very nearly some toilet roll and washing tablets, none of which I needed. A couple of taps in the app and the order was cancelled.
I felt good about the installation. They were stuck out the way, inconspicuous and convenient and everything was fine. That was, until they started ordering stuff on their own. It turns out that the adhesive on the back of the Dash buttons doesn’t like sticking to unpainted MDF surfaces within cupboards.
The one I had stuck next to the stocks of shower gel, moisturizer and other bits fell off almost immediately within the cupboard, landing as it fell to the shelf surface below on an upstanding bottle of nail varnish ordering some foundation in the process. The first I knew of it was an order notification.
Presuming it was my fault I simply stuck it back in place with a bit more gusto, which lasted for about an hour before another ping and another tube of foundation to be cancelled. This was starting to get tedious.
The Rimmel button was just the start of a trend. Over the next few days all but two of the buttons dropped off various metal, paint and wooden surfaces, some ordering products, others just making a nasty clang in the middle of the night and waking me up.
In the end I took the nuclear option and stripped the adhesive gel off the back of the Dash buttons, which doesn’t take long if you pull hard enough, and replaced them with poster mounting strips, which did the trick.
Once finally, safely attached to the walls it was a couple of weeks before I actually pushed any of the buttons on purpose. Then the toilet roll and mouthwash began to run out, so it was finally time to put them into action.
Pressing the button was simple. Getting the delivery, however, was not. The trouble is that when setting up the toilet roll button the only option was for an order of 45 rolls. Normally I’d buy eight at a time; our family doesn’t go through toilet paper that quickly.
In order to receive a package the size of 45 rolls I had to order it the day before I knew I would be at home to receive it. So I got up on Friday morning, hit both the Andrex and Listerine buttons and gleefully waited for them arrive on Saturday, my very first internet of things purchases.
That’s when the second round of trouble started. When I hit the button we were down to three rolls. But while the 1L of mouthwash arrived on Saturday as expected -- in a big box, of course -- the toilet roll did not. By Sunday morning with two toilet rolls left, the order was still “preparing for dispatch” so I hit cancel, consoling myself that at least Tesco would provide.
Unfortunately Amazon said I couldn’t cancel because it was already on its way, but on Monday it was still “dispatching”, so I tried cancelling again, to no avail. By Monday evening we were already a good chunk into our last toilet roll, with visions of having to resort to kitchen roll or yesterday’s Guardian. To make matters worse I was off on holiday on Wednesday and was starting to have visions of 45 toilet rolls stuck outside my front door like a giant advert to burglars.
Thankfully it arrived sometime on Tuesday. I came home to find it wedged behind a bin -- luckily it didn’t rain -- meaning we’ll be stocked until February at least. It was not the best first order experience. Subsequent orders for toothbrush heads, Dettol, dishwasher tablets were less painful, primarily because I got most of them delivered when one of the family was home for some other reason. But it certainly wasn’t a case of simply hit it and forget it.
You can get deliveries sent to an Amazon locker if there are any within striking distance, but not everything can fit in one - there’s no way the toilet rolls would have. And by the time you’ve gone out to a locker to pick up some Listerine you might just as well have gone to the supermarket.
Washing tablets, like toilet roll, presented a scale problem. While the tablets arrived on time, they arrived in serious quantity: 180 tabs across six boxes, which at a rate of about one or two a week, is going to last me at least 18 months and feels like I’ve turned my house into a warehouse full of them. The Rimmel button, for a product that would fit through the letter box, has still never been intentionally pressed.
Amazon pitched the Dash buttons as a way of avoiding the need to fill up your house with large stocks of the boring things in life, but when the order quantities are vast, the next day delivery fails or you simply don’t have someone there everyday to receive deliveries, they’re more trouble than they’re worth.
Perhaps if you’re part of the metropolitan elite and your serviced apartment comes with a concierge, or you work from home or someone is always in, the brain-free push of the Dash button is a great idea. But the convenience of pushing a button is outweighed by the hassle for me.
I’ll be keeping some of them for smaller items -- they are great for toothbrush heads and bin liners -- and getting them delivered to work but the Andrex button and any others for heavy goods are going: it’s just easier to go to a supermarket and pick them up, or order them in a big weekly online grocery shop.
The novelty of Amazon dash buttons wore off even faster than the adhesive backing.