CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide
Gadgets

I nearly strangled my Amazon Echo on Prime Day

I wanted a dome surveillance camera. Alexa thought I said "dumb surveillance camera." An attempt at voice-shopping on Prime Day goes very, very wrong.

Hey Alexa, go sit in a corner and think about what you've done.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

Alexa and I had a little quarrel Tuesday night. It wasn't our usual tiff where I ask her to turn off an alarm and she ignores me and then we both laugh about it later. Tuesday's record-breaking Prime Day shopping holiday included an extra bonus for Amazon Echo voice assistant owners. You could get an extra $10 off your first $20 voice purchase made through your Alexa device.

I'm not the kind of person to go nuts for shopping holidays, but I was interested in getting a home security camera that would let me check in on my CNET test cats when I'm out. The Amcrest IP2M-841 1080p dome surveillance camera popped up with a Prime Day discount that brought it in around $78. Take another $10 off that and I felt good about the purchase. Alexa, however, didn't agree.

I don't want to know how much time I wasted trying to get my Echo to find the camera, which is listed as a "#1 best seller" in the camera and photo department. I tried every combination of the product description I could think of, but her results were always for other cameras. Most often, she just said she couldn't order whatever she thought I was saying. She then automatically put it on my Alexa app-shopping list as a consolation prize.

Here's a partial glimpse at what my shopping list looks like Wednesday morning:

Wifi security camera black
Amcrest i. p. to m. security camera
wifi dome surveillance
Amcrest indoor don't surveillance camera
Amcrest dumb surveillance camera
Amcrest ip to him surveillance camera
Echo crest eight four one security camera
Amcrest ten eighty p wi fi security camera
milk

There are many more where that came from. Despite the camera being a best-seller and Prime Day deal, Echo couldn't find it. Just as I was about to sink into shopping despair, Alexa found the Amcrest HDSeries 720p IPM-721S dome camera based on a voice request for "wifi ip security camera." It wasn't the one I wanted, but I ordered it anyway because the Echo had worn me down. Anyway, it was similar enough.

The concept of shopping with your voice is intriguing, but the reality can be extremely frustrating. Echo already has plenty of limitations when it comes to voice ordering. You can't order apparel, shoes, jewelry, add-on items or Prime Pantry products. It's much quicker to just go online and stab the one-click order button in a browser instead of engaging in verbal gymnastics trying to find the right item.

I may still be feeling a little huffy this morning over the shopping fiasco, but Alexa seems just as chipper as usual. She already told me about the weather (hot), set my gardening timers (thanks) and told me when the next Cubs game is happening (Go, Cubbies). I still like my Echo, I'm just planning to leave her behind the next time I need to do some shopping.