What have Amazon's drones done for you lately?

Reexamining Jeff Bezos' customer service fascination in the face of a looming army of delivery drones.
Reexamining Jeff Bezos' customer service fascination in the face of a looming army of delivery drones.

At Amazon, the customer always, always, always comes first. Getting people stuff fast and friction-free is what they're all about.

They are the company designed for the society with Attention Deficit Disorder, the short attention span, where the "Me" Generation meets the "I Want it Now" cadre. Point, click, consume.

It was revealed recently that Amazon has a secret R&D lab where it is experimenting with a new generation of drones that can bring your order directly to your door — no delivery people, no highways, just swarms of high-tech mechanical bugs filling the air to cater to your every whim.

And you thought one virtue of life in Seattle was no mosquitoes.

But Jeff Bezos wants to focus on customer satisfaction. It matters not that his drone air force would send clouds of noisy, intrusive, unmanned helicopters through the skies so that you can have that DVD  of "Game of Thrones" you really need right now.

I imagine squadrons with all the charm of flying electric lawnmowers or jet skis whizzing along at low altitude to plop a package right at your doorstep. Forget what the rest of us want. The swarms will make Amazon's customers happy.

The rest of us, we can just enjoy the noise. And the view. And occasional slicing of limbs caused by rapidly rotating blades showing up unexpectedly at your mailbox.

But Amazon needs to push the dronevelope further.

Bezos has said, "The best customer service is if the customer doesn't need to call you, doesn't need to talk to you. It just works." (That used to be called magical thinking.)

Pointing and clicking is so labor intensive. Can't Amazon please develop mind-reading software? Or at least link into the NSA database so it can learn our every whim without us having to lift a finger to flick on an app?

For example, lots of people have had new Weber grills delivered by Amazon recently. It's summer, salmon season and we've been having some hot weather. There's just one problem: Barbeque cravings wait for no delivery man.

It's all worth it to get the grill you ordered yesterday today. Or maybe soon, same-day service. Or same-hour. Or minute. Or before-you-even-thought-about-it.

For another thing, the barbecue grills my acquaintances purchased have required assembly. If you want to separate Amazon from, say IKEA, best to build a drone big enough to drop an assembled grill on a deck.

But why stop at that? Why not deliver a barbecue that's already fired-up? One where the coals are not just lit but already white-hot and ready for that slab of steak or salmon — or the dreaded over-sized zucchini your neighbor will undoubtedly bring from their local P-Patch.

In fact, why not deliver the food to order already cooking on the grill? Just swing a drone over the Copper River or Black Angus country and whisk that King or slab of beef to a hungry market.

Mr. Bezos, I want my rib-eye steak medium rare and marinated in Pickapeppa sauce, sent by Drone Prime with a six pack of Rainier. And non-GMO potato chips. And a recyclable garbage sack for the zucchini would be nice. And maybe some lightly-singed Tofu Pups for the family vegans. But I'm sure you knew that would be my order already, because I just thought of it.

Anyone can put together a flock of drones, but can Amazon really deliver what we want, when we want it, cooked the way we want it? If not, they're slacking.

Amazon's assuming its customers like to cook, clean, and host hungry friends. It's assuming we're willing to put up with having to lift a barbecue fork to poke a flank of something we're likely to char beyond recognition.  Not so. Amazon's complete Summer Barbecue Drone Service would change the world.

If Amazon really cared about us customers, it'd solve all our grill problems, including the ones that extend beyond the coals or propane tanks of the mighty Weber.

Amazon, you are not even close to getting this right yet. Hone in, focus, work harder to break down the barrier between instant and gratification.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.