Alexa, can I get a refund?
“Alexa,” the voice-activated service from Amazon, is a really cool product feature. With a simple command, it can tell your wireless devices to play music, check the weather, dim your lights or even make a purchase from the online realtor.
However, it turns out that last feature, which is automatically enabled on all Alexa-equipped devices, also works even when the speaker isn’t in the same room.
A number of TV viewers discovered this the hard way when a local broadcaster demonstrated how Alexa works during a broadcast, triggering the purchase feature on people’s computers who were watching the San Diego newscast on CW-6.
Ironically, the news feature was about a 6-year-old girl from Texas who racked up thousands of dollars in purchases, without her parents’ permission or knowledge, asking the gadget, “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?"
That request alone led to an order of a $160 KidKraft “Sparkle Mansion” and four pounds of sugar cookies, according to the network report. Not a bad haul for one enthusiastic 6-year-old.
However, when anchor Jim Patton himself complimented the girl’s ingenuity, remarking, "I love the little girl, saying 'Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,'" the spoken command triggered the Alexa service for several viewers who have the service set up in their own homes. It’s unclear how many, if any, of the purchases actually went through. “As for the number of people affected - I don't know,” Patton told the Verge. “Personally, I've seen one other email and have been told there were others, as well as calls to our news desk with similar stories.”
Regardless, it’s a good reminder to change your Alexa settings before you end up with an unwanted dollhouse. Then again, this may be just the perfect excuse to justify that questionable purchase when your significant other asks how in the world it ended up on your doorstep.