Recently, after a particularly horrible football betting loss (Arizona, Green Bay, Oh God No), I beat the living hell out of my rice cooker. So I went to Amazon and spent several minutes browsing my new purchase options.
About a week and a half later, I get an email from Amazon. In it they asked: “Are you looking for something in our Small Appliances department? If so, you might be interested in these items.”
Every one of “these items” was a rice cooker.
My first reaction (based partly on an old Woody Allen joke) was to nervously wonder how the folks at Amazon knew I was the guy who killed the rice cooker. Of course I know they merely tracked me as I perused hundreds of models and then followed up with a related email.
As an investor, if part of a start-up pitch is that the team can perform this kind of tracking and make eventual purchases more likely, I’m completely fired up. But when Amazon was so specific and overt about their surveillance, my privacy felt invaded. I also wondered if I’d get a follow-up email from a pay per minute porn site saying, “Are you really going to blow that kind of money on a rice cooker?”
There’s no logic to my reaction, but Amazon’s email made me feel violated and dirty. So I decided to score my new rice cooker offline. Way offline.
I had a guy on a donkey retrieve several unmarked bills that had been placed in the glove box of an abandoned car in the parking lot adjacent to my NFL-betting offshore bank in Isle of Man. Under the veil of darkness, he (along with a couple of extras from The Hurt Locker) handed those bills to a former Navy Seals Blackwater type who sent it to Bay Area shores via a mini-submarine, a hover craft and for the last few kilometers, a remote control dolphin. From there, it was delivered to a stretch of dirt under a rock in my garden by a guy on a Segway (our neighborhood’s CIA drone was booked). After gearing up in my false beard, trench coat, and eye-patch, I fake-limped a few blocks to my local Five and Dime where I used these untraceable dollars to score the store’s one and only rice cooker.
Now I’m sitting at my desk typing away next to a big, piping hot bowl of steamed rice and the suckers at Amazon don’t know a thing about it.