Digital home devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home play music, make purchases, and in some cases set your lighting and door locks with just the command of your voice.
But some people who have purchased one claim that can be a problem.
Barb Schiller of Milford, Ohio, bought a $179 Amazon Echo on sale over the holidays, and loves it ....for the most part.
"Alexa," as Amazon calls the digital assistant inside the Echo, is like her personal butler.
"Alexa, play some soft music," she told the small cylinder sitting on her bookcase.
"Here's a station playing soft music," her Echo responded, in a soothing voice.
But it's sometimes too helpful, Schiller now says. She discovered the device can order things from Amazon with almost no effort, sometimes things you don't want.
Hears What is on TV
It happened last week. She was watching WCPO 9 On Your Side's Noon news, listening to Julie O'Neill.
Up came a story about one family's Echo ordering an expensive dollhouse when a young child asked Alexa for one.
The family, it turns out, had not set any safeguards on the unit, so the sale went through as if they had made a "one click" Amazon Prime purchase. The dollhouse showed up on their doorstep a few days later.
News Report Triggers Purchase
But Schiller can't believe what happened next: After hearing the report on the TV, her Alexa started ordering a dollhouse too.
"The TV was loud enough to where my Echo picked it up and was ready to order a dollhouse," she said.
"They actually went through the exact words the little girl said," Schiller said. "And when that happened, the TV was loud enough my Echo picked it up and the TV was ready to order a dollhouse!"
Luckily she yelled out "Cancel," to stop the order.
And she says it is a good thing she didn't have any kids at home at the time.
"All they probably had to say was 'yes,' and it would be in the mail." Schiller said.
How to Protect Yourself
Turns out there is a simple solution to your Echo device ordering something when someone says "Alexa I'd like something."
She discovered all you have to do is add an ordering password, to prevent a pricey item from showing up on your doorstep.
"Create in a code definitely, and don't let your kids have it. That's really the bottom line," Schiller said.
With a password, you have to confirm each order before it goes through. There's no chance of a 3-year-old ordering a $150 dollhouse, or anything else, so you don't waste your money.
“Don't Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”). The information included in this article was obtained independently by Scripps reporters. While purchases from links inserted in this article may result in a commission for Scripps, no Scripps reporter benefited from that commission.
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
Sign up for John's free Newsletter by clicking here
You can save on local dining, tickets and attractions with WCPO Insider. Get access to a Digital Premium Subscription of the Washington Post and original storytelling by our award-winning journalists.