That time Amazon tried to burn my hand off...

I have a confession to make:

I ordered something from Amazon Fresh yesterday.

Yes—I know. It’s bad.

As a Walmart man, that’s something I shouldn’t do.

But I had just gotten back from a long trip and didn’t have time to go to the store for groceries… so I put some stuff in my cart, checked out, and waited for the stuff to be delivered by 7:00AM this morning.

Everything arrived in good shape and in two insulated bags.

I opened the first one up and took out my pineapple, my bacon, and my other refrigerated goods.

The other bag was for my frozen stuff—three bags of chicken breasts.

I cracked open the freezer bag where I was greeted with a cardboard container with red text warning me about the “dry ice inside”.

OK—cool. Keeping my stuff cold. I like it.

As I grabbed my chicken to put it in the freezer, I noticed that the ground near the bag was getting a little wet.

So I walked over and looked inside.

There was a huge piece of ice in a plastic bag at the bottom.

I’ve done a couple of Fresh orders before and they commonly load up the bags with these reusable ice bags, so I assumed this was one of them. It looked like it, at least.

So I reached inside, grabbed the block of ice, and started to walk towards the sink…

When my hand reflexively threw it across the room.

“Ouch!”

My hand burned.

What the hell just happened…

I walked over to the broken slab of ice (which was now steaming) and bent down to look at the packaging.

In crinkly letters it read: “Warning! Dry ice.”

You’ve gotta be kidding me…

So I went over to the sink, ran some hot water over my fingers for a little, and thought about what had just happened.

Yes—I was dumb and a bit too hasty. Yes—I should have inspected the package a bit more before grabbing it.

But I also fell prey to one of the most common design sins: the switcheroo.

Here’s how it works.

You condition someone to get used to something. It could be a button in an app, a certain style of packaging, a knob in a car… you name it.

Then, after your customers have gotten used to it, and have built habits around that element, you change it without warning.

They go on autopilot mode, doing what they’ve always done, only to be met with a burning hand (or another unpleasant surprise).

To understand why this happens, you have to realize that our conscious minds are made to tune into novelty. The first time you open an app or purchase a certain product, you pay close attention to everything you see. You scan the screen, looking for text or instructions. You spend a little bit of time trying to figure out where you should tap and how you can navigate the thing.

You’re paying attention because you have to. You don’t yet know how to do what you want to do.

But, after some conscious exploration, you get the hang of things. You know where you need to click in order to order a cab, take a photo, etc.

Awesome—you just formed a procedural memory.

In the future, when you need to do that thing, you’ll be able to quickly open the app and tap your way to success—all in a, more or less, subconscious manner.

However, this only works if the environment (in this case the design of the app) stays the same. Change a button and everything falls apart. Why? Because the procedure will be broken. You'll semi-consciously tap the usual location of button A, realize that nothing has happened... and *zap*. You'll be jolted out of your routine.

The conscious mind will whir back into action--coming in to save the day (by figuring out what to do now that the old procedure no longer works).

That’s the state I found myself in after I flung the ice across the room. I stood in the kitchen wondering what in the world had just happened.

I was confused… and by “I” I mean my conscious mind. (Sometimes he takes a few seconds to get up to speed)

So I stood there looking at the damage... trying to figure out what had gone wrong and what I could do to remedy the situation.

*Click, whir*

Eureka! My conscious mind came to a solution: cancel Amazon Fresh.

So I did.

-Jason

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Jason Hreha