Podcast Feedback: Be Careful What You Ask For

I had one of those experiences yesterday that seem so common these days: the arrival of a mystery Amazon package. You know the kind — you get a shipping notice from UPS with the faux-excited “Your package is arriving today!” message, but you’re sure you haven’t ordered anything in a while. You check your Amazon order history, find nothing pending, and puzzle over who could be sending you a package. What could it be? A gift from a secret admirer, perhaps?

And so it was with me as I waited for the UPS driver to make her rounds of our neighborhood and drop the package off on our front steps. Surprised at its size, I hurriedly brought it inside, zipped open the box, and pulled away the packing to reveal…

Wheat Thins and mayonnaise?

Stick with me, I swear this has a Hackaday angle.

I was perplexed, to say the least. Flummoxed, even. There was no information in the package or on the shipping label to indicate who sent it, or more importantly, why. It’s certainly not something I’d order from Amazon; I try to avoid snack crackers and chips, and I’m not a big fan of that kind of sandwich spread. And even if I would buy such things, I certainly wouldn’t have ordered them from Amazon — I find their prices on food and household goods egregiously high. And besides, nothing like this was in my order history.

I posted the picture on the family Discord; maybe my wife or one of the kids got a weird case of the munchies? No dice, although my daughter offered that “God is telling you something.” What exactly the divine message would be, or why He chose Amazon as His messenger, she didn’t speculate. But the idea that it was a message kind of triggered something in the back of my head. Wheat Thins and mayo. This means something…

The day ended without any satisfying resolution to the mystery, and as soon as my son and younger daughter saw the Wheat Thins on Discord, they scampered to the kitchen and absconded with them for their nightly snack; the mayo remained unmolested. But in the morning, I got a DM on Hackaday.io that explained everything:

I had totally forgotten about that! In case you missed it, when Elliot and I did the podcast a few weeks back, one of the articles we discussed was Jenny List’s analysis of Amazon and Google’s vision for a home assistant future and how it hasn’t quite worked out. It’s a great article, and you should really check it out, but in our podcast discussion — which starts at about the 50-minute mark if you want to skip ahead — I said that the Amazon voice assistant model of being able to order massive amounts of stuff doesn’t work for me, because “I don’t need Amazon to send me Wheat Thins, or mayonnaise.” And if I recall correctly, I even made a crack about how it would be funny if someone’s Alexa had just ordered me some Wheat Thins and mayo; wisely, though, Elliot left that bit on the cutting room floor.

So, the mystery was solved, but apparently [JonKangas] had some second thoughts about his admittedly hilarious gesture:

I’ll admit that to some degree, it was a little unsettling. There was a time when I probably would have soaked an unsolicited package like that in a barrel of water for a few hours before opening it, but I’ve mellowed a bit over the years. Honestly, the thought of what would have happened if my mom got a package like this was more unnerving; she’d probably have spent the whole day on the phone trying to figure out who sent the package. Really, I was just impressed with his commitment to a practical joke based on an obscure reference — comedy gold!

But then I got to thinking: How did he find me? I guess it’s not that hard, really, since my street address is in the FCC database thanks to my amateur radio license. Even without that, it wouldn’t be difficult for a reasonably resourceful Hackaday reader to figure out where I live, especially since I’ve probably inadvertently doxxed myself a dozen times over the eight years (!) I’ve worked for Hackaday.

So, not a message from God, but definitely a message, and a pretty darn funny one at that. Hats off to [Jon] for the follow-through on this one, and for giving my family a little bit of a head-scratcher around the dinner table. I’ve always thought our readers — and listeners — are the smartest, coolest people on the planet, and this one really seals the deal. And a sincere thanks for the Wheat Thins, which the kids much appreciated. The mayo, though? Thanks anyway, but that’s going to the food bank.

18 thoughts on “Podcast Feedback: Be Careful What You Ask For

  1. Next time you make a flippant comment like that, make it something good!

    Gee, it sure would be creepy if Amazon just spontaneously delivered a new Framework Ryzen laptop that isn’t even out yet…

  2. This could have been an actual hack. Drop shippers will sometimes add an inexpensive item to your order to put it over the limit for free shipping. Overall, it’s less expensive to pay for the extra item than for shipping.

    Of course, you can use this method yourself. I keep a mental list of inexpensive Items I can add to an order whenever I’m a dollar or two short of free shipping.

    1. Because of “volumetric weight” charging on shipping, which become noticeable in anything bigger than a shoebox, I often start putting in inexpensive grocery items as “dunnage” in packages I am shipping to people I know. It doesn’t increase the shipping price, fills up the “rattle room” and I’d rather spend a couple of bucks on something they might eat instead of a couple of bucks on bags or air or bits of styrofoam.

      1. Nice idea!
        And for the original Commenter, some sites allow you to keep a list of items for future purchases, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting something.

  3. Same but Different Mystery..

    Just after Christmas (US) I received a little box from Home Depot On Line.. I don’t normally order from Home Depot On Line, but I have in the past, a long time ago.. I don’t even know my User/Pass for that account. I opened the Box and the ONLY thing inside was a 1/2 ” PVC Pipe Coupling.. ONE PVC pipe fitting. That is a lot of waste for one pipe coupling.. Oh yes.. and a Packing Slip.

    1-800-Home Depot is nothing but Automated BS.. I want to talk to a Human about this.. So I hand carried the Box, the Slip, and the PVC Coupling to home depot to figure out what was up..

    Ends up this thing cost about 75 cents, with free shipping.. and it was paid for with a Gift Card, using my account at Home Depot on Line. Sounds fishey to me..

    Working with the Customer Service Person we figure that my Home Depot On Line account has been hacked.. It has no Credit Card on file so its useless for doing anything to me credit wise, and I’d never know its been hacked any other way.. However.. If the Hacker that has my Home Depot Account, has Stolen Gift Card Numbers and Auth Numbers, they can use my account to try and ‘Purchase’ something using the stolen Gift Card numbers to see if they work..

    When my Account works for ~75cents on that Stolen Gift Card, then they know the card is active, and can use the money out of it before the true card holder gets a change to use it..

    A Different Hack Story.. But same as it took some digging to see how it happened..


  4. Could have been much worse, a mad scientist friend of mine once sent someone a single potato with “See I do know where you live” carved into it, after that person had asserted there was no way he could know their address.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.