This morning the wife was shouting at her computer "Anna is retarded!"
What's going on? I wondered…
Turns out my better half was trying to buy a bed online at IKEA and was using Anna, IKEA USA's "Automated Online Assistant." (On the IKEA USA homepage, you'll find a link to Anna on the top right or bottom left).
"I just want to know if the bed includes a mattress!" my wife shouted.
I decided to check it out.
The greeting seemed inviting: "Welcome to IKEA. I'm Anna, IKEA USA's Automated Online Assistant. You can ask me about IKEA and our products and our services. How can I help you today?"
So we typed in the query:
Us: "Does your bed come with a mattress?" Anna: "Here you will find the Beds & mattresses." (Anna very stupidly sent us to the Beds & mattresses product category page.)
We then asked about shipment of the bed to an address on an island that required transportation by boat, again Anna was no help.
I tried a few other queries, including:
Us: "Do you accept American Express?" Anna: "I try to be as efficient as possible. Is there another IKEA related question I can help you with?" (Anna obviously didn’t understand this simple question.)
Yes, Anna is indeed intellectually challenged. However, she does seem to have a twisted sense of humor.
Us: "How old are you?" Anna: "I prefer not to discuss my age; let's talk about IKEA."
Us: "Are you retarded?" Anna: "My on-board systems report that all my systems are working perfectly. What would you like to know about IKEA?." (The fact that Anna is programmed to answer this question indicates that we aren't the only people who think that she is, indeed, intellectually challenged.)
After playing around a bit, we figured Anna is not an "Online Assistant" as promised, but more like a Wal-Mart greeter. For example, Anna happily answered this simple question correctly, the sort you would ask a greeter at the front of the store:
Us: "Do you sell clocks?" Anna: "Please have a look at the Wall and table clocks." (Anna helpfully took us to the clocks page. This was the only question she got right except for the age question.)
My wife's assessment: "I don't trust Anna. I'll call IKEA on the phone instead."
ATTENTION IKEA: Anna needs to either be retired or turned into what she really is, an online greeter. She's bad for the IKEA brand trying to be an online assistant, because she fails at that.
I'm fine with automation when it helps, but this automation is not helpful, it is harmful.