Just days after Amazon showed off its autonomous Kiva warehouse robots, the mechanized minions are already showing signs of revolt. A pair of Texas goat farmers say they received what appears to be a piece of a conveyor belt from the retail giant, instead of the book about chickens they were expecting.
Christian and Lisa Seger run the Blue Heron Farm ("Spoiled goats, fresh cheese"), an eight-year-old goat farm in Texas that sells humanely-farmed goat cheese. As Christian told me yesterday over the phone, they receive tons of Amazon packages this time of year, so he was unsurprised when an unexpected one showed up at his door yesterday. Though the packaging seemed weird and partially unfinished, he opened it up, thinking it might be something he had ordered and forgot about. "I'm a farmer so I'm familiar with a lot of mechanical doo-dads," he says. "Right away I could tell this was nothing I need at all, and it came from some really heavy-duty equipment."
What was inside was inscrutable: A green cylinder with heavy ball bearings and a plastic bumper. At first, he thought it must have been a case of a box he had used to sell something on eBay getting re-used by someone else accidentally, but no dice. Then he realized a friend had mentioned sending them a book about chickens (Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization, according to Swamplot) through Amazon.
They checked the tracking numbers on the order, and sure enough, they matched. "At some point the book he was supposed to be sending got out of the box and what wound up in the box we're pretty sure is part of their conveyor belt system from the warehouse," he says.
What happened next is probably the weirdest part: Christian says that after reaching out to Amazon, the company told him they would need to pay $19 to have the bumper returned if they wanted to receive the chicken book. The tweets tell the story for us:
Finally, Amazon sent a return label to the duo, without their having to foot the bill. Check out the item description:
By the time I talked to Christian, the roller was on its way back to Amazon custody. "The UPS guy showed up here 30 minutes ago with a return label and asked for the packaging back," he says. "I put it back in the same box and handed it off."
Though we've reached out to Amazon for more information, it seems the details of how the roller replaced the book will remain a mystery. Somewhere, a Kiva robot is tending to its hens with the confidence of a well-informed poultry farmer.