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Kenmore Alfie Voice-Controlled Personal Shopper review: For shoppers with plenty of time but too little imagination

Don Reisinger | Jan. 3, 2017
Years from now, we’ll look back at this product and decide that it was ahead of its time.

Kenmore Alfie speaker 
The Kenmore Alfie is powered by a rechargeable battery that lasts for days.

The chain of events that starts with a verbal query and ends with making a purchase is interminably slow and sometimes entails repeatedly flipping back and forth between the device and its app. In a best-case scenario, I had to wait several minutes for a response; in some cases, I had to wait more than 20. And that 20-minute-wait didn’t always end with a purchase. There were plenty of times when I was asked more questions or directed to interact with the app.

app 1  
The result of one query to the Kenmore Alfie, displayed on its companion app.

Kenmore is a Sears brand, but I was pleased to discover that Alfie didn’t constantly steer me to Sears or its Kmart subsidiary. It did, however, require me to sign up for a Sears Shop Your Way account before I could start using it. I didn’t need to provide a credit card for this, but I didn’t like the idea of being forced to share my email address without knowing if I’d ever use that e-tailer. It smacked of an information grab, and I didn’t appreciate it.

Picturing a phone bank with employees interpreting and responding to Alfie queries, I have to wonder how the system will scale if millions of people decide to purchase one. I suppose that’s an unknowable question, but it probably won’t matter in the long run. Alfie just isn’t good enough win that kind of market share.

 

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