A distraught mom has sent a letter to Amazon pleading with the company to help stop the bullying she says her 6-year-old daughter has experienced from sharing the same name with its virtual assistant device Alexa.
“Mr. Bezos, I write to you as a father and human being rather than the CEO of Amazon,” she said. “We are not asking for wealth or recognition from this request. We just want to correct an error we believe was a giant mistake.”
The Lynn, Massachusetts, woman, who wanted to be known by her first name Lauren to protect her child’s identity, wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last week after saying she witnessed her 6-year-old daughter being bullied at school and in public, with kids ordering her daughter to complete tasks and laughing at her.
“Kids are telling her, ‘Turn on my T.V., tell me today’s weather…,” Lauren wrote in the letter. “They laugh at her and treat her like a servant, and this has been an ongoing issue, everywhere we go.”
The letter went on to describe that everywhere the family goes, people acknowledge the name her daughter shares with the Amazon device, and often makes jokes asking if her daughter “Can do the same things the Alexa device does?” The letter was originally sent three weeks ago, but Lauren sent it again early last week, and told NBC 4 she got an apology from a member of technical support on behalf of the CEO.
Lauren says these incidents have occurred numerous times throughout the last year, constantly making her daughter Alexa upset, and she was at a loss of what to do. “It’s the world we live in,” she said. “And people mean no harm. But Alexa is a person, not a machine, and people have to stop referring to her like she is one.” She says companies should not be using women’s names to name their products.
Lauren claims her daughter is not the only Alexa that this has happened to, and says she is aware of at least one other seven-year-old whose mother shared the same grievance as her. With 11 million Amazon Echo and Dot products now in homes worldwide since its launch in 2014, Alexa is inescapable.
Many women around the world have reported how problematic it is to share their name with the Amazon homing device. An article in The Seattle Times found four women who considered changing their own names just to escape the jokes. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported a story of a woman whose daughter named Alexa often thinks her mom is talking to her, when in fact she is trying to address the artificial intelligence.
“This is everywhere,” Lauren wrote to Bezos. “You’ve already ruined the name, but you don’t have to continue to hurt these girls and women. I ask, make an apology and start a movement. I am.”
An Amazon representative named Patricia, from Amazon’s Tech Support Customer Relations Team, replied to Lauren’s letter last week “on behalf of Jeff Bezos.” She apologized for the experiences Lauren and her family had been going through.
“I’m very sorry to hear about the experience you’re having. I definitely understand this has been frustrating,” Patricia wrote. “I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to voice your concern and let us know about the issues you’ve run into. I have sent your feedback on to our internal teams. Thanks for making sure we’re aware of your experience.”
Lauren said that she assumes this will be the only response from the email she sent, but said it was a start.
Amazon did not respond to NBC New York’s request for comment.