Geek Squad is supposed to be one of Best Buy's few clear advantages over internet retailers: you can ask for help from a real human being if you're not sure how to set up your devices. Even that edge is disappearing, however. Recode has learned that Amazon is quietly rolling out a smart home setup service that helps you get started with connected lights, thermostats and (of course) smart speakers. If you have an Echo or another Alexa-connected device, you can get a free 45-minute consultation from an Amazon staffer who'll answer questions, demo Alexa-linked devices and, naturally, create shopping lists. However, the real stars of the show are the in-person visits.
Pay the typical $99 fee (more for long or multi-device services) and Amazon will install your smart home device and teach you the essentials of how to use it, including through voice commands if you have Alexa-capable gear. Amazon won't set up just any device, but it handles some of the common brands: Philips Hue lights, Ecobee thermostats, Eero WiFi routers and Ring doorbells are some of the eligible gadgets.
The services are only available in a handful of areas, including Amazon's home turf of Seattle as well as Los Angeles, Portland (Oregon), Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. While Amazon isn't commenting on the offering, any expansion will likely depend on whether or not Amazon can hire enough technicians to support a given area. It might not be available nationwide, then, let alone worldwide.
However, Amazon has multiple incentives to make this help as widely available as possible. The Alexa angle could help sell more Echo speakers, of course, and the shopping lists will likely lead to some extra sales. The move could cut down on returns, too -- smart home devices can be intimidating if you're a novice, and this might convince some newcomers to stick with their products. While you might not need these services yourself, they could easily pad Amazon's bottom line if they become a regular part of its catalog.