‘Buddy’ the parrot goes viral after placing £10 Amazon order

21 Sep 2017


Parrots are well known for their ability to mimic the human voice. Whether they actually understand what they are saying is a matter of some debate, 'parroting' has become a term for mindless repetition.

And it is an ability that cuts both ways – sometimes it can be embarrassing, as when they reveal secrets or squawk cuss words in polite company, and sometimes useful – they have been known to raise an alarm when intruders enter the house.

But Buddy, a parrot belonging to Corienne Pretorius, a South African resident of southeast London, proved that he could not only mimic his owner's voice but could use that ability to place a purchase order online!

Buddy placed an online shopping order worth £10 ($13.50) by mimicking Pretorius on a voice-controlled smart speaker, buying a set of gift boxes via Amazon's Alexa voice-controlled system.

The mystery order triggered an inquest in Pretorius's house, but after ruling out her husband and son, she figured out Buddy was to blame after hearing him interact with the speaker.

"I couldn't believe it when I realised that Buddy had made an Amazon order," Pretorius told The Sun.

Users can shout commands to the Amazon Echo speaker to access a host of services. It responds to the name 'Alexa'.

The Sun's website shows the parrot squawking "Alexa!" and the device next to his cage lighting up blue, indicating that it is listening for commands. The incident has also gone viral on Instagram, where Pretorius posted it.

"Buddy said 'Alexa' and some gibberish, and the machine replied, 'What is it you want to order?"

His owner thought nothing more of it until she got a notification that an order had been placed for some golden gift boxes.

Pretorius was more amused than angry."I laughed out loud because I knew then that it was Buddy," she said – though her reaction might have been different if the amount involved was more sizeable!

"Buddy is hilarious. We have a cat and he mimics that, too. He is such an attention-seeker. He also swears in Afrikaans. When we go to bed, he says, 'goodnight'," his owner said.

Amazon said customers were asked to confirm a purchase by saying "yes", and the settings can be adjusted to turn off voice purchasing.

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