A couple of weeks back I received my weekly grocery delivery.
Milk - check. Onions - check. Google Home Mini - wait, what?
Okay yes, I did place my order on a Saturday night with a gin in hand. But I wasn't sauced enough to add a casual $79 piece of tech to my cart.
I searched my shopping bags for some kind of explanation. There was no note. No promo material. Nothing.
Labouring under the apprehension that my order had been mixed up with somebody else's, I checked the invoice.
And there it was, right at the bottom. Google Home Mini - $0.00.
Now I was really confused. Why had I been gifted something so extravagant?
Most normal people might just take the free thing and run with it. Not this hard-nosed journalist. I was ready to uncover the Australian tech world's most low-stakes mystery.
I turned to Woolworths Online in search of answers.
As it turns out, there was indeed a free Google Home Mini promotion running on the site. To qualify, customers had to spend over $300, add the device to their cart and include a promo code.
I had done none of those things.
In fact, there was no indication that I would be receiving one during checkout.
Having found no explanation, I jumped on chat with a customer service team member. I was committed to the cause.
After explaining the situation and disclosing my profession, the rep actually had an answer...sort of.
The Google Home Mini was apparently a "randomly generated gift from the system."
After some further questioning, I discovered that it was in fact the only randomly generated gift in the system.
I also enquired as to whether certain parameters were at play when it came to the chosen customers, such as repeat patronage or order value. According to the rep - no. Customers were chosen completely at random.
One thing that became abundantly clear during the conversation was that internal communication around the offer was about transparent as it was to the receiving customers.
"We didnt [sic] even know that there was this promotion gifts running until they started delivering it on Wednesday. Whch [sic] we have been told on the day," said the representative.
After some further questions regarding the process, it was revealed that this offer was separate to the '$300 and over' one I found on the website.
This different offer was actually in conjunction with Valentine's Day. This year that fell on a Thursday. I ordered my groceries three days later, on the Saturday the 16th, to be delivered on the 17th.
But sure, why not?
"The promotion gift only ran last week and the last one that was delivered on Sunday," the representative explained.
Interestingly, I didn't clock any ads promoting the Valentine's Day offer when I placed my order.
It's entirely possible that I missed it. But when an $79 piece of tech is involved one would think that the messaging would be pushed hard in order to encourage online orders.
There was also no Valentine's Day related material with the delivery to explain the surprise Mini.
Unwilling to let this one go, I contacted Woolworths PR to see if they could shed any further light on the odd promotion.
"We’re always looking for new ways to make shopping easier and more convenient for our customers.
Last year we became the first supermarket in Australia to offer a Google Voice Action. It allows customers to add to their Woolies shopping list via voice as they think of items around the house.
To surprise and delight customers around Valentine’s Day, we’ve been sending Google Home Minis with home deliveries to some of our online customers as a gift with purchase. To get started, simply ask your Google Home Mini "Ok Google, speak to Woolies."
Throughout this entire process I had a theory.
Perhaps the giveaway was due to an overstock andthe Valentine's Day gift was a last-minute decision to move more product. This just might explain the lack of ads, promo material and communication with the customer service team.
While its cool that Woolies is stocking tech, a $79 AI assistant doesn't seem like the type of thing that people add to their carts along with yogurt and frozen peas.
But the PR-heavy response from the grocery giant made me think that maybe it was also about product awareness
People can't use Woolworth's Google Voice Action if they don't have the capability in their homes, or even know that the functionality exists.
If there are a bunch of Minis in the warehouse anyway, why not try and get them into people's homes?
Of course, this is all just speculation. And considering the non-responses I received, it's unlikely to ever be substantiated.
And I'm still not particularly satisfied with the explanation or conclusion of this weird little tale.
Even Google weren't able to shed any further light on this. Yes, I took it that far.
To the team's credit; they tried. But I was informed that this promotion was entirely driven by Woolworths, so I would need to ask its PR team.
Even if raising awareness around 'Ok Google, speak to Woolies" was the aim, you'd think that this would have been promoted in literally any way at all. Even just a note to let customers know how it works for their next online delivery.
I'm never going to receive closure on this extremely unimportant issue, and I need to make peace with that.
But that probably won't stop me from occasionally looking at the Google Home Mini, which now resides in my living room and wondering, "But why?"