#MakeEveryWeek 4: A Button That Orders Your Favorite Salad

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

There’s a whole literary subgenre devoted to inventions that ultimately destroy their inventors. Frankenstein didn’t turn out so well for Frankenstein himself. As I recall, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ended with neither Jekyll nor Hyde still standing. Within all of us lies the potential to create the agent of our destruction.

With that in mind, let me introduce you to my own downfall: a button that, when pressed gently, orders a Sweetgreen salad. Here it is, pinned above my desk, next to a jaunty Election Day hat:

Sweetgreen is a salad chain that got its start in Washington, D.C., and specializes in delicious green stuff. It’s a go-to lunch choice for me, with a restaurant conveniently located near the The Atlantic’s Watergate offices (and thankfully, a few steps closer than the burger-and-milkshake joint). But I’m not the only one who loves it. Around lunchtime, the place gets mobbed. It’s at the point where you’re surprised when the line isn’t already out the door:

One solution? Order online ahead of time and pick up the salad when you show up. Their app is simple enough, but I wondered—how hard would it be to hook up another Amazon Internet of Things button that would automagically complete my order with one press?

Turns out, not so hard. I had to do a bit of hacking around Sweetgreen’s ordering system (technical post here, raw code here), but in the end, I coded the button so it randomly orders one of my three favorite salads and bills my account. Now, whenever I want a salad, I just tap the button and walk out the door. It’s there when I arrive.

It’s funny—this is sort of what the Amazon button was originally intended to do. So why is this a bad thing that’s destined to destroy me? Well, if you follow my love of Sweetgreen and how darn easy this button is to use to the natural conclusion, I will soon have no money.