By the way, Alexa — could you please knock off the unwanted suggestions?

March 1, 2021 0 By boss



Alexa on Amazon Echo devices is helpful, but it has a dark side: Unsolicited advice, which it dispenses with an innocent-enough sounding, “By the way…”

Chris Monroe/CNET

Has your Amazon Echo become quite the chatterbox lately? Like, to the point you’ve started questioning the wisdom of owning a digital voice assistant? You’re not alone. For months now, Amazon Echo users have been complaining on Reddit forumsAmazon support pages and even their IoT experts’ personal blogs. Alexa, it seems, has been talking everyone’s ears off. Maybe their gripes will ring a bell.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: You ask your Echo device for something simple, like the time or the weather forecast. Alexa responds, saving you a trip to your back pocket for your phone. You think that’s the end of it, so your attention drifts elsewhere, but then out of nowhere, Alexa derails your train of thought. “By the way…” Amazon’s digital assistant interjects.

What comes next could be almost anything. Alexa might tell you something random (it’s chock full of birthday party suggestions, if you’re interested) or it might ask if you’d like something else related to your original query — what time is sunset, say, or the forecast for the rest of the week. 

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These aren’t just suggestions for the sake of convenience, either: “By the way,” one Redditor reported their Alexa interrupting, “any time is a good time to gift shop. Would you like some product recommendations?” I don’t know about you, but I don’t use Alexa to get promotional material piped into my living room. 

Whatever tone Alexa’s been taking with you lately, here’s every way I could come up with to get your Amazon Echo to put a sock in it. 


Just because you ask for a recipe while cooking in the kitchen doesn’t mean you need help hosting a dinner party.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Saying, ‘Alexa, zip it’ will only get you so far

To dispense with the obvious, you literally can tell your Echo device to “put a sock in it” and Alexa will obey. “Hush,” “zip it” and “shut up” also work, but they’re momentary fixes. Not to mention, Alexa probably doesn’t have feelings, but even so — no sense in being rude.

To really nip this problem in the bud, you’ll have to change some settings. 

Unfortunately there’s no single, dedicated toggle to turn off those specific “by the way” suggestions, even though they have scores of Alexa-users threatening to abandon Alexa for Google. (Some bad news for those folks — Google Home and Nest customers are complaining about almost the exact same thing on those forums as well.) 

But don’t despair. If you want to tackle the problem of Alexa’s extraneous musings head-on, the best way is to turn off every setting that gives your smart speaker permission to prod you for anything you didn’t ask for. 


At least if you have an Echo Dot with Clock, you won’t be asking for the time as often.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Start by changing the setting Amazon suggests

Here’s what little official guidanceI could turn up: One response on an Amazon forum from a poster identified as “Amazon Staff” suggests turning off the Things to Try setting. (Several other threads repeat this advice as well.) It’s a good idea to turn off Things to Try anyway — there are far better places to learn about Alexa’s best features

In the Alexa app, go to More, then Settings, then Notifications and tap Things to Try. Turn both of those toggles off.

You should probably change these next few Alexa settings anyway

A while back CNET covered six Alexa features you should turn off right away, two of which apply to this situation. The first of those is Hunches — those are meant to be follow-up questions Alexa may ask if it notices, say, you’ve triggered your bedtime routine but the front door is still unlocked. Although Hunches have the potential to be helpful, they’re almost always at least somewhat disruptive. If you trust yourself to keep your doors locked and the lights off at night, you can do without them. It’s not entirely if turning off Hunches will affect the “by the way…” phenomenon, but I suggest erring on the side of getting fewer interruptions overall.

To turn off Hunches, tap More in the Alexa app, then Settings, then Hunches. A simple toggle controls the feature.


Some Internet denizens report that the more Amazon Echo devices they have, the more often they get unwanted suggestions.

Julie Snyder/CNET

The other setting is one you’ll actually want to turn on — but turning on Brief Mode effectively turns off unnecessary Alexa responses. No more, “OK, turning off three lights” or other parroted replies from Alexa when executing simple commands. Instead, you’ll just hear a pleasant notification tone acknowledging the command.

To turn on Brief Mode, tap More, then Settings and then Voice Responses. From here, switch on Brief Mode. (While you’re there, flip on Whisper Mode too. It won’t change anything if you never whisper to your device, but if you do, well… Give it a try.)

Even more Alexa settings you won’t regret turning off

If you’re like a lot of folks, you might get an email, a text message and a push notification from the Alexa app whenever an order ships or arrives. The last thing you need is your smart speaker chiming in with shipping updates too. The same menu that lets you turn all that off also has toggles for all kinds of nonsense you may want no part of: Recommendations and deals, requests to rate products you’ve purchased, low supply notifications and more. Begone with all of it.


Go ahead and turn off all those other unwanted interruptions, like requests to answer product questions or low-stock notifications.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Tap More, then Settings, then Notifications then Amazon Shopping and turn off all the toggles you see (unless you’re itching to answer customer questions about items you’ve bought in the past, or any of the other things Amazon wants to nudge you about — I’m not judging).  

Leave Announcements alone if you want

If you find yourself scouring the Alexa app for even more settings to disable, you might be tempted to turn off the one labeled Announcements. Just so you’re aware, however, that one refers to announcements made by actual humans — like you or the people you live with. So if you want your phone to notify you when someone’s sent an announcement from one of your Alexa devices, go ahead and leave that setting alone.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Hopefully if you take all these steps, Alexa will only chat you up when you want it to. If not, let me know in the comments. And if you happen across some other setting that could help others in their quest for the least verbally invasive smart assistant possible, by all means, let me know about it.


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