Occasionally in life, you can find yourself in a situation where through cumulative responses to events, you end up in a state where you seem to be far from the state where you began, wondering how you got there. In hindsight, it is clear how every step led to the next and eventually to the end state, like ending up in the water after a long track on a slippery slope. This can happen when you are stuck in a relationship that seems hard to fix, when you are frustrated with the boring job you have been going to for years, or when you have gained a lot of weight while it seems like yesterday that you were in great shape.
Similarly, in today’s world, it is normal for us that we can buy everything we want, whenever we want it, and get it within a day. For a long time now, online stores have had most of what I wanted, whenever I wanted it. While it is very convenient that I’m able to get everything I want whenever I want it, it is also, at today’s pace, a little unnecessary (to say the least). We have ended up in a state where delivery people and warehouse employees work in shocking conditions, even in this time of crisis. These jobs are starting to resemble a form of paid slavery.
Begs the question, how did we end up in the situation where we assume it to be normal to receive the book we ordered today in the mailbox by tomorrow morning?
Let me clarify that I am not playing some blame game here, but as with any habit or ‘end state’, it might be valuable to look at the steps that led us here.
On the one hand, it could have been big corporations fighting over customers. Faster delivery would mean more satisfied customers and therefore the endless battle for becoming the most profitable would result in same-day delivery. According to a survey by PwC in 2018, e-retailers raised shoppers’ expectations about shipments. Furthermore, 41% of the 22,480 people in the survey were willing to pay a charge for same-day delivery.
In this way, we have demanded it. There has been a point where we decided, “Hey, nice that you have all these products available, but I won’t buy it if it isn’t by my door by tomorrow, and I’m happy to pay a little extra to get it there asap”.
Is this a bad development?
One could argue that we have a free choice to decide whether we need same-day delivery, and there is a company that is able to fulfill that need. And people are free to choose wherever they want to work, right?
But if you are a delivery driver or warehouse worker in these times you could be dependent on your job to pay for bills and rent, which in this way requires you to work. You could also be out of options, looking for a fast way to support your family. Do we want to create jobs like this?
One could also argue that the products you order might be groceries that you need, but from the worker’s experience, the orders entail “toys, books, clothes, household goods, even dildos”; of which you would probably agree you do not need the same day and maybe not even within the same week.
Maybe this is the right time to evaluate your habit and think twice before you greedily hit that button.
And could it get faster than same-day delivery? Yes, in the form of ‘anticipatory shipping’, for which Amazon filed a patent in 2014. Current machine learning techniques allow companies to predict whether you want a certain product based on your buying/browsing history. And while these techniques are getting better and better, there might be a point where the prediction rate gets so high, say above 80%, that it would become lucrative to send you products before you actually click on them, in which case they would have to take only 20% of them back.
I’ll leave you to decide whether that would be a healthy development.