Have we reached peak on-demand? I want to say yes, because of the concentration of ads on public transportation for startups that either want to Disrupt [Product You Usually Buy In Brick And Mortar Store] But In A Totally Chill Way As Evidenced By Our Serviceable Graphic Design + Sans Serif Font, or the evergreen “Uber For” bracket.
It’s not that I don’t want a perfectly designed electric toothbrush from a company that only makes electric toothbrushes, or an “obsessively engineered” Casper mattress, or, um, a one-device home security system—all of which are supposedly exemplars of the “one perfect product for millennials” cottage industry. I don’t doubt the value of the Ubers of housecleaning, clothes-tailoring, or alcohol delivery.
My problem isn’t that these companies exist. My problem, which is totally on me, is their attendant promo codes.
All these services lure first-time users with one-off promo codes, or referral credits, which means I’ve a) given my credit card number to at least a dozen bro startups in recent months, b) annoyed/added value to the lives of select friends, and c) spent not insignificant time making alias accounts to game these referrals. I can’t be the only one who has multiple-user-profile disorder.
The kerosene to my fire is the clutch of Seamless competitors fighting for food delivery market share: Maple, delivery.com, Postmates, DoorDash, Caviar, and probably others (please don’t inform me). Delivery.com for instance gives $13 credits to the referrer and the referred, so how could I not pull out all my email addresses of institutions (college, work, internships) past?
A BuzzFeed writer in 2012 wrote about his impressive/reprehensible attempt to get free food out of Seamless and GrubHub for months on end. I wish it were as easy to post referral URL’s to RetailMeNot three years later (Ironically, Seamless’s own referral page seems to be down for repairs, at least in part, I think, to try and foil people like me.)
What’s the endgame here? The free food, for example, isn’t converting me into a regular customer of any of those services; almost all the delivered food is aggressively unremarkable in a way that chafes against my maximizer tendencies. When the summer’s $5 Lyft promo ended, I went back to taking the subway everywhere.
Maybe it’s the maximizing tendency in itself: the desire to take advantage of these codes just because they exist. Maybe it’s a low-stakes game layer overlaid on routine city life.
I don’t know. I was thinking of resolving this year to curb these discount impulses, but I think that mental effort (like not thinking of a polar bear) would offset the time I waste signing up in the first place. I suspect the novelty will run its course. In the meantime, I would welcome disruption/promotion of the following: tampons and pads, psychiatry, airport transportation. If these exist, they can take all my (heavily discounted) money.
Krithika is a writer in New York and is sanguine/melancholic.