Thursday, July 13, 2017

Faux Disruption

I read Home Delivery! What Will They Think of Next? by Peter Funt with a chuckle.

When I bought my first Bernina, I went to the store by bike. The Bernina dealer delivered the machine to my home on her way home from work. Another colleague bought a framed picture and the art dealer delivered it to him at home, too.

At one time, the Boulder Public Library delivered requested books to your home in a "green bag." You return the bag and the book to the library later.

Funt rightly points out that dot coms like AmazonFresh and Instacart are inventing stuff that already exists. Home delivery of food was ubiquitous from the days when milkmen and green grocers were common sights on the street. Grocery stores delivered because most housewives didn't have cars.  They never stopped offering home delivery.

When I was in graduate school 20+ years ago, a classmate without a car told me about King Soopers' home delivery service. She would ride her bike to KS, select her weekly fresh food plus monthly nonperishable staples, and then take them to the customer service desk to arrange for home delivery. She then rode her bike home and met the KS delivery van a few minutes later. The rest of the month, she bought just what she could carry by bike.

Back then, King Soopers charged $9 to pull your groceries and deliver to your home. If you needed only one of those services; e.g. you pulled your own groceries and just needed delivery, or you needed someone to pull the groceries for you and load them up into your own car at the store, then you paid about half as much as full (pull+delivery) service.

For about $5/month, my friend solved one of the difficulties of being car-free.

The Denver Channel compared different home food delivery services and discovered that, while Instacart allows you to order groceries from King Soopers, Instacart offers a much smaller selection and charges 30% more than if you order directly from KS.
King Soopers Homeshop would cost me $96.12 for delivery and $90.12 for pick-up, followed by Instacart who cost $134.51, or 30% more than just ordering from King Soopers directly.
Home delivery was a necessary service before private cars were commonplace. For less mobile people, particularly the sick and elderly, those services are a lifeline.

Silicon Valley did not invent any of this. SV just pays their workers less, charges you more, and evades taxes.

This is an extension of my thoughts about Fauxtomation.


  1. Did you see the articles about Lyft inventing the bus? Another good example.

    1. They reinvented a bus that skipped poor neighborhoods. Grr!

  2. If these SV companies contribute nothing of value, why do you think they exist?

    I know this question may sound snarky, but I don't mean it that way.

    It seems to me that a lot of these companies make logistics of getting something done easier.
    I carpooled to work with a coworker who was frequently unpleasant and disrespectful of me. After an incident of disrespectful behavior that crossed a line for me, I stopped carpooling, and take Lyft Line instead when biking isn't feasible.

    1. I think that these services provide a cheaper (in $ or time) alternative by ignoring externalities and circumventing laws.

      It's a way to divorce the services from the larger societal framework.

      They literally did this by getting Congress to exempt them from sales taxes for the years they built market share and destroyed local brick and mortar stores.


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