Instant Gratification Takes Too Long

When did we, as a people, decide that population at large should have what they want the moment it pops into their minds?  I realize that advancing technology has been a HUGE culprit in all this, but aren’t those of us who help run the machine just as guilty?  Particularly those that are higher up, who have no concept of how dickish it is to decide at the last moment that someone has to work because of consumer demand?

We live in a world with instant gratification.  The world is literally at our fingertips.  Why send something via snail mail when you can send an email?  You know that there will be no delay in the delivery of said letter (barring a full mailbox on the recipient’s end, and isn’t THAT a pain in the ass), and that you can, theoretically, get a reply within minutes.  You no longer have to waste minutes of your life rewinding a tape in the VCR after you’ve recorded whatever show it was that you were going to miss; you can just hit a couple of commands and have Tivo or your DVR record everything you want and never have to remember when it’s on.  Don’t want to have to drive to the video store to rent a movie?  Netflix will deliver it right to your door.  Don’t want to wait the day and a half for delivery?  That’s okay, too, because now you can instantly stream a video to your computer, DVD player, Blu Ray player, Xbox, Wii, Playstation, and your cell phone.

We refuse to wait for anything nowadays.

Please don’t misunderstand; I’m just as much of a culprit as the rest of the country.  Look at this blog for example.  It’s a stream-of-consciousness that I can post INSTANTLY to the internet.  I don’t have to spend months or years putting together a collection of poignant thoughts and anecdotes; I don’t have to send my work off to hundreds of publishers in the hopes that someone will think my words are worthy of reading.  Instead, I post whatever I think of online, then constantly refresh my stats page to see how many hits my entries have received.

Also, I’m not knocking technology; I love my gadgets, and I think that, on the whole, the leaps we’ve made in technology in the last 20 years alone are astounding and have been fairly beneficial.  I can’t claim to know the extent to which technology has helped the field of medicine, but just hearing about surgeries that used to take hours, include several days in the hospital, and leave huge scars that now are basically done on an outpatient basis, in and out within a few hours with minimal scarring shows to me that technology has definitely improved our quality of life.

But we’re greedy little bastards, aren’t we? 

Look at the options for delivery times on most websites.  There’s typically a standard version, which is almost always free but can take up to ten business days (the horror!!!); then there’s some middle-grade shipping that costs a few extra dollars, but will likely get your package to you within five business days (better); then there’s a step above that offers 2-3 delivery for an additional sum of money (hot damn, now we’re talking!  You mean I can order it on Monday and possibly have it by Wednesday?!); and if you’re extraordinarily lucky, some will offer next-day delivery…but at a cost.  Usually in the ballpark of $30 and your soul.

How badly could you need something to require that sort of shipping cost?  Seriously?  I can think of so few situations that would require that sort of speed, and I’d be willing to bet that almost none of those situations include anything from Amazon.

I’ve been buying shit online for years.  Honestly; who hasn’t?  It’s convenient and often times cheaper.  (Yes; I understand that the cost effectiveness of online shopping is what is driving up the cost of brick and mortar stores, and what is also driving small companies out of business.  The economy is shit; if shopping local were a viable option for more people, it’d be great.  Unfortunately, there are many small towns WITHOUT local shopping options, or at the very least, without a wide enough variety of options to make trips to those stores worthwhile.  If you want a new TV, how many options do you have other than the superstores?)  When I was in college without a car, buying online was the easiest way to go; when I’ve been in search of an item and the only place I’ve found it is online, that’s the way I typically go, depending on how badly I want that item at the moment.

Do I get Impatient for my deliveries?  Hell yes.  Does that mean I bitch if I don’t get them the next day?  Not in any serious manner.  Yes, I’ll immediately be twitchy, but that doesn’t mean I’m expecting next-day receipt.  I’ve had occasions where it’s taken me the full ten business days to receive something.  I’ve also had instances where I’ve ordered something Sunday night/early Monday morning, and the item has arrived by Wednesday afternoon.  It’s a tossup.  Particularly when you buy something from a private seller; you don’t know when they’ll have the chance to get the post office, etc, so delivery time varies.

But, that changes when we order from a store.

There was once a time when, if you wanted to order from a store, you did so through catalog. 

Remember those days?

I only remember them vaguely, but I do remember catalogs.

Popular Club was one.  Avon was another (though, Avon is still, amazingly, almost entirely catalog to this day, so bravo).  If memory serves, JC Penney and Sears also had catalogs that you could buy out of if you couldn’t get to the store, or the store didn’t have what you were looking for.  I can’t be certain, but I’m fairly sure that delivery times were subjective, and you kind of got it when you got it.  I’m sure there was a standard delivery window (for some reason, four to six weeks sounds about right), but no guarantees beyond that, short of something in a standard contract that would instruct you to contact the company if your item wasn’t delivered within eight weeks, or maybe even twelve weeks.  Of course, none of these time frames included how long it took for your little envelope to reach these magical headquarters, or how long it took for someone to get to your envelope.  This window of time only included how long it took the company to actually process your order from the time it came out of the envelope.

Can you imagine the horror of not knowing about your delivery?

The agony of having to wait a whole month?

Without even a tracking number to use to find out where your package was in its travels?

CAN YOU IMAGINE?

And yet, somehow, people survived.  They managed to muddle through and live to see another day.  You sent in your order and more or less forgot about it until it showed up at your door.

Hard to believe, isn’t it?

It’s amazing that in a few short years, we’ve evolved (or more likely devolved) from catalogs and endless wait times to lightning fast internet speeds and next-day deliveries. 

When you put it in perspective, waiting almost a week for delivery shouldn’t seem so bad.

But still…it’s not good enough.  Those orders better be processed THE NEXT FUCKING DAY OR SOMEONE WILL BREAK YOUR SKULL.

This does not include orders that should have been processed within five to ten business day and have been in processing for a month—then you should feel free to contact the company and find out what’s going on.

But here’s where a big part of the problem is coming from; no one stops to consider HOW these orders are getting to the consumer.

Consider this for a moment.  I mean, seriously, think that through for a few minutes.  When was the last time you considered how this whole process was completed?

You never have, I bet.  You place the order and it gets to you and that’s all you know.

At some point during the process of placing catalog orders, it probably occurred at least vaguely to most that there were people somewhere processing the transaction.  You knew there were people somewhere because orders frequently weren’t processed on holidays and if you called customer service, there was a very good chance that, on the first try, you’d find a human being on the other side.

What’s been lost is the human element; consumers have become crazy, self-obsessed, selfish animals that demand the right to have everything they want instantaneously.  And someone, somewhere, decided this was a really super idea, and we’ve just run with it.

What people have forgotten, or never even realized, is that there are still people on the other side of the order who have to get that product to the consumer. 

These people are over-worked and under-paid.  They have managers who feel they can change the work schedule on a whim, demand that employees work more than their scheduled time at a moment’s notice, and should give up their weekends at the drop of a hat despite the fact that they are not willing to do the same. 

These are also the people who work on the holidays so these orders can be fulfilled.  Not only do they work the holidays, but they are told they HAVE to work those days or else.  These are people who will work a month and a half straight, ten to twelve hours a day without a day off.  These are people who come to work with the flu and stomach bugs and pneumonia, all so they’re not penalized for “taking time off” during the holiday season.

It’s a horrible way to live; I’ve been there.  I won’t say more than that other than it’s a work environment that I’ve personally experienced and it is HELL.

There’s nothing like being so achy and feverish that you’re not quite sure what you’re doing, and that you make simple mistakes, all while working eleven hours.

But the consideration for these people is taken off the table.  Just look at any website during a holiday.  There’s usually some sort of offer for free shipping that’s not usually in place, or some massive discount on this product or that combination.  Check even on the holidays that shouldn’t seem like a “shopping” holiday.  Pay attention during Memorial Day, and Labor Day, and even Fourth of July.  Huge incentives are given to consumers for purchasing during a holiday.

(Am I the only one who sees the irony in having massive sales in stores and online on Labor Day?  Or is Labor Day now to be taken literally?)

Personally, I don’t see the harm in placing notices on websites that state that, due to a holiday, orders placed will not be processed for several business days.  I think that’s a freaking swell idea.

Of course, that brings us to a different, but also sticky, situation of holidays and political correctness.  Not everyone celebrates this holiday or that holiday, so it shouldn’t be recognized at all.  Meh.  Listen; I’m not opposed to revising our holidays to more accurately suit the needs of the population.  I’d be happy to work a couple of days of Chanukah for someone if they were willing to work a couple of days of Christmas for me.  I think it’s perfectly fine for us to start acknowledging and even celebrating all of those Jewish holidays that mainstream America likes to forget about in its endless pursuit to wipe its Christian ass on the flag.  If your beliefs have you celebrating the New Year on a day other than January 1st, than you should be welcome to save that holiday until the one you observe comes ‘round.  Little things like that are often great for the moral of employees, but again…different topic.

Unfortunately, the pervasive idea right now is that consumers absolutely cannot and need not wait for satisfaction, and this comes at the very large cost of a lot of people being, again, over-worked and under-paid.

If the concept of people in some remote part of the world or country is a little tough for you to grasp (and honestly, it might be if you’ve never factored actual people into the equation), then consider the shit storm that has become Black Friday.

I know some of you out there know what I’m talking about.

I won’t lie—I go shopping on Black Friday.  I get up at stupid hours to go to the mall or Target or wherever.  Though, my standard intent is not actually shopping.  I enjoy the havoc created by the masses, and people fighting over things that will be on sale, probably for a lesser price, in a week or two is a great source of entertainment for me.  If I decide to buy something, I wait in line patiently, and take care to be extra polite and kind to the poor bastards behind the registers.

But what has really gotten bad about Black Friday is that it’s no longer just a few hours on one day; it’s become almost a weeklong event that eclipses everything else in life.

Black Friday used to be from eight or maybe seven in the morning until, at the latest, noon.  Usually they included holiday items and not much else.  Sure, you could get a set of Christmas lights for about five cents, but it wasn’t quite the Roman orgy (which, I realize, is actually a misnomer) that it is today.  In the evolution of my Black Friday experiences for the last ten years…to say that it’s changed would be an understatement.

A friend dragged me along at one point, so I got up at 3 or 4 in the morning to stand in line and be a part of this.  We only went to one store, and I couldn’t honestly tell you if the other stores in the shopping center were even open.

A couple of years later, I went to a 24 hour store for I guess you could call it a flash sale; the regular sales started at 4, but they had a few hot ticket items in limited quantities at midnight.  It may have been later than midnight, actually, but I can’t really remember.

A year or so later, a couple of malls started to open at midnight, so my mom and I would go for the novelty of it and nothing more.  Within the last few years, it’s kind of become our thing to get to the stores at four or five in the morning to see what’s happening and perhaps do a little shopping but mostly to eat breakfast.  I think it’s only been within the last couple of years that we’ve gone to places at midnight, and that’s simply because that’s when they’re open.  Also, because then we have time to go back to bed.  But somewhere within the last year or two, these sales have been starting at some point on Thanksgiving itself.  What the hell, man?  People in retail can’t even have one fucking holiday to themselves?  How much more money could they possibly be making?  I mean, couldn’t those sales start later on Friday?  Or run on Saturday?  Why is it necessary to make people leave their families on Thanksgiving?  What—did five people think it’d be a really great idea for the stores to open up on Thursday instead of Friday, and the rest of the business world just jump on board?  I understand, to a degree, that if your competitor is open and you’re not, you’re possibly losing money.  Of course, this only applies if you’re actually running sales yourself, but still.  When all is said and done, are you actually making money, or is it just another day that you’re open and now you’re losing money simply by turning on the lights?  Probably the latter, and all so you can say that you were open on that holiday, too.

What’s almost ironic is that most stores don’t actually make that much more money on Black Friday than they do on any other day during the holiday shopping season.  They’re just busier.  How much more money could you possibly hope to make when everything is on sale?

I realize that this may seem to have gone on a wild tangent, but really, it all comes back to the same point.  Stores opened early on the day after a holiday—not good enough.  Stores opened before sunrise the day after a holiday—not good enough.  Stores opened at midnight after a holiday—still not good enough.  Now they’re open on a holiday and have nothing to show for it except a lot of disgruntled employees who are inevitably being treated like shit by the customers, and are likely not even getting holiday pay.  All because the customer needs it now and wants it yesterday.

Instant gratification simply takes too long.

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~ by raspychick on September 10, 2013.

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