I remember the old days of shopping. If you didn’t ‘t want to go in person, then you spent hours pouring over pictures in a catalog before filling out a form and mailing it off with payment. And then you would wait. And wait. And wait. It all depending on the store, the shipping warehouse and USPS. Even more so for those of us shopping from APO addresses. The alternative was calling in an order over the phone in the days when most call centers were in country, staffed primarily by unhappy women and strongly resembled this PDX Broadsides Song. But then, I worked as a an answering service switchboard operator on evening shift while an undergrad back in the days of answering services (which was also prior to the days of beepers.)
The development first of the USENET mailing lists and then open lists brought about a change in ordering. Interest groups could pass along information, recommendations, as well as challenges. With the onset of the first website – the whole institution of on-line ordering began.
Over the last thirty years I have watched the change from Penny’s, Sear’s, Vermont Country Store, Herschner’s, Land’s End and other catalog merchants move (or not move and go under) from a sales plan based off printed catalogs to one where a brick and mortar store was really optional and the important points became order fulfillment and managing shipping. This new era includes individuals who can now find countrywide and world wide customers through websites like Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay.
And then we moved on to smart phones and Apps.
I grew up in Minnesota. For any of you who ever listened to the old “Prairie Home Companion” (the link is to Wiki) you may understand that where I grew up, coffee was made on the stove, in a percolator without any of those new fangled electrical connections. The addition of eggshells was +/- and viewed as personal preference (mostly related to whether or not you had Scandinavians in your family.) As the article notes, drip coffee makes had started to spread from the industrial/restaurant sectors (that always tastes burned brew served in every truck stop across the US) to the home.
Fast forward to today. Many of us have become coffee snobs. Perked coffee isn’t good enough, neither is drip. No, it needs to be French Press, or an Americano (take expresso, dilute with boiling water). We buy coffee from Peet’s, Starbuck’s, small neighborhood coffee shops and develop a preference while ignoring exactly how much money we are spending on designer coffee.
I mentioned the Apps, right? Now why would you stand in line when you can order ahead? Not only do you easily specify all those quirks which makes it special to you (frappa, crappa, no whip, skim, extra hot, with a drizzle of…..) but no human interaction required. Just like the old catalog days, only providing even more immediate gratification and less personal contact. And it is different than calling your local pizza parlor for take-away, something that hasn’t changed in decades.
I like the idea of shopping locally. Supporting local businesses rather huge chains. But I have to admit I like Peet’s coffee and have gotten suckered in. It is so much easier to order off the app as the N-Judah passes UCSF Parnassus. The Peet’s at Carl & Cole is only two minutes (supposedly) further. By the time I get off the tram and walk ½ way down the block, my beverage is waiting for me. It is labeled. I don’t have to try and get the QRF reader to recognize my phone, nor are there any communication issues with the staff in this tiny, noisy, and extremely busy coffee shop.
As I hike up Parnassus to UCSF, I enjoy my latte. It certainly isn’t the evil brew I remember from childhood, nor the sludge I served in the diner where I worked while in high school. Have I gone over to the dark side? Or am I leveraging modern technology?