“Commerce in a Time of Crisis” or “Adapt or Die”

Remember the good old days when you could buy stuff online and have it delivered to your door? For a few extra dollars, you could get something called, “White Glove Service.” No, they don’t actually wear white gloves, but they want you to think that for those extra dollars the delivery man will care a little more about your product. It’s a deluxe package! Additional services rendered. These are premiums. Money still works as the ultimate exchange. You can’t buy a vintage-style turntable with a winning smile. Not yet.

Amazon is losing business to competitors. Example—I placed an order March 29 with Amazon, but guess what? It won’t be shipped to me for nearly five weeks. They’re telling me it won’t be shipped for nearly five weeks. I know. Boo-hoo. Amazon might as well tell me, “We don’t want your business. We don’t serve your kind.” We know Amazon is prioritizing shipments. They’ve told us some orders will have preference over other orders. The little old lady in Duluth gets her face-masks faster than I get my … what did I order? I don’t even remember. This goes in strict defiance to the rules of commerce we’ve all agreed to — in that all purchasable items should have priority; that the CUSTOMER is always right, not the VENDOR. The VENDOR is the servant of the CUSTOMER. How is the opposite of this reality permitted to happen?

If this is truly the case, Amazon should shut down its business, or devote all of its time to providing only what they deem to be “essential” products and services. But who gets to choose? Who gets to decide what is essential in a crisis? If you ask me which of the products I’ve ordered are essential, I’ll tell you — 1. That’s none of your business OR (in a tone reminiscent of Veruca Salt) 2. All of my purchases are essential. Just do your job, Amazon. Take my money and give me my products. Instead, you’ve forced me to purchase my items through competing vendors, namely Best Buy.

Best Buy has not given me any grief, or any prioritization. Of course, we can’t just walk into a Best Buy anymore, but they’ve increased their delivery output from online shopping. I placed an order with Best Buy a little more than a week ago. Deliveries started appearing at my door three days later. That’s more like it. Best Buy has learned to adapt during the crisis. They’ve stepped up their delivery game. Food services have also learned to adapt. Restaurants that never delivered before are now stepping up because they can smell the opportunity in the air — the opportunity to make money in this strange vacuum.

Yet, in less than three weeks time, Amazon has alerted us to the possibility that their business model is completely flawed, and only because they refuse to adapt. Suppliers of certain products have also dropped the ball. Two items I’ve had difficulty locating since precisely March 15, 2020 are bathroom tissue and Lysol. Suspiciously, these items started flying off the shelves days before “the Ides.” If you are the CEO or Chairperson of the Board of the company that produces these products, and you see the empty supermarket shelves (and the panic those shelves can provoke), would you not double, triple, or quadruple your current development and manufacturing numbers to meet the demand of consumers? Would you not make multiple shipments to vendors? Would you not see this as an opportunity to make even more money? You can’t complain about shipping costs when EVERYBODY wants your product right now.

This lack of vision extends to online supermarket services such as Fresh Direct. For years, Fresh Direct (in New York City) had the corner on online grocery shopping. Not only groceries, but prepared foods and quality meats. If you go to the site today, you’ll see they have everything in stock, but no delivery time windows. None. Why? The obvious answer would be that people are panic-buying and causing a bottle-neck (even as Fresh Direct replenishes its stock daily) with available delivery times, but this has been going on for over a week (which is close to an eternity in New York time – it’s the “city that never sleeps,” come on).

Fresh Direct is sending us the same Amazon message. Their business model is flawed, and they refuse to adapt. I’ve decided to open an account with a competitor, and the competitor is more-than-happy to give me their business. Consider that if their revenue is increasing dramatically, they would have more than enough cash on hand to hire more drivers, hire more vehicles, and quadruple their sales. Fresh Direct (as well as Amazon) have an opportunity to laugh all the way to the bank, but they refuse.

Stores and small businesses are being shuttered all over my neighborhood. There were promises to unlock their gates and re-open, but those promises faded. Chinese restaurants have suffered due to the bigotry and fear engendered by American consumers. If I go to Grubhub or Seamless, I will see that all my favorite Chinese restaurants are now closed with no hope of re-opening in the near future.

Movie theaters are shuttered, and economists are speculating these may be the last days of cinema. Movies are being streamed to American living rooms. No Time to Die may be the first James Bond movie to premiere in front of audience of people in their underwear instead of the hallowed pop-culture cathedral of a cineplex. It’s only been, realistically, four weeks. Is four weeks enough to kill our economic staples? When will vendors learn to adapt and change? We may be dealing with an irrational public, but the irrational customer is still … always right. At this point in time, I have become the irrational customer. I just remembered what it was I ordered. Furniture protectors! My cats love to scratch up my couch. I must have my furniture protectors.


April 10, 2020

One response to ““Commerce in a Time of Crisis” or “Adapt or Die””

  1. Regarding the closures.. It’s really starting to look like a failed-old-Soviet-Union-state all around. We were halfway “Third World” just before all this started happening… Real estate prices skyrocketing while wages stagnated & fell. Just ask Richie Scotch, or folks in California, lol.


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