After all the talk about supply chain issues and the news stories showing shipping containers backed up in the Port of Los Angeles, I was surprised to keep receiving Christmas catalogues late into December.
When J.C. Penney offered me a tall sized men’s hoodie on sale, I figured it would be better to find a store and pick it up. However, it was out of stock locally, so I ordered it. Why not? For that price, I’d take it even if it arrived after Christmas. But I was shocked when it came the very next day!
After a power outage a few weeks ago, I realized I needed some better flashlights. When I went to Amazon’s site, they also suggested some classy emergency nightlights that come on whenever the power goes out. They claimed that if I ordered these items right away, they’d be delivered on the same day. Although that much speed was totally unnecessary, I had my flashlights and the fancy emergency lights by 5 p.m. That’s impressive.
Not all my online purchases have worked that well. I got suckered into an impulse buy on Facebook. Two weeks later, I got a shipping notice saying my item was just leaving China. Maybe it will show up for Father’s Day? And I fear it will fall into that category of not-quite-what-I-had-imagined.
Those of us who have been around awhile remember when we had to allow “six to eight weeks for shipping and handling.” For decades that was the standard. It felt pretty high tech when we could fax in an order and pay by credit card. That shaved off a few days compared to mailing an order form with a personal check. Back then, no one even imagined tracking the delivery, so you just patiently waited. By the time something arrived, you’d usually forgotten what you ordered.
Today, expectations have certainly changed. I love the convenience of instantaneously downloading books to my Kindle. The pandemic has introduced me to the expediency of online grocery shopping. In fifteen minutes, I can order my whole shopping list and pick it up at the store later, or have it delivered.
With some things, having thousands of choices, with hundreds of online reviews, is simply overwhelming. However, there are times I appreciate online shopping when it helps find something unique, a special size or a really good bargain. And, admittedly, I like shopping from home at 2 a.m. in my pajamas.
Now, I’ve grown accustom to the instant gratification of rapid deliveries, even though that much speed isn’t necessary. Every day, I watch the parade of delivery vans driving through the neighborhood — USPS, UPS, FedEx, Amazon, Speedee, rented vans, unidentified vans and a lot of private SUVs. Add to that the newspaper delivery before I wake up, the Instacart grocery deliveries, the Door Dash food deliveries, and good old fashioned pizza deliveries — it makes me feel like I have an entire staff of people responding to my every whim.
Having spent my career working for the Postal Service, I appreciate the logistics involved in getting a parcel from point A to point B. Those containers stacked up in the Long Beach Harbor require trucks, trains, planes, warehousing, sorting, further transportation, further sorting and finally, those items can join the delivery parade to my door.
Even that small parcel that I mailed to relatives in California has to go from our local post office to a sorting hub, then to an airport to be routed to the proper plane, then flown to another airport post office to be sorted again in order to get to a centralized hub for processing and trucking to another sorting hub, or two, before it is transported to a local post office and finally prepared for delivery.
One snowstorm, or a pilot shortage, on the East Coast can ground the airplane that would have gone from Minneapolis to California causing a domino effect that can tie up the entire system. Amazingly, in a day or two the glitch is resolved.
Fortunately, much of the processing is now done by computers and robots along miles of conveyor belts using those ubiquitous bar codes and QR codes at speeds no human could follow. But, until someone perfects drone delivery, a person has to get those packages to your door. So, for the new year, let’s quit complaining that a couple gifts haven’t made it. We’ll celebrate a second holiday when they arrive — even if it is St. Patrick’s Day.
Let’s appreciate the miracle that, through the rain, the sleet, the snow and below-zero temperatures, in the middle of a pandemic, with an astronomical increase in online shopping, so many people are working to get so many items delivered to our door. And we rarely have to wait six to eight weeks for delivery.