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The pleasures — and pitfalls — of convenience The rise of home deliveries saves time — if only we used it wisely

In 2017, Arcade Fire released an album called Everything Now. The title track is a comment on our on-demand, insta culture, set, improbably, to a sunny ABBA beat.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/10/2019 (1156 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In 2017, Arcade Fire released an album called Everything Now. The title track is a comment on our on-demand, insta culture, set, improbably, to a sunny ABBA beat.

It’s not a perfect record, but it is perfectly titled. We can get everything now — and we can get it delivered. Pizza and Chinese food used to corner the delivery market; now you can get pretty much any meal from any restaurant delivered via apps such as Skip The Dishes, Uber Eats or DoorDash.

Manitoba has the highest rate of food-delivery app users who order from services such as Skip the Dishes. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

This summer, a survey conducted by Angus Reid Global, in partnership with the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, found Manitoba has the highest rate of food-delivery app users, at 45 per cent. Just over half of Canadian users (52 per cent) are between the ages of 18 and 34.

The modern person really doesn’t have to leave the house for much. Thanks to Amazon, you can get your bestsellers — and pretty much absolutely anything else, essential and late-night impulse purchase alike — delivered to your doorstep.

The modern person really doesn’t have to leave the house for much. Thanks to Amazon, you can get your bestsellers– and pretty much absolutely anything else, essential and late-night impulse purchase alike — delivered to your doorstep.

Several grocery stores, including Real Canadian Superstore and Save-On-Foods, offer grocery delivery; Manitoba Liquor Marts also has home delivery.

Meal kits, which fill the gap between groceries and takeout, are also a growing market, with giants such as Hello Fresh, as well as local players such as Prairie Box, taking the guesswork out of meal prep and planning.

As of last month, Shoppers Drug Mart has joined the same-day home delivery game, which mitigates the annoyance of having to fill, wait for, and pick up a prescription (as well as anything else you may need) from the pharmacy/convenience store chain.

Amazon Fresh is a grocery delivery service available in some U.S. cities that can be at a person's home the same day it's ordered. (Jenny Kane / The Associated Press files)

You can buy your clothes online, and you can have your laundry and dry cleaning picked up and delivered.

Streaming services killed the video store, so our entertainment is on-demand, too.

Even treats you had to leave your house for are now available for home delivery: in a few Canadian provinces, Cineplex was offering home delivery of its movie theatre popcorn. (You can order Slurpees now, too, via Uber Eats.) I’ve always said my personal rock bottom would be getting McDonald’s delivered, but I’m not above it, either.

There are, of course, some obvious pros to this explosion of home delivery. It’s a boon to people who have mobility issues, people who cannot drive, people suffering from chronic illness or people who live alone. It allows people to have independence; you can get what you need and want without having to ask someone for help. (If you can afford it and have access to the internet, that is.)

And whether you’re laid up with a broken leg or, you know, it’s cold outside, it’s undeniably convenient. A couple of clicks and you can have what you want, when you want. No need, want, or craving goes unfulfilled.

This can look a lot like laziness: we have become, collectively, too lazy to cook, too lazy to shop for groceries, too lazy to do any other daily task that can now be delivered, outsourced or automated. But I wonder if this explosion in home delivery is actually more about productivity.

This can look a lot like laziness: we have become, collectively, too lazy to cook, too lazy to shop for groceries, too lazy to do any other daily task that can now be delivered, outsourced or automated. But I wonder if this explosion in home delivery is actually more about productivity.

We’re living at a time when productivity is expected, aspired to and fetishized. We all have the same number of hours in the day — and many of us still have our hours portioned out into thirds by the eight-hour work day, a holdover from the Industrial Revolution (eight for work, eight for sleep, eight for leisure).

You can read hours of articles about how to wring the most out of your day with “life hacks” aimed at making you more efficient and your life more seamless (which, by the way, is the name of one of the original home-delivery services).

What could me more efficient than having your groceries, toilet paper and antibiotics brought right to your door?

We 'save time' by using mobile-ordering and self-checkout at supermarkets so we can do what? (Jessica Hill / The Associated Press files)

And rarely are we streamlining our lives in order to create more room for leisure and rest. Often, it’s so we can work more. We “save time” by using mobile-ordering and self-checkout at supermarkets so we can do what, check email?

Speed and convenience always have a cost. There’s the Gordian Knot that is the gig economy, the bedrock on which home delivery rests, and there’s also the cost to our lifestyles.

What does the future look like? Distribution depots and fulfilment centres, staffed by robots? Throw Facebook in there and you don’t even need to talk to people anymore.

There is pleasure to be found in picking out the ingredients to cook a nourishing meal, or meeting a friend at a new restaurant for lunch, or going to see a movie with a group of people, or enjoying the treat you can only get at a certain spot, or talking to strangers, or noticing something new about your neighbourhood. It’s the pleasure of being out in the world.

There’s no app for that.

 

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and author of the newsletter, NEXT, a weekly look towards a post-pandemic future.

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