There have always been shoppers who wait until the last minute to have something to put under the tree at Christmas. With a modicum of good fortune – it is Christmas – they succeed in their selections to a degree that a year later, to the day, they are again midway in their quest.
That procrastination likely began 2,000 years ago.
This year, there were forces that made that propensity for last-minute shopping more challenging.
One was the calendar, which eliminated a week between Thanksgiving, the typical beginning of the shopping season, and Christmas. The other was the continued growing reliance on distant retailers with which contact begins through the Internet and ends with a van driven by a FedEx or a UPS driver. That is a contact period – between ordering by computer and delivery by truck – that has become shorter and shorter as online merchants compete. Availability and price are not sufficient; delivery must be within a couple of days, or better.
Amazon, entering the we-have-it-all-right-now competition with the appearance of a desire to out-sell Wal-Mart, is building gigantic distribution centers at key crossroads in the country. Meanwhile, Amazon’s marketing department hit a home run by claiming that Amazon’s delivery methods would eventually include the use of drones, those vehicles that have become a major part of the United State’s military offense in the Middle East.
Nice image for Amazon, but doubtful.
During the last couple of days before Christmas, FedEx and UPS did not quite get the job done. It was that missing week, remember, and the increased amount of online shopping.
But, we do not fault those two large delivery companies, which otherwise have histories of providing exemplary service; we do not expect them to hire additional trucks and drivers for what was probably a week or 10 days. FedEx and UPS drivers are already typically working long after dark, and this past week was no different.
Instead, Americans ought to take a deep breath and admit that deliveries within a couple of days – or in an extreme an hour or two, by independent services in metropolitan areas – are not really necessary. Lower expectations, and add a little more advance planning. Be content with three- or four-day delivery, instead.
And, best yet, first be certain that what you are purchasing is not available from a retailer within an easy radius. If it is, the shopper is in control.
We are 51 weeks away from the next peak shopping surge. Plenty of time to reset the have-to-have-it-right-now clocks, even slightly. Can that occur? Those who are successful will have an easier time.