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  • New Services

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on April 26th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot

    Delivered groceries were just coming in. Our local chains quickly became overwhelmed, and began only taking orders to be scheduled a week out.  As many people, of any vulnerability category whatsoever, are going to prefer to order things online more and more, there will be more of these services and they will employ more people.  I am not saying that your local supermarket is going to be obsolete, but hybrid forms are going to be more common.

    This will also be true of restaurants.  There will be more specialising in takeout, and even fabulous room-based chefs are going to star figuring out how to make meals that can move across town. We are not quite ready for the virtual reality of pairing meals with rented environments of “London 1898,”  “Paris 1927,” and “NYC 1960,” but it’s not that far off, either.

    No, of course it won’t be the same as actually being there, but as we can’t go there even in its modern form at the moment, and even when it comes back it will be very expensive, there will be a market.  Here’s the fun part:  there will be a market for Faux London, Faux Paris, Faux New York. In the same way that pizza and Italian food are not all that authentic, nor is Chinese food in America* very much what they eat in …Hunan, the VR market will cater to what people think is authentic. Chef Louis isn’t stupid.  Anyone can quick-google what the rich actually did eat in London in 1898, but he will prepare what you think was authentic and will spend money on. Enterprising young souls will also figure out what the children will eat that you can advertise to them as Florence 1568 or Jerusalem AD 63, so you can make it a repeatable history lesson.

    Our church is already planning to keep the online services going even after we can get together.  This is not only because many of us will not want to go to the high risk of weekly contact in an enclosed area with 300 other people, some of them quite close, but because even after all that risk is reduced to as low as it’s going to get*, some folks will decide that staying home and clicking on the church’s Sunday menu is what they actually want. Compare, watching the NFL on TV versus going to the stadium.  People increasingly view going to the stadium as an occasional adventure, while preferring to stay at home. Whoa.  Maybe churches that provide replay, commentary, and analysis are going to start finding a niche!

    What else is going to become delivery vs in-person going forward?

    * I have read that the American version of Chinese food is now available in Chinese cities

    **I think that means, even after a vaccine, two annual diseases that kill lots of people.  Doesn’t that clearly imply a third and a fourth?  We will live different from here on in.

     

    29 Responses to “New Services”

    1. David Foster Says:

      What happens to *dating* in this scenario?…Can’t meet people at work very well if you work from home (and it’s already discouraged by the sex police)…also meeting people at church doesn’t work very well if services are conducted online. Already, a lot of couples meet via various dating sites…but if there is continued strong fear of coronavirus, the process before actually meeting in person will become a lot more extended. A simple good night kiss becomes probably a higher threshold than actual sex has been in a lot of cases in recent years. Will health certificates be required by both parties?

    2. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      My second son met his current girlfriend, who we hope will become his wife, online. There was a fair bit of online exchange before there was a physical meeting. He is 36 – should that make him more cautious or more impatient? Either way, it’s a diffferent world, and not one I think I would have done well in.

    3. Jay Guevara Says:

      Now do higher education.

      Why have an extensive faculty to lecture when many faculty are so-so lecturers? Why not have online versions of the few superb lecturers?

      In major research universities the STEM departments have a lot of faculty to conduct research (and to bring in that good good overhead on grants, a fact not lost on university administrations), most of whom only teach a bit on the side for form’s sake.

      Why not spin off those departments as affiliated research institutes? Parents love to think that Chad and Buffy as undergraduates will benefit from exposure to Nobel Laureates and to the latest advances in their fields.

      News flash: Chad and Buffy 1) will probably never see a Nobel Laureate, and if they did 2) the Nobel Laureate may well be an appalling lecturer, and 3) if he spoke about the latest advances in his research field, Chad and Buffy wouldn’t have a dog’s chance of understanding what he was talking about.

      So I say again: why not spin off those departments as affiliated research institutes?

    4. MCS Says:

      I don’t think that restaurants will survive distancing. I rarely eat alone in one. Just as easy and far cheaper to eat alone at home. Not much point if you can’t have conversation.

    5. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      MCS – yes, outdoor seating in Nome is a rough go.

      Though there will be some survival with more outdoor seating in other places, I admit.

      Whoa. I wonder if drive-in movies will come back, now that theaters will be less viable.

    6. MCS Says:

      Restaurants won’t be able to survive on outdoor seating. It’s something that is fine at those times where it’s neither too hot or cold, there’s little or no wind etc. Not a way to pay the rent or make payroll. Even if they happen to have room.

      The corollary to a 20% infection rate is that we have all been exposed many times over. People are starting to realize that everything they’ve been fed over the last three months is at best wrong, and at worst, a deliberate distortion promulgated to advance one agenda or another.

      I don’t see much of this lasting beyond Memorial Day. I especially don’t see people foregoing social interaction that they value. This will mean that restaurants, movie theaters and sports, if they survive, will be back to normal far sooner than many assume.

    7. Mike K Says:

      My wife and I are looking for a small teardrop trailer to tow to CA and, this summer, to Chicago to visit.

      Hotels are going to be a mess the rest of the year and we can park it in front of my son’s house or my sister’s house.

      We don’t need a full sized RV as we can shower in the house.

    8. Mike-SMO Says:

      Maybe some creative soul will come up with something to beat my grill, the local “Fine Meats” and the local Sweeterie. My cabinet has the liquor that I like and the deck can usually be staffed with family and/or friends with minimal effort.

      If you want my trade, offer something that I might appreciate.

      Just sayin’.

    9. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      “I think that means, even after a vaccine, two annual diseases that kill lots of people. Doesn’t that clearly imply a third and a fourth? We will live different from here on in.”

      We will probably live differently from now on — but not because of viruses. Because of the economic disruptions, and perhaps because of political disruptions, triggered by the current over-reaction to C-19.

      Human beings have lived with flu since forever. 80,000 people in the US dying of flu a couple of years ago barely distracted the media from their Orange Man Bad campaign. It is fairly clear that C-19 targets many of the same people that regular flu has been culling — the old and/or sick. If we assume that C-19 is going to become a recurring feature of life on Planet Earth, those deaths will not in general be additive to flu deaths. C-19 will be competing with flu for the same limited market of that year’s susceptible people.

      C-19 will cease to be a topic of concern when the economic dominoes start to fall. E.g., when State & local governments (who cannot print money, and will find it increasingly difficult to borrow against their uncertain futures) have to cut the pay of current workers, and lay off numbers of those workers, and — giant imbroglio — cut the pensions paid to retired workers. You know it is coming!

    10. Jay Guevara Says:

      cut the pensions paid to retired workers. You know it is coming!

      Indeed.

      The canary in the coal mine will be when high-tax states start taxing their public sector pensioners who flee move to low tax states. That’ll be the opening salvo; they’re out of state, hence can no longer vote in the high-tax state, and so have no clout there, and they’re no longer providing services to the states. Last, they’re easy to demonize.

    11. Mike K Says:

      The canary in the coal mine will be when high-tax states start taxing their public sector pensioners who flee move to low tax states.

      That is an interesting idea. My son is a Cal employee, a firefighter, and his wife is a private sector employee of a corporation. They are planning to move out of CA once he retires. Her income is higher and her 401k will be bigger but her company is being impacted by the virus.

    12. Mike K Says:

      To revisit for a moment the question of drive in movie theaters, the real estate question would be partially solved because the moviegoers would occupy the same real estate that is currently taken by the parking lots.

      When I was growing up in Chicago, the theaters had no parking as we all walked or took public transit. Now, most movie theaters have large parking lots. My wife suggested that there may be a way to connect to car radios and sound systems. My car has a Blue Tooth reception for the audiobooks I play. Plus the cellphone which connects the same way.

    13. David Foster Says:

      “To revisit for a moment the question of drive in movie theaters, the real estate question would be partially solved because the moviegoers would occupy the same real estate that is currently taken by the parking lots.”

      This will work in some cases..although the parking lots currently usually also support retail shopping, not just the theaters…but there are several theaters around here where the only parking is in multi-story parking garages.

    14. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @ Mike K – please check out my new post “Complimentary,” as it references the Geisel School of Medicine and may be of interest, given your history.

      @ Gavin – we put up with it in the past because we couldn’t do anything about it. When that changes – and it has – the calculations change as well. There are a thousand things we respond to now because we have some hope of effecting a change, which was not even on the map even fifty years ago. We have put up with poisonous rivers, slavery, bear-baiting, torture, and childhood diseases that killed millions – because we had to. I understand your argument, I’m just not persuaded by it.

    15. MCS Says:

      AVI,
      If we do “this” again, we may or may not control the virus, we will, however, have to do it without benefit of running water, working sewers, passable roads and food not provided by our own hands.

      So far we’ve been running on inertia but the friction is building day by day. The next time the supermarket shelves empty, they’ll stay empty.

      Gavin,
      I find talk of culling people distasteful in the extreme. Probably a third of the people killed didn’t know that they were at risk and probably neither did their doctor. Almost all of them leave behind others that are bereft, and the ones that don’t are probably most regrettable.

      All of us will be culled eventually.

    16. OBloodyHell Says:

      }}} Delivered groceries were just coming in. Our local chains quickly became overwhelmed, and began only taking orders to be scheduled a week out. As many people, of any vulnerability category whatsoever, are going to prefer to order things online more and more, there will be more of these services and they will employ more people. I am not saying that your local supermarket is going to be obsolete, but hybrid forms are going to be more common.

      Sorry, AVI, nope.

      They’ve been trying to promote this idea for literally decades now, especially since the web became much more programmable and readily set up for shopping purposes.

      Despite the fact that it has clear conveniences — at the least, you can use it for the stuff a family goes through like clockwork… Milk, eggs, uhhhh “TP”… it’s never taken off.

      I cannot say for sure why, but my own guess would be that it’s an opportunity for those who might have limited/constrained socialization opportunities (i.e., “housewives”, etc.) get a justified reason to go out.

      I’d also say that it’s the sensual element of it — the chance to touch and feel stuff — not the least the ability to pick and choose whether the fruit or meat is “good enough”, or not — but also the general touching element of it, providing contact with the “real world”.

      Then there’s the “Oh, I forgot about putting THAT on the list!!” that happens regularly. I suggest that anyone who goes to the market and comes back with EXACTLY and ONLY the things on their list are pretty uptight, anal retentive, and/or vastly more organized than most.

      Finally, there’s the “on sale” aspect. There are likely things that are not on your list which you are willing to buy if the sale price is right.

      I grant, it may be that the viral aspect of the current situation may change that in some subtle but significant way, but I don’t think that’s the way to bet.

      MY US$0.02 <—- and worth every penny… ;-)

    17. OBloodyHell Says:

      }}} **I think that means, even after a vaccine, two annual diseases that kill lots of people. Doesn’t that clearly imply a third and a fourth? We will live different from here on in.

      Again, as with the above, I think you underestimate the need for human contact. I have seen very few people who don’t literally HATE this situation. There are a few natural Hikikomori, sure… but they are few and far between. Even the loner-nerd REALLY wants human contact, they just want it on their terms and have less willingness to compromise and learn the social skills they need (or have reached past the age where it’s easy for them to change as-needed, or sufficiently, to become socially more active).

      Humanity has been through much more vicious and deadly epidemics than this silly thing. I don’t see us changing just because we CAN thanks to delivery.

      I think more businesses will reconsider “work from home” more, but, even there, I suspect there is likely to be plenty of “unneeded” commuting to work. One friend of mine claims he misses the interactivity of bumping into people and talking about shared problems and the transfer of “Oh, yeah, we had that problem last year, the solution was…”

      I simply don’t see a mass change of social preferences.

      This is more your field than mine, I grant, but I don’t see it.

      We are social animals.

    18. OBloodyHell Says:

      }}} News flash: Chad and Buffy 1) will probably never see a Nobel Laureate, and if they did 2) the Nobel Laureate may well be an appalling lecturer, and 3) if he spoke about the latest advances in his research field, Chad and Buffy wouldn’t have a dog’s chance of understanding what he was talking about.

      So I say again: why not spin off those departments as affiliated research institutes?

      Jay, in my own experience, the utility of the University location was not so much to TEACH as to give you the opportunity to TEACH YOURSELF. I learned a lot of theory about how the work was done in my classes, and that was good, no question. But, when it came to computers, I learned how to ACTUALLY do shit by playing with things I’d never have had access to from home. Stuff that was too new, too popular, etc., that the only people who could GET access were people who found out the university HAD one and it was in room “Y” and to get access you had to get permission from Professor “X”. This was the true difference between the mildly competent and the actual hackers who knew WTF they were doing with a computer. The former category did what their coursework told them to do, and then went and did other things. The latter got a far more widespread understanding of various things than the former. I had a good friend who was a year ahead of me at a different school ( a more prestigious school, mind you, with LOTS of money), and I knew vastly more at the end of my sophomore year (even though I was not until my senior year officially a “computer guy”) than he did in his junior year — and he was officially a computer guy from the very start.

      I was much more interested in learning different stuff than just what was taught in classes. As a result, I knew a lot of “hacker” type stuff that was not widespread knowledge at the time, including some subtle mainframe tricks that only about a dozen computer students at my college knew.

      As stuff has gotten cheaper, this is “less needful” than back then when everything was super-expensive, but there are always limits to your ability to “play” with stuff, and, more critically, to interact with OTHERS who “play” with stuff and share what you find.

      Yeah, there’s limited benefit to Muffy and Biff, but for the Real Geniuses of any field, the place to go is the physical location… And some of what they do may wear off… I know a few guys who might have been dilettantes with computers, had they NOT seen what *I* could do and gotten more interested in the cutting edge stuff than they otherwise might have been… So there may be opportunities for “Muffy and Biff”, there, too… If they have any home of becoming GOOD at something, therein lies the path. You need to be INTERESTED in something to really spend the time needed to become GOOD at it… and sometimes, I’d argue, the chance to ENCOUNTER someone who is good at it is enough to catch the interest.

      Again — we are social animals. There’s a reason for that other than mere DNA programming.

    19. mishu Says:

      “But, when it came to computers, I learned how to ACTUALLY do shit by playing with things I’d never have had access to from home. Stuff that was too new, too popular, etc., that the only people who could GET access were people who found out the university HAD one and it was in room “Y” and to get access you had to get permission from Professor “X”.”

      Machines like that are now in a rack in a server room which very few have access to and those who don’t have access to that room can still get access to that machine. The latest machines are not really physical machines anyway (kubernetes, docker). Getting permission from Professor X simply requires an email.

    20. David Foster Says:

      Colleges would have a better case for physical presence on campus (for typical undergrads) if laboratory science were still part of the general liberal arts program.

    21. MCS Says:

      First off: There are actually important things to learn besides computers. Rest assured that the Us are doing a lousy job teaching those as well. I’m talking STEM that’s supposed to save us all. Lot’s of theory form highly credentialed “engineers” that have never actually had to apply any of it to the real world. Total ignorance about even basic things. Mechanical engineers that don’t understand how fasteners (nuts and bolts) are speced.

      Any actual real world was learned on their own time with things like robot wars.

    22. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      MCS: “I find talk of culling people distasteful in the extreme.”

      My apologies if you took offence at the word I grabbed from my limited vocabulary. I could not think of a word to convey the idea that, as time goes by, every single one of us will move into a zone where our ability to withstand Mother Nature’s slings & arrows becomes tenuous.

      As has been discussed at various times & various places, we all are mortal and we all will die. The decline of religion has left too many of us unwilling to accept this truth, and that in turn has created today’s fertile ground for a culture which prioritizes near-term risk avoidance over everything else. Personal opinion — that culture is neither rational nor sustainable. If C-19 opens more people’s eyes to that, then this ill wind may have blown us some good.

    23. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @OBH – Excellent points, and that need for contact may indeed eventually overwhelm all the other considerations that rise up against it.

    24. David Foster Says:

      OBH..”I think more businesses will reconsider “work from home” more, but, even there, I suspect there is likely to be plenty of “unneeded” commuting to work. One friend of mine claims he misses the interactivity of bumping into people and talking about shared problems and the transfer of “Oh, yeah, we had that problem last year, the solution was…”

      There needs to be a lot more use of work-from-home, but still, in some cases something important is lost. People seem to forget that new products and new business initiatives don’t spring fully-formed from the brow of Zeus. They often really do emerge from contacts among people, often very casual contacts. I’m seen this many times. Some of this can be simulated remotely, but not all of it.

      Now, once the product or the business initiative is reasonably well-defined, it’s more feasible to break it down into pieces and have people at home work on them, reasonably independently.

      And, of course, it’s not all-or-nothing…people can come in to the office, say, 2 days at week and work at home the other days.

    25. MCS Says:

      Gavin,
      It takes a lot more than that to offend me. It’s just that cull, to me, denotes disposing of something that is no longer worth it’s keep such as livestock. As you say, it’s inevitable that each of us will succumb to something.

      So far, Americans have largely avoided the, oh so sophisticated, European attitude that seems to find it so easy to write off anyone that presents some sort of perceived failure. This has extended from obesity, defined at an ever lowering threshold, to diabetes to smoking to now simply living too long.

      Rationing health care seems to appeal to a lot of the same people that want taxes to be higher. About the same proportion save society by checking out early as write an extra check to the IRS.

      Being the one to decide who is thrown from the lifeboat seems to be an ambition of a lot of bureaucrats.

    26. OBloodyHell Says:

      }}} Machines like that are now in a rack in a server room which very few have access to and those who don’t have access to that room can still get access to that machine. The latest machines are not really physical machines anyway (kubernetes, docker). Getting permission from Professor X simply requires an email.

      No, it’s a thousand different ways in which such stuff still requires physical access. THIS model of the latest iPad. This collection of phones to run/test your software on.

      More significantly, there’s still plenty of “cutting edge tech” which is still only in labs, dude. And if you start working with, say, DOD equipment, well, you need access to a locked room.

      I had a friend who was getting his doctorate in CIS back when the Clinton DoJ was suing Microsoft. One of his thesis advisors was on retainer for M$ legal. His advisor (and him, by extension) had access to the actual source code for Windows.

      No, you could not get access remotely…
      ;-)

      Again — not saying it’s as much as it used to be, but there’s still a hell of a lot of magic still in laboratories and access-limited spaces — particularly the real cutting-edge stuff, as opposed to the “in production” stuff you’re thinking of. A lot of that stuff is in locked rooms because… trade secrets and all kinds of other intellectual property concerns.

    27. Anonymous Says:

      MCS Says:

      First off: There are actually important things to learn besides computers.

      Any actual real world was learned on their own time with things like robot wars.

      Oh, more than amply agreed. I used the IT context from specific, personal understanding and experience.

      Another common thing for engineers are egg-toss and “bridge-building” efforts which are, in the end, done locally.

      And that connects to another thing which ain’t “server based” — and is not (yet) cheap enough to find in homes — cutting edge tools labs with metal printers, and CAD-CAM lathes, cutters, and other similar techs.

      How about printing edible food from biosludge?

      WHERE are you going to actually learn this stuff if you can’t play with it on your own time?

    28. OBloodyHell Says:

      Note: Anon above is me… “duh”.

      }}} MCS says: Being the one to decide who is thrown from the lifeboat seems to be an ambition of a lot of bureaucrats.

      Well, if it’s GOING to happen, I certainly want to be the one making the decisions, but I’d rather no one was in a position for making such decisions.

      How’s the old joke go?

      If all the world’s a stage, can I operate the trap door? :-D

    29. GWB Says:

      what the children will eat that you can advertise to them as … Jerusalem AD 63
      “Rat on a Stick”! At least for the boys. For French cuisine it’s “Stuffed Rat” instead of Cordon Bleu. :)
      Understanding your audience is key.