If you thought it was depressing to watch Borders go down and Davis-Kidd shutter and Barnes & Noble become a shell of its former self, with only Parnassus to give us hope that people still like to get together and shop, I have some bad news.
Over at Slate.com, Farhad Manjoo is reporting that Amazon stopped fighting the sales tax in order to start providing ultra-quick delivery. In other words, they are quickly working toward a day when you will receive your orders either the day you place them or the next day.
It's hard to overstate how game-changing this could be, if they can pull it off. Imagine rather than stopping by Walmart on your way home from work, you could order those things from Amazon at lunch and have them waiting at your door when you got home. If bookstores felt like they were being used as unofficial Amazon showrooms, just think how every store in existence is going to feel. You could go try on a shirt, find what size looks best on you, and then check Amazon from your phone to see if they have it cheaper. If so, you order it and it's at your house that day and you didn't have to carry the bag.
Physical retailers have long argued that once Amazon plays fairly on taxes, the company wouldn’t look like such a great deal to most consumers. If prices were equal, you’d always go with the “instant gratification” of shopping in the real world. The trouble with that argument is that shopping offline isn’t really “instant” — it takes time to get in the car, go to the store, find what you want, stand in line, and drive back home. Getting something shipped to your house offers gratification that’s even more instant: Order something in the morning and get it later in the day, without doing anything else. Why would you ever shop anywhere else?
If I were any store in Tennessee, this is a question I'd start seriously asking myself right now — assuming that it's not already too late.
This is not the city we lived in five days ago.
We woke last Saturday morning — May 1, 2010, the ominously designated May Day — to a sky the color of a livid bruise and rain that steadily increased from strong to torrential. It didn't let up. By late afternoon, a children's birthday party at the Hillwood Strike & Spare near Bellevue let out to a sky split by lightning and rivulets swelling into whitewater.