Instant Gratification Isn’t Fast Enough

Image ripped off The Matrix. Please don't sue!
Image ripped off The Matrix. Please don’t sue!

Radio Shack showed me that “instant gratification” is a crappy business model.

Radio Shack is collapsing, and that sucks. As a professional prototyper, it’s really damn convenient to be able to walk a few blocks and pick up a 470Ω resistor. Sure, it costs 5,000 times more than ordering it from Mouser, but I don’t need a two-cent resistor on Friday. I need a resistor to finish this project and I don’t care if it costs five bucks.

Most goods aren’t like this. Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping feels insanely luxurious when you’re ordering a cable, a toaster, a video game. It’s not a big deal to wait – in fact, the anticipation is often a lot of fun.

But there are times when you need something RIGHT FRIGGIN’ NOW. Your team of contractors ran out of brads while framing out a wall. You burned your chest while recording a stupid Facebook video and need some cream. Your band’s gig starts in an hour and your bassist got stoned and forgot his cord. At times like this, you don’t even look at the retail price, because having that product within driving distance saved your ass.

For things you buy retail, Google Shopping and Amazon Same-Day are just too slow. You can’t wait until 6, you need to send out the intern ASAP. For things you can afford to delay, the difference between two-day shipping and same-day shipping is negligible.

RadioShack, and retail in general, missed this. All they need is a decent cross-store inventory search and they can scalp random doodads all day. They don’t need to compete on price, and they don’t need to compete on delivery speed.  All they need to do is cash in on those emergencies, because not even the most “instant” logistics can outrun a drive to RadioShack.

As for the same-day services? They’re caught in a mushy middle – too slow to substitute for retail, too clunky to overtake two-day air. The business model isn’t any better now than when Kozmo collapsed.

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