Opinion | Hamilton: In-home deliveries aren’t actually new
This fall, in Kansas City, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Vero Beach, Florida, Wal-Mart will be experimenting with in-home delivery of groceries. Apparently, Amazon thinks Wal-Mart is on to something because Amazon is shutting down its Amazon Restaurant Meals delivery system and replacing it with an Amazon/Whole Foods home-delivery system.
Granted, in this digital age, home delivery is no longer front-page news. But get this: Wal-Mart plans to enter the homes of its in-home delivery customers and even place food items that require refrigeration into their refrigerators. Wow! What will they think of next?
Actually, in the early 1950s, what Wal-Mart plans was being done routinely in the little town of Anadarko, OK. After this writer got a driver’s license, working in the town’s grocery store was one of my first paying jobs.
The workday began with taking grocery orders over the phone. You wrote down the name of the item, the quantity desired, and the unit price on a billing ticket. Billing ticket in hand, you went through the grocery shelves, putting the requested items into a basket. By mid-afternoon, all of the baskets were loaded into the delivery truck.
Back in those days, not every home had an electric refrigerator. Many homes only had ice boxes. Consequently, the truck was also loaded with blocks of ice and an ice pick. Municipal water tended to be light brown and had a funny taste. Consequently, the truck was also loaded with five-gallon bottles of spring water from someplace in Arkansas.
When you arrived at the customer’s home, you went to the back door, which was always unlocked in those crime-free days. When you got into the kitchen, you were expected to put the cold items into the refrigerator.
And not just placed in any old way. If the items were not placed in the refrigerator according to the customer’s desires some customers, but not all, would call later in the day to complain, earning you a rocket up your backside, as the Brits would say.
For the ice-box homes, you chipped the block of ice and arranged the items so they were covered by the ice. Before leaving, you often swapped an empty five-gallon water bottle for a full one, placed a copy of the ticket on the kitchen table, slipping out the back door, leaving it unlocked.
Unlike Wal-Mart which plans to install a special, one-time, coded-lock on garage or front doors, require the delivery person to wear an active, smart-phone-accessible body cam while delivering, and undergo a vetting process not unlike the personal security investigation (PSI) needed for a top-secret security clearance, we were just local teenagers who, in those halcyon days of the 1950s — before booze, drugs, and the moral collapse of the 1960s — needed to earn some spending money or, in my case, start saving for college.
So, in terms of the end product, the in-home delivery of grocery items, by Wal-mart and/or Amazon will not be inventing anything new. What is new is the need to install special locks, require body cams, and require background investigations of delivery personnel.
Thus, the question arises: As a society, have we progressed or not? You decide.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.
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The business and tourism prognosticators from across the country are saying it loud and clear: This summer will be very busy and most businesses won’t be able staff-up or expand to handle the increased demand.