Not long ago, my wife, Cathy, and I were watching television when a commercial came on for a revolutionary glue product. It incorporates a light that the user shines on the objects to be glued, which apparently causes a chemical reaction that instantly completes the bond. I wondered aloud if it worked, knowing that my dentist also uses a glue-and-light combination when completing fillings. Not missing a good opportunity, Cathy reminded me that there are plenty of fix-it projects around the house that have been neglected for a while. To maintain marital harmony, I dutifully ordered the glue through its online storefront.
I soon received a confirmation from the company stating, "Please allow for the standard shipping time of 3-6 weeks." Now, when I was younger, that kind of processing and delivery time was to be expected. I remember saving Kellogg's box tops and sending them off to Battle Creek, Mich., or some similar exotic locale, then waiting seemingly forever for my order to arrive. I think it took about six months once to get a plastic model of a Gemini space capsule (yes, I know that dates me).
But such delivery windows seem extraordinarily long today. So what has changed to make 3-6 weeks unacceptable now? In two words: customer expectations.
While waiting weeks for an order to be delivered was the norm years ago, consumers no longer have that kind of patience. I did not know it could be better when waiting for my Gemini capsule, just as I did not know there would ever be more than three television stations in anything other than black and white. We know better now, because Amazon and others have proved supply chains can be much more efficient. Something can be ordered one day and magically appear on the doorstep within two days, and very often the next day.
Online retailers have simply responded to customer preferences, and in doing so, they have raised the bar for all of us. We have come to know two-day shipping as the new norm. And of course we expect that shipping to be free.
Yet even two-day is not fast enough for an increasingly impatient populace. Amazon is busy ramping up its own transportation fleet and building distribution centers at a dizzying pace to offer same-day delivery in many markets.
It seems consumers will not be totally satisfied until they click the order button on their computers and then immediately hear their doorbells ring with the delivery. You never know—Amazon may someday figure out how to do just that.
Meanwhile, the glue did take about three weeks to arrive. I guess it's about time that I get to that honey-do list.