Several years ago, I don’t remember how many, the internet transitioned from strictly research, e-mail, chat rooms to commerce. Soon thereafter, in those dark days of digital commerce came the marketers. You know those three martini lunch, Madison Avenue Guys that understood cross-channel marketing.
Yeah, the internet was this great place and the next greatest thing but not everyone was using it. The early adapters in those days “surfed the net” with mostly unfettered freedom using their desktop while at work.
I remember co-workers talking about doing Christmas shopping on-line and having UPS roll up to the mail room and drop off everything from baseball bats to Barbie Jeeps which were stored in empty offices and closets. This was about twenty years ago and seemed so impersonal to me at the time.
I worked in retail as kid in high school and loved helping early and last minute shoppers make their decisions for all of the names on the lists that they carried in their coat pockets. Face to face interaction was exciting, just the same as my first job, running a neighborhood paper route for the local afternoon daily. Another story for another time, maybe.
Ordering things with the click of a mouse, which was just gaining acceptance in 1995, and entering a credit card number into a block on your monitor screen, well that just scared the crap out of me. I trusted UPS and the emergent FEDEX but not a green or amber blinking screen.
UPS had been around for years and specialized in small package delivery. Even in the small town I grew up in, brown trucks were a familiar sight. But putting your credit information into a computer and sending it off to GOD knows where, that was a leap of faith.
See, I’m a procrastinator, especially when it comes to Christmas shopping. I love going out the last day or two, when the deals are exactly the same as they are on Black Friday. On Black Friday, people are determined, unyielding in their pursuit, sleep deprived and generally lacking the holiday spirit.
But the day before Christmas is different. Same mission, same unfilled list of gifts, same sense of urgency, but different. The air is different, cooler, brisker and the sky isn’t quite as bright a shade of blue. Black Friday, everyone goes out at night and gets a place in line and camps out on the sidewalks they would never sit on, much less sleep on.
The mood on Black Friday is like a bunch of homeless people descending on the line outside a soup kitchen knowing that they’re going to be greeted and served by people who won’t be there until this time next year. It ain’t pretty.
Along comes the internet. No waiting in line, your size, your color preference and slowly it begins to catch on. After a few years, the internet begins to turn shopping into a bargain hunting experience, thanks to Google search results and paid ads. Simple right?
Go to Google, type in what you’re looking for and the best bargains come up on the first page. What a deal! Then we learn about Google Ads and how companies pay to have their deals come up first. The secret is algorithms. Kinda makes you wish you had paid more attention in math class.
Anyway, this isn’t an attack on Google. My point is there were always companies vying for your shopping dollar on line and there always will be. One of the first that I remember was priceline.com. Want a cheap hotel, flight or rental car? It was all there in one site.
Remember Madison Avenue? Priceline.com suddenly appeared on television with an instantly recognized spokesperson. William Shatner, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, was suddenly the face of one stop travel shopping. I know, the commercials were shtick, corny but they stuck in your mind.
The tie-in. Today, we had a cabinet secretary resign over a growing scandal about abuse of travel on private planes under the guise of “it was the most convenient way to carry out the President’s aggressive agenda”. Well that excuse lasted about as long geraniums without water for two weeks in the heat of summer.
Had Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, fresh off of another defeat of Repeal and Replace only consulted William Shatner about his travel arrangements, he might not be headed back to Atlanta tonight, probably in economy class. Can you imagine a flight from DC to Atlanta on a Friday night? Not a pretty picture.
Instead, Dr. Price joins Sean Spicer, Mike Flynn and others getting the weekend pass to private life. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz who clicked her heels and wished to be back in Kansas. Dr. Price could, with a little more forethought, tapped his chest and said “Beam me up Scotty”!