Hey 3.5 readers. Well, it’s here. The cover for my upcoming novel, Shop Buddy. It’s about a recent college grad who can’t find the job he wants, so he gets by working for an online shopping service. One of his customers puts in strange orders – rope, chains, knives, a chainsaw and so on. He and his ex-girlfriend who also works for the service (in fact, she’s his boss) get suspicious and unravel the mystery of what said strange customer is up to.
SIDENOTE – I went grocery shopping for the first time in I can’t even remember yesterday and I have to say, I need to go do my actual shopping more because online shopping/delivery just isn’t cutting it.
My complaints about online shopping (which mostly get worked into the novel in one way or another)
A) How is it possible in today’s information age that the website says the store has something and then the shopper gets me and tells me they don’t have it? Supply chain issues aside, every item has a barcode right? So can’t some tech genius hook those barcodes up to the site and when the last one is bought, make it say OUT OF STOCK when you order it? Ah, but there’s the rub. That thing was probably the thing you wanted the most and if you knew they didn’t have it, you wouldn’t have placed the order in the first place. If they made things go out of stock on the website they’d get less orders.
B) Every so often, I get a result that makes me question my faith in humanity. In the book, the main character ruins a child’s birthday party. Charged with shopping for and delivering a birthday cake, the company’s wonky algorithm tells him to buy and deliver a box set of Oingo Boingo’s greatest hits. This becomes a running joke throughout the story i.e. customer asks for a jar of pickles, algorithm tells the shopper to buy a velvet painting of Einstein fighting a velociraptor, customer asks for cat food, algorithm tells the shopper to buy an autographed photo of Abe Vigoda.
I haven’t received anything on the level of Oingo Boingo’s greatest hits or an Abe Vigoda autograph (I’d actually like an Abe Vigoda autograph) instead of what I ordered but there have definitely been times when I ordered, say, an apple, and got something where I just put it on the counter and scrutinized it, saying to myself “How…why…what…how on earth did they see “apple” and think I wanted THAT?”
Pre pandemic, I think these delivery services worked better because the shopper would actually come into your house, put the stuff on the counter for you, and review any discrepancies to your face. Now, they just do a gangland style drive-by where they whip all the bags at your front door while NWA classic hits blare on their speakers. By the time you open the bag and realized they got you a macroni statute of Bette Midler (cue Seinfeld) instead of your tub of egg salad, they’re half way down the block. If they actually had to look you in the eye, they woudn’t make such bizarre subsitutions.
I will say this of yesterday’s in person shopping experience:
A) Often shoppers would text me and say they’re out of this they’re out of that and I’d wonder if they really are out of something or if this is just a lazy shopper. Sometimes I’d curse the inflationary times we live in when my shopper texts me, “They were all out of cookies” and I’m like, “Damn it! It’s like we lost a war!” (Fun fact we actually lost 2 major wars in ten years but that shouldn’t prevent me from getting cookies. It’s not like I’m the Secretary of Defense after all. That guy should be sans cookies for losing wars.)
B) When you’re in store, you see stuff you wouldnt think to look for on the site. Maybe this is good because you’re getting more stuff or then again maybe you are spending more then you would. Then again that extra you are spending would just go to a tip to a guy who is just going to toss the bags at your front porch in an early 1990s style Boyz in the Hood esque drive by. “Break yoself and take yo potato salad, fool!”