Thursday, July 14, 2016

How much for that spatula there?

Here's an idea for Amazon: What I'm thinking about is the self-storage industry. People are storing their unwanted, un-needed, can't possibly get rid of stuff in storage lockers and buildings covering hundreds of millions of square feet and paying billions of dollars for the privilege. What if, instead, you could just send it to Amazon?

Just think: How many spatulas do you think are in storage today in the world? Hundreds? Millions? Couldn't we do away with some and still have enough to go around on National Pancake Day? How many dishes? Lamps? Sofas? They're just sitting there. Unused.

Amazon's computers and warehouse systems could separate sofas from spatulas and predict how many of each item are likely to be recalled by their owners. Some items never will be and it could be that only a predictable number of spatulas will ever be recalled at any given time meaning that we, as a collective, could do with far fewer spatulas.

As the owner, you could identify your stored items as "absolutely not for sale" - like personal papers - or "available for a price" - like spatulas or sofas. If someone wants to buy your spatula or, say, your husband's ridiculously outdated recliner that's been held together over the years by duct tape, you might be tempted to take the money thereby cancelling your rent payment and ridding yourself of that awful eyesore. Or spatula. A notification would allow you to accept, deny, or counter the offer.

The mail storage industry already exists. I don't mean male storage or the storage of mail which are entirely different things. I'm talking about storage by mail. Mail storage works when you need to store less than a storage-locker-worth of stuff. You mail it in, they store it, then they mail it back whenever you want. You pay by the box rather than by the locker-space. If Amazon ran it, it might resemble a highly computerized, automated, centralized mashup of mail storage and eBay, The result is either a higher utilization of stuff or a tremendous cyclical industry when the new owner realizes she didn't really need a second spatula and sends it back to storage. (Makes me think of Sylvester McMonkey McBean.)

This could put some existing self-storage facilities out of business. But I have a plan for that, too: micro-apartments. (They could be furnished with the surplus spatulas.)

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