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Can 'eBay Now' Really Hope to Compete with Amazon Prime Air Bakery?

Some Day Soon Pie Delivered Directly to Your Mouth in Minutes May Not Be Such a Pie-in-the-Sky Idea

By Published on . 2

Remember when greed, covetousness and extreme impatience were considered bad things? Yeah, me either. But according to historians, in earlier times they were known as vices, not virtues. Go figure, right?

Fortunately, we live in an age of gratification so nearly, literally instantaneous that the window of our collective suffering -- that awful and intolerable stretch of time when we want a thing, but don't yet have that thing, and therefore have to wait for that thing (so degrading!) -- is diminishing more and more with each passing day.

Credit: Kelsey Dake for Ad Age

Amazon, as you know, recently made headlines with its announcement that it's working on creating a fleet of unmanned drones that could deliver your Amazon order in as little as 30 minutes. Of course, it turns out that to achieve that kind of delivery time, Amazon may have to build a lot more warehouses a lot closer to a lot of U.S. households.

What I envision is that, once we all become dual citizens of the United States and the Republic of Amazonia (with Jeff Bezos as our Supreme Leader), and Amazon gains the power of eminent domain, the company will be able to demolish, say, every 50th home in every neighborhood (hopefully the ugliest house owned by that family nobody likes) and replace it with a mini-warehouse stocked with colorful iPhone cases, boxes of Huggies, pints of Ben & Jerry's, what have you.

Until then, though, the good news is that there's this new thing called eBay Now: "Local products from local stores, hand-delivered to you in about an hour for just $5 per order!" It's available right now in selected areas in selected cities, including the island I live on -- Manhattan.

Hilary Stout of The New York Times recently wrote about the amazing, state-of-the-art technology behind eBay Now. You order merchandise through the eBay Now app, and then eBay dispatches a technician known as a "valet" (who, in Manhattan, is likely to be a "bicycle messenger" who rides on a piece of equipment known as a "bicycle," though in other cities eBay Now valets use something called a "car" as their conveyance). As fast as he can, the valet travels to a store that's part of eBay Now's network of local merchants, finds the merchandise you want on a merchandise-containment platform known as a "shelf," and then takes that merchandise to a real-time e-commerce processing center known as a "register" and stands in something called a "line" (not to be confused with "online").

I'm totally serious. In a sample transaction Stout reported on, a 19-year-old New York City valet named Fermin Andujar was dispatched by eBay Now to buy a bunch of stuff at Babies "R" Us. When he arrived at the register after racing around the store to fill up his basket, "Six customers were ahead of him. He waited calmly, paid quickly with a company credit card (total $64.53), placed the goods in his backpack and started pedaling uptown."

Now you might be tempted to say, "eBay Now is a stupid, idiotic, moronic, dumb, dopey idea for a business -- and one that eBay is only doing because it's really good at digital-economy groupthink, and because it's obviously deeply threatened by Amazon."

To which I'd respond: I don't have time for your attitude, missy!

By the way, when I wrote about Amazon Prime Air a few weeks back, a reader named Patrick Di Chiro of San Mateo, Calif., left a comment on AdAge.com, saying, "I think this is actually a big corporate-misinformation ploy by Bezos, designed to drive Walmart, Target, et al. crazy, and force them to waste money on developing their own drones."

Oh, Patrick -- you and your conspiracy theories!

Incidentally, I have it on good authority -- and I'm revealing this solely for the benefit of Amazon's competitors -- that Amazon is planning to build tens of thousands of new combination warehouse-bakeries as home bases for its delivery drones.

Americans, of course, love baked goods. And the baked-goods industry is obviously overdue for disruption. (Bakers Square -- now there's a restaurant that's been resting on its Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme laurels.) The brilliant thing is that having combination warehouse-bakeries will allow Jeff Bezos to have the last laugh, giving him a poetic retort to all those who would dismiss his drones as a pie-in-the-sky concept that will never fly.

Soon you'll be able to buy a made-to-order slice of pie on your Amazon Prime Air Bakery app, and then all you have to do is remain in your backyard Amazon Hammock (free with Amazon Prime membership). You'll get a text message when your pie slice is 60 seconds away from your home. Get ready, because thanks to rapid advances in drone miniaturization and GPS microtargeting, the Amazon Prime Air Bakery drone will be able to make its delivery directly to your pie hole. (Don't forget to open wide!)

Hey, eBay, I think it's time to adjust your R&D budget again, don't you think?

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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