General

Online shopping has benefits for some but drawbacks for others


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By  Wyl Smith

wylliam-smith@uiowa.edu

Did you know that you can go to Walmart’s website, buy your groceries online, and have them delivered to your house? Walmart isn’t the only store to do this; now many stores such as Hy-Vee do this as well. You now could potentially never have to leave your house to do anything. The future is now, ladies and gentlemen.

In truth, this service is greatly useful for those who need it. For instance, both people with disabilities and elderly people now can have their supplies delivered to their house, which can be extremely helpful if they struggle to do these errands on their own. People with disabilities make up 12.6 percent of the U.S. population, according to the 2015 Cornell University Disability Status Report, and according to the Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey, 14.5 percent of people in America are 65 or older. So, these services can truly help a lot of people.

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Still, I can’t help but think about the future world we are creating for ourselves. If everyone is buying everything online, then what’s the point of leaving and buying stuff at actual stores? It can harshly affect local stores to the point where they won’t make enough profit to sustain themselves. In a 2013 column in Forbes, Eddie Machalaani and Mitchell Harper, CEOs of Bigcommerce, said that while e-commerce does mean a large change for retailers, it doesn’t mean the end of brick-and-mortar stores. Machalaani and Harper say that small stores simply need to evolve to adapt. But what if small stores can’t adapt?

As the 1980 song “Video Killed the Radio Star” implies, this trend of consuming new forms of technologies will always lead to the death of something else. In the case of online shopping, the victims could be supermarkets. And while that may seem a bit far-fetched, just think of the online streaming sensation that took over the nation a few years ago. Remember Blockbuster? Online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon video essentially saw to the extinction of that franchise.

It’s hard enough for local stores to compete with the multimillion dollar businesses, but when the average person can just opt out of of going to either and buying everything online, that creates an even bigger problem.

And it’s already happening in Iowa City. The K-Mart on Hollywood Boulevard will close in September. And while we can’t put all the blame on online shopping, we can definitely conclude that it had some part in it at least. Sears, the parent company of K-Mart, is closing 150 stores nationwide, and it has said it has “substantial doubt” about its ability to keep stores open. And K-Mart is a large company, so you can imagine the effect on smaller local businesses.

I am not saying that these services are not needed or that they are not useful. Shopping online is convenient and can be cheaper and easier if you are too busy and don’t have time to dedicate a couple hours to go to the store and stand in lines all day.

In the long run, however, this could prove to do more harm than good. Not only local stores could be affected, but all stores. And if that happens, not only will businesses close down, all the jobs they provide will be lost.

With dystopian movies continuing to be produced, such as the upcoming Ready Player One, I find myself thinking about the future and wondering: Is easier better? Hopefully, as new technologies continue to be introduced, we can find a way for them to be used by those who need them without sacrificing the integrity of interacting face-to-face.



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