I use Amazon, am a Prime member, and find the price and convenience (a well as selection, reviews) really tough to beat. I use the subscription service for a handful of grocery items, staples and/or things that can be bought in bulk. I also have a Costco membership, and this Amazon buying definitely cuts into buying there.
Now Amazon is expanding the grocery focus with Amazon Fresh. I think that they basically want to be bringing items to our doors every day. They are testing this in San Francisco and LA I think, and I think that business model is probably tricky to make money at, but I bet that they can figure it out with the assets Amazon has available.
A question that I have not read or heard asked is regarding the cost, full cost, of shipping all of this stuff in individual packages to our doors. The stuff would have to get to a nearby store anyway, but now it will come in a small box via an individual trip. This must add tremendous cost, waste (boxes, packing materials), pollution. Am I wrong on this? I would actually like to believe so, but have a hard time imagining another outcome.
NYTimes: The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street
This is really fascinating. High frequency trading may have benefits to the market and investors, I don’t know enough about it, but certainly the motivation to profit from basically frontrunning trades made by “slow” traders (basically everyone else) is clear. And it seems that huge profits have been made by HFT shops, large banks with dark pools and exchanges themselves by selling the tech and access to enable this strategy. But I would like to talk to friends who are in this world to ask them what they think.
An interesting aspect to this is that it has the quality of a great crime in that the perpetrators profit while the victims have no idea that they are damaged. And in fact, the amount that any one victim is harmed may be somewhat small (thinking here of individual investors, not for example T Rowe), because only fractions of pennies per share might be the difference in price paid as a result of this. So the damage is really diffuse, hard to actually quantify, and so hard to get personal about.
I am amazed at 3D printing technology, it seems almost not believable. But it is here and will grow…our kids may all have 3D printers as central to any home workshop. And while it opens up incredible opportunities, it will also lead to questions around our consumer desire for getting exactly what we want and the implications for what that means (maybe more belief in the idea that the thing will make us happy if only it….). But that is worth the benefit to be able to bring design and creation tools into our everyday lives and hopefully for people/companies to create products locally that would otherwise not be available. Thinking here of making something in the less developed parts of the world that otherwise defies cost and shipping practicalities.
Interesting post from two economists about the need to invest in infrastructure, primarily to benefit future growth in GDP. Their discussion of creating a capital budget seems like it could help to create a paradigm shift in the political bickering over the deficit. And I like the idea on our “stock of knowledge”, though it seems difficult to measure and therefore ripe for mistakes and abuse.
NYTimes: The Flood Next Time
So what do you do if you live at or near the east coast? Should your next house be on higher ground? I will check to see if there is a regional forecast that includes Long Island Sound, Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket.