Confession: I Want It Now

It started innocently enough, with a Facebook rant during the holidays. I wanted free shipping on Amazon but my order was $7.41 short, and I was tired of looking.

“I needed 26 cents,” commented one friend. “It took me two days to spend it.”

I loved the sympathy, but was more intrigued by commenters who urged me to spring for something called Amazon Prime, a subscription that for $99 a year that generally brings free shipping with two-day delivery, plus free videos.

“Awesome!” I said – not to the $99 but to the shipping and delivery – and quickly demonstrated my ability to talk myself into almost anything.

“Between the shipping charges and all the junk I throw in to get free shipping, I’d actually be saving money,” I told my husband. I did not consider the fact that during the two days scrambling to find a 26-cent item, I might decide I didn’t need what was in my cart at all.

Still, until the other day, I was congratulating myself with each Prime Instant Video we watched and each small item that appeared next day at the door.

“We will definitely make this pay,” I declared.

But then I heard on a radio talk show that in some cities – and more to come – Prime subscribers can get same-day delivery for $5.99, and in several places, including Manhattan, there’s already two-hour delivery for free and one-hour delivery for $7.99. If Amazon has its way with the FAA, drones could be delivering packages remotely to cut the waiting time.

I’m fine with free shipping of any kind, but suddenly it struck me that there was something out of whack with not being able to wait more than an hour to have something delivered.

This is not to say it doesn’t work. An online reviewer in Manhattan – apparently a $7.99 kind of guy – reported a delivery in 34 minutes, and the radio talk show geek said he ordered an ice cream scoop in the afternoon and got it in time for dinner.

“What could be so important that you couldn’t wait even a couple of hours?” I wondered. Admittedly, a few things not worth sharing came to mind.

But what troubled me was something I’d heard about in a psychology class: the Stanford Marshmallow Study. That’s the one where children could choose whether to eat one treat (sometimes a marshmallow) and eat it immediately or wait 15 minutes and get two marshmallows. Some could not wait even 15 minutes and popped that marshmallow right in their mouths. Others stared off with a defiant gaze or even squirmed a little but were willing to wait for the better deal.

The results were troubling. Tracked down years later, those who were willing to wait for two marshmallows had higher SAT scores, more education, better Body Mass Index (BMI) scores and – just guessing here – weren’t paying for Amazon Prime accounts or one-hour shipping. Yikes!

“We are obviously going down the wrong road here,” I told my husband. “Whatever happened to delayed gratification?”

Not to worry. A quick check on Amazon showed that the topic is alive and well. The online retailer is offering dozens of books that urge delaying gratification as a road to success. One, by the Stanford researcher, is called The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control and another, Don’t Eat The Marshmallow Yet!: The Secret to Sweet Success in Work and Life.

I can’t wait to read them. And don’t have to. Fortunately, I have a Kindle. Otherwise, I’d have to move to Manhattan.

Copyright 2015 Pat Snyder

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