Maria Gutzeit: Eagerly awaiting the on-demand, futuristic life


One of my perennially favorite speakers, Mark Schniepp, PhD, seemed quite enamored of self-driving cars at the 2018 Economic Outlook, presented by the Santa Clartia Valley Economic Development Corporation and College of the Canyons this month.

Schniepp, the director of the California Economic Forecast, has a bit of a Bill Maher way about him, and he makes serious economics hilarious. He really likes self-driving cars, and opined that the current Millennials will be the last generation that needs to learn how to drive.

Schniepp has commented along these lines for a few years, but April 1, sees driverless cars become legal in California.

Within five years he thinks they will be prevalent.

Driverless cars will reduce accidents, traffic and the need for parking. In the future, we’ll subscribe to car “plans” and one will appear whenever we need it, and we won’t pay for something that sits idle most of the time.

This reminds me of the great benefit of libraries.

You can access obscure reference materials, get e-books for your digital devices and satisfy voracious readers, all without spending a dime (other than our taxes.)

I currently favor the county library system because of the amount of books they have in their catalog (i.e. books you can get from other libraries) and the speed in which you get them.

When your child is reading a 12-book series or you want a book on the bestseller list, this can’t be beat. I find the e-books a bit more limited and hope that can be improved.

The other neat thing about the libraries is, if you have the time, you can also go browse the shelves and discover new things. Often there are seminars like 3D-printing, coding, art and book discussions as well.

The librarians are great and can direct you to the specifics you or your family are looking for. When you drop by the library, if only to pick up the books you ordered online, discovery is possible and fun.

Another place we could use a mix of online and in-person is retail. At the Economic Outlook, Schniepp pointed out that Millennials are no fans of shopping, and often prefer digital chats over talking to people.

I loathe in-person shopping, due to a lack of spare time coupled with the desire to not spend my time looking for parking, wandering from store to store looking at things not in my size, not in the color I want and not the style I want.

“Free shipping and free returns” has become commonplace, and is well used.

However, this can’t be the most efficient way because, again, you are guessing on fit and quality. Today, I’m feeling a bit bummed, sending back $300 worth of nice stuff that I can’t find locally but, alas, didn’t fit right. The delivery people must either love online shoppers or think we are crazy.

Apparently, Bonobos, a menswear retailer, knows this. They and a few other specialty chains offer concierges at their stores who take note of what you are looking for, offer samples for fitting and generally ship your purchases to your home.

A friend from New York visits Bonobos once a year to check fit, then orders away whenever he needs anything. The people who wear suits and shirts custom made by “their guy” in downtown LA enjoy this same no-hassle process. A tailor once commented to me that she could have pants made for the price I paid to have off-the-rack pants tailored, but, sadly, I lost contact with that person.

Like books and cars that arrive when you want, how nice would it be to have on-demand access to clothes you want, without the schlep?

Not just suits, but daily work clothes and even casual wear in your preferred style and color. No hassle, other than the initial visit.

Women have personal shoppers at a few stores, mostly at places like Topanga and Burbank, but still sit at the whim of whatever that store chooses to stock. Unless you are a movie star with a stylist, women’s shopping is a drag.

A good indication of the shortage of women in tech is that no one has invented a universal 3D-sizing device that can be calibrated across all manufacturers and rolled out, perhaps in Bonobos-like solons, to eager shoppers.

Someone will probably invent this. Schniepp will be quipping about it. And I can finally get some good shoes on the first try.

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.

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