The story is often told that Tom Monaghan, the Founder of Domino’s Pizza, once quipped, “We don’t sell pizza. We sell delivery. We offer time to families who are looking for it.”
To be fair, I can find only anecdotal evidence supporting that assertion. However, given the fact that Domino’s Pizza famously worked to shave seconds off its delivery times, the spirit of the quote probably rings true.
Domino’s Pizza, founded in 1960, became perfectly poised to sell a product to the American consumer they were willing to buy: convenience. With the sudden increase of dual-income families, people became more and more willing to pay for the easy dinner solution of a 30-minute pizza delivery. Indeed, within the first 15 years of franchising, the Domino’s Pizza chain had opened over 200 stores nationwide.
Of course, as the speed of our lives has continued to increase, so has the appeal of convenience.
From food and coffee to auto-care and healthcare, convenience is becoming increasingly, well, convenient. Convenience is no longer merely appreciated among the average consumer, it is demanded in almost every corner of our economy.
But at what expense have we pursued convenience? Consider some of these hidden costs:
Money. At the grocery store, the drive-thru, or the coffee counter, we pay a premium for convenience. In some cases, it costs just a little, but in other cases, convenience can be quite expensive. But convenience costs us in more places than the pocketbook.
Health. Not always, but often times, the purchase of convenience negatively impacts our health. Prepackaged foods are among the fastest-growing segments in grocery sales, with sales growing more than 60 percent in the past year. Unfortunately, many of these meals contain preservatives and contain as much as 57 percent of the recommended daily allowance for salt.
Quality. There are times, of course, when purchases made out of convenience result in a higher quality good or service. But this is not always the case. Starbuck’s coffee may be as good an example as any. Even among those who frequent Starbuck’s regularly, very few would argue they could not make better coffee at home. But what Starbuck’s does offer is convenience (and social status, but that’s for another conversation).
The Environment. From home electronics and kitchen appliances to pre-packaged foods and single-serve coffee pods, our quest for convenience has resulted in increased energy use in packaging and transportation and preparation. It has also resulted in increased waste at an almost alarming rate.
Intentionality. Many times, our mindless pursuit and consumption of all-things convenient robs us of opportunities for mindfulness and intentionality. For example, when I used to load the dishwasher merely out of convenience sake, I missed the opportunity for mindfulness in doing the dishes.
Perseverance. Often times, the greatest lessons we learn in life are born from inconvenience (or pain and suffering). In fact, numerous scientific studies have proven the same thing. But among a society where convenience and comfort are pursued above everything else, the opportunity to develop perseverance becomes less and less frequent.
Overconsumption. One of the reasons for the high levels of consumption in our society today is that goods have become increasingly cheaper to produce and purchase. But another reason for the high level of consumerism in our world is the ease of availability for these same items. When shopping becomes convenient, so does consumption. And with strip malls, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants on the corner of every major thoroughfare (not to mention, the availability of online shopping), we are constantly presented with convenient opportunities to buy more than we need.
I should be very clear on this: There are times when convenience is absolutely worth the price. One might even argue our entire system based on the division of labor was born out of convenience—it is easier for me to pay somebody to grow the food and sew the clothing and build the shelter than for me to do it all by myself.
However, if your lifestyle is being compromised in any of the areas above (i.e. finances, health, intentionality, or overconsumption), you might want to reevaluate what purchases you are making purely for the sake of convenience. Because maybe the cost has become too great.