The End of Buying Things

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 2 2013 2:16 PM

When Every Day Is Buy Nothing Day

Now where are my shoes?


Trying to think through the implications of something like ubiquitous fast-responding delivery drones (or, equivalently, driverless cars), I think what you get is a world in which every day is Buy Nothing Day, and the amount of things people actually own radically falls. Not because people will lose their taste for consumer goods, but because it makes sense to repackage more and more things "as a service."

Think of Netflix. Why buy DVDs and build your own video library when cheap, ubiquitous streaming means you can rent access to your library?


So imagine the same principle for everyday goods. I own a nice 3½-quart cast iron Dutch oven. Some days I use it even though a smaller vessel would be ideal. Other days I need something larger, so I need to work with a less nice piece of cookware. Many days neither my wife nor I cooks at all. And our kitchen is full of stuff like that—things we only sometimes use, and things that aren't always perfect for the job. What if we could subscribe to Netpots and have the drones bring us exactly the tools we need? Different priced subscriptions would entitle you to have different numbers of items "checked out" simultaneously (like the Netflix DVD-by-mail product), and then you'll return what you don't need any more when you don't need it anymore.

The same principle would apply to all kinds of apparel. Instead of a closet full of clothing and a lot of tedious laundry chores, you'll select an outfit online and send the stuff back by drone when it's dirty. Upscale clothing subscription services will have a wide range of rapidly changing styles, while the less affluent (or less fashion-conscious) will stick with a more limited palate.

Of course fancy people will stick with the closet concept because they'll be wearing unique bespoke clothing.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer


Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.


Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.