Friday, April 29, 2016

Uber’s tortured logic

The first time I used Uber, I sat in the back seat, googling to see whether you were supposed to tip your Uber driver. What I came away from the google with was that, while there was no formal mechanism for tipping – and, in fact, Uber makes it clear that tipping isn’t necessary – everything out there written by Uber drivers said that tips are most welcome.

Since that first trip last fall, I’ve used Uber maybe 10 or 12 times. It’s been generally reliable, in some cases easier to get than a cab. (But not always. For some reason, cab drivers, with their primitive old-timey know-how, know how to find my address, which is on a major thoroughfare, downtown in a large city, and in the same block as a famous tourist spot, the Cheers block. Those relying on GPS or some sort of online map function, often find themselves in other parts of the city. I had one crazy back and forth with Uber. I could see on the app, that all the cars that were actually close to me were being waved off, while someone tootling around Jamaica Plain, which is maybe five miles away, was listed as one minute away and the one coming to get me.)

And, not that at least some cab drivers aren’t, but Uber drivers have been fun to talk with. Oh, yes, and they’ve all been quite appreciative of the tips I’ve given them. Ain’t nobody getting rich as an Uber driver. The tips help.

As a result of a class action suit against it, Uber has “agreed to clarify that tips are not included in its fares — an important concession that drivers hope will prompt more passengers to add a gratuity.” (The way the info on tipping is framed on the Uber app, one might be lead to believe that everything’s all inclusive. Which it is. It’s just that there’s not any concept of a tip factored into the prices that Uber charges.)

What Uber drivers would like the company to do is to add a tip function, so that their often cash-free clientele can add a bit extra.

For some reason, Uber doesn’t want to do this. Maybe they think it will at least psychologically translate into a fare increase, which will undermine their low, low price image. Maybe they figure ‘why bother?’ given that all the human drivers will go away once Uber gets their hands on the self-driving cars they’re so keen on.

But Uber is framing their reasons in grandiose, academic, moral high-horse terms:

Tipping is inherently unfair because of customers’ unconscious racial biases.

The transportation network company’s stance is based in part on an academic study that found white restaurant servers earned larger tips, on average, than black servers who provided equally good service...

The Uber spokesman, who declined to make a company official available for an interview, said introducing widespread tipping would make drivers’ overall compensation dependent on those same racial biases…(Source: Boston Globe)

Okay. So drivers can’t be provided with a better, easier way to get their tips – and the only way to get a tip from one of the rising generation for whom carrying cash is the ‘what’s in your wallet?’ equivalent of wearing a bustle, driving a flivver, and using a rotary phone – because a study of the restaurant biz showed that blacks get lower tips? Sounds like BS to me.

But while I may call BS, there is a counterpoint of sorts offered:

Michael Sturman, a coauthor of the 2008 Cornell study, acknowledged drivers’ frustrations. But he said multiple studies have found tips are more strongly correlated with gender, race, and attractiveness than performance.

“Companies often use tips as a way of passing compensation costs on to the consumer,” he said. “The problem is that you don’t have any control over whether violations of [antidiscrimination laws] are occurring. So there’s a lot of discomfort for companies to say they’re going to use a pay system that we know depends on race and gender, which is illegal.”

Which sounds as if he believes that any service that involves tipping should do away with tipping, as it may be allowing their customers to explicitly or implicitly discriminate. Once again, I call BS. Uber’s grabbing on to this as part of their reasoning seems like tortured logic at best.

I’d be fine with doing away with tipping if everyone just upped their prices by 20% and FULLY PASSED THE EXTRA 20% ON TO THE SERVER. Having been a waitress, I would say that just raising the hourly pay to the minimum wage wouldn’t have made me happy. I was fine getting the sub-minimum pittance, as long as I could make tips. Some days were good days, some were awful. But mostly it balanced out on the side of making more than minimum wage. I expect my experience was not unique, regardless of the color of the server. I don’t know many folks who would opt for the guaranteed minimum wage if they could make more with tips.

I haven’t been a cab driver. Do they even get paid hourly? Uber drivers sure don’t. But I imagine that most of them – Uberista or cabbie -  like getting tips.

Sure, it’s not great to hear that black servers may get worse tips than white servers. But that’s a problem that’s pretty deeply rooted in our society, and it won’t be uprooted by getting rid of tipping.

Anyway, I will continue to tip Uber drivers, just as I do cabbies, and I’d say that my tipping habits are pretty colorblind. But just to make sure, I’ll try to make note of what my impulse tip is for white drivers vs. black drivers. What I do suspect I’ll find is that I’d tip a woman Uber driver more than a man Uber driver, therefore being guilty of gender discrimination.

Since they won’t allow a tip function on their app, for Uber drivers, those tips will be in cash, since I am fuddy-duddy and bustle-wearing enough to still carry.

But I may not be using Uber for much longer.

Lyft has a tip function.

Think I’ll download their app next time I’m out and about.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Churner by marriage

There are many, many things that I miss about my husband. But coming home and finding yet another filled in credit card application, ready for me to sign, is not one of them.

Was my husband someone who racked up credit card debt, and needed to get new cards going so he could rob – or borrow – from Peter to pay off Paul?

Hardly.

I don’t think Jim ever borrowed a dime in his life, and he fully paid off every bill that came in the door the minute it came in the door.

But what Jim was was a frequent flyer miles junky who used points accumulated via credit cards to make sure he never paid for a flight anywhere.

There’s a name for what Jim did, I have learned, and it’s credit card churning.

How it works is pretty simple: You get an offer for a new credit card, promising 50,000 miles if you sign up – as long as you spend, say, $1K a month on the card for three months. Once you hold up your end of the bargain by spending that $1K a month, and you take possession of the miles, you cut the card up. And apply for the next one that comes along.

Compared to the folks who are serious churners, Jim was something of an amateur. While Jim might have a half dozen or so active cards at any given time, the real churners may be juggling dozens of them. One couple profiled in a recent Bloomberg article had “43 cards, not counting more than 20 they’ve opened and closed in the past few years.”

Juggling so many credit cards and rewards programs can be a huge undertaking. You need to meet each card’s spending requirements, track changes to the fine print of all your programs, make sure you’ve got the money to cover bills with due dates spread across each month, and keep up with new card offers. Leppar and Miller both say they spend an hour or more a day on their hobby. [Shawn] Coomer, 34 and now a full-time travel blogger, keeps all his cards—about 25, for now—in a binder and uses a complex spreadsheet to track their due dates, spending requirements, and annual fees. He logs in to each card issuer’s website regularly and constantly looks for fresh offers, opening an average of 15 cards a year. (Source: Bloomberg)

Jim didn’t keep binders or complex spreadsheets, and, as frequently as I felt he was asking me to sign up for yet another card I didn’t want I don’t think we averaged any 15 cards per year. But Jim was a detail-oriented guy, and he kept good records, including info on the dates when he could apply for a new card from a bank that he’d already dumped. And we did accumulate a ton of miles.

Jim also liked Capital One points – I do, too; Capital One is one of the few credit cards I hold – and one of his final points coups happened a couple of months before he died, when we charged a new $15K HVAC system and got showered with points. (I think there was a two-for-one promo on or something. I’ll say this for Jim, he didn’t let a brain tumor stop his brain from churning.)

The trick, of course, is to not get in over your head, and not to incur all sorts of debt that you can’t afford to pay off – all so that you can make oodles of reward miles or points.

A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston showed that when borrowing limits go up, consumers generally can’t help themselves from using every last cent of their extra credit. As churners try to put everything they possibly can on their credit cards, down to rent and utilities if possible, they can also be tempted to buy things they don’t need.

For the record, we did need that new HVAC system.

Alas – for churners, anyway – there are rumors in churner-ville that the big banks are going be cracking down and cutting off the credit card flow to anyone who’s “applied for five other cards in the past 24 months.” That would be my husband. And, under his wing, me when I came home and found one of those filled in applications waiting my signature, or later, awaiting my email confirmation.

As I said, there are plenty of things I miss about my husband, but being a churner-by-marriage isn’t one of them.

Nonetheless, sigh…

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Non-cash and carry

For years now, I’ve been making silent fun whenever I see one of the young folk paying for something that cost, say, $1.49 with a debit or credit card. I really just don’t understand why someone would not just use cash for small purchases. I’m all for prepaid Dunkin cards and my T pass. I’m all for credit cards. I’m all for the ATM. I’m all for ordering online. I’m all for paying for my groceries with my debit card. So it’s not as if I don’t go in for electronic transactions. And I’m not advocating for a return of the gold standard. It’s just that I can’t stand the idea of trusting all things financial to the miracles of technology and science. It’s good to have some cash around. (Isn’t it?)

Oh, I know, I know, if the entire digital infrastructure crashed and burned, it probably wouldn’t help to have four twenty-dollar bills and a change bucket full of pennies. I suspect that, if all systems were no-go, chaos would reign and it wouldn’t matter it you had a roll of quarters on you or not. Someone would soon be breaking down my door for a couple of cans of soup and a jar of peanut butter.

Yet it remains unsettling to see one more part of the realm become ever more incrementally taken over by the non-cash world.

Just the other day, I got to see for myself how much I’m going to like it. Or not.

I was in Boston’s Back Bay, walking past a CVS, when I remembered that I was out of milk. Of course, I could have gone to a grocery store, but most of them were out of my way. And the one that wasn’t so much out of my way – a small shop just around the corner, a 20 second walk from my home – is one that, for a variety of reasons, I just plain don’t like. I will occasionally make a desperation purchase there. And it is easier to lug an 8-pack of Diet Coke from 20 seconds away, rather than from 10 minutes away. But mostly I avoid this store like the plague. Come to think of it, one of the reasons I avoid it is fear of catching the plague…

Anyway, there I was needing milk. And there CVS was, with, I was pretty sure, milk for sale.

So I went in and grabbed a pint, and headed to one of the self-check out kiosks to self-check out.

The first clutch of kiosks all had signs that said “Debit/Credit  Purchases Only.” So I went to the next pod. Same deal.

A helpful CVS employee came over to tell me that, if I wanted to pay cash, I had to go through a register manned by a human being.

I’m all for human beings (mostly). But there was a line. And I really didn’t fell like waiting in line to purchase a pint of milk for $1.49. In fact, I liked the idea of waiting in line to pay in cash even less than I liked the idea of not waiting in line, but having to pay with a credit or debit card. Thus I found myself at the self-checkout register, self-checking myself out, paying with a credit card. (Although I do have enough in my bank account to cover a $1.49 purchase, for some reason – possibly the idea of using my pin – I just didn’t want to pay with my bank card.)

There’s plenty that we’re going to have to answer to the millennial generation for-  college debt, the environment, decaying infrastructure, not to mention developing the foundation for all the glorious technology they’re so smitten with – so maybe this ‘just say no’ to cash annoyance is their little way of getting back at us.

Me? This is one aspect of our changing world that I’ve got a feeling I’m not going to like.

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

On the Waterfront

One of my all-time favorite movies is On the Waterfront. Marlon Brando – and I’m not a huge fan – at his mumbly, heart-breaking best as Terry Malloy, the boxer turned longshoreman. You know, the guy who could have been a contender, but instead is just a bum. Then there’s Karl Malden – at this righteous, soul-stirring best as the priest who helps the longshoremen stand up to the vicious, mobbed up waterfront boss. And Lee J. Cobb as that vicious, mobbed up waterfront boss. Et al.

The acting is terrific. The setting authentic – the movie was filled on the Jersey waterfront, not in a Hollywood back lot. (This was a time when most films weren’t made on location.) The plot tough and gritty. The black and white cinematography just perfect.

I haven’t seen On the Waterfront in a good ten or so years. Maybe I’d find it overblown. But my memories of watching it are vivid, strong and positive.

Longshoreman is one of those jobs that’s been going buggy-whip since the advent of container shipping. And it’s about to get worse.

At one end of a dock at America’s busiest port, tractor-trailers haul containers through dense, stop-and-go traffic. Sometimes they collide. Sometimes the drivers must wait, diesel engines idling, as piles are unstacked to find the specific container they need.

A few hundred yards away, advanced algorithms select the most efficient pathway for autonomous carriers to move containers across the wharf. The four-story-high orange machines cradle their cargo, passing quietly within inches of each other, at speeds as fast as 18 miles an hour, but never touching. Self-driving cranes on tracks stack the containers and then deliver them to waiting trucks and trains with minimal human intervention.

TraPac LLC’s Los Angeles marine-cargo facility demonstrates how autonomous technology could revolutionize freight transport as much as or more than personal travel. TraPac’s equipment doubles the speed of loading and unloading ships, saving money and boosting profits. Their impact is rivaling that of containerization, which eliminated most manual sorting and warehousing on docks after World War II. (Source: Bloomberg)

This will be good news for the environment, as there’ll be less idling time for trucks to do their diesel-spewing as they wait for the containers to get loaded. It will, of course, be a boon for the companies that produce the equipment. Not to mention to the port facilities that will no longer have to deal with as many human beings. (Who wants and needs them?)

In truth, automation on the waterfront has been going on for a quite a while. And, to some degree, the longshoremen have been able to resist some of the efforts to do away with the human element. But, surely, the handwriting’s on the wall. More automation = fewer people needed. And that is not, of course, limited to longshoremen.

All this automation is, of course, cool.

Any day now, we’ll have autonomous cars and trucks and trains and boats and planes. Which not only means that we can sit back and enjoy our commute by texting without guilt, it also means that the world will need fewer truck drivers and fewer engineers and fewer captains and fewer pilots. It also means fewer Uber drivers: Uber has an order in for the first half-million self-driving cars that roll off the (automated) assembly line. Thanks for playing, Uber drivers, thanks for playing.

We did not, as an economy, do an especially good job at planning for what should have been the obvious outcome of so much manufacturing moving overseas: people who worked in factories lost decent-paying jobs. Yes, indeed, many communities – and I live in one – can congratulate themselves for having replaced those odious, low-end manufacturing jobs with jobs of the future in technology, healthcare and financial services. And weren’t we the lucky ones that so much of our crappy manufacturing (think shoes and clothing) went South long ago enough to have made an adjustment before globalization began? But there are plenty of communities that got just plain hollowed-out, and for them the replacement jobs have been lousier and less well paid than what left when the washing machine and air conditioning plants upped-stakes and moved to China. For these places, the brave new world opportunities are working as a prison guard, or at the landfill, or in Wal-Mart.

I saw some of this up close and personal this past weekend, when I spent a few days in upstate NY, “out west”, which is really where the Rust Belt begins.

So what are we going to do about all the jobs – more blue collar jobs like longshoremen, and plenty of white collar jobs thanks to AI – that are going to disappear over the next few decades? Make that what are we going to do about all those people in all those jobs. Let the market take care of it? We’ve seen how well that’s worked for the folks who used to work in factories but now run meth labs our of a shack in their back yard. (And, no, taking care of old ladies in nursing homes will not be for everyone.)

We’ve got lots of crumbling infrastructure to rebuild, for starters.

I’m guessing that longshoremen displaced by automation could help out there.

What’s the plan, Stan, for when automation fully takes over on the waterfront?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Getaway

I just got back from a long getaway weekend. The getaway was with my sister, and we got away to upstate NY to visit her daughter, who is in college there. We stayed in a comfy old house that used to be a B&B until they decided not to offer the second B. Fine by us. Any town with a lot of colIege kids is going to have a number of places where you can get a pretty good breakfast.

I will probably have some sort of “real” getaway vacation this year, but this is it for now.

Or so I was thinking until I got home and saw an article on Bloomberg on Getaway, a young Boston-based company that has a novel vacation concept, one that is based on one of my favorite things: the tiny house.

Somewhere, in rural locations outside of Boston, there are three 160-square foot houses just a couple of hours away. (In June, there’ll be Getaway cabins for NYC as well.) For $99 a night, you get a tiny house getaway.

Hook Number One is that there’s nothing to do once you get to your tiny house except commune with yourself, nature, and whatever companion you’ve brought along (included a 4-legged one for an extra $15). There’s no wifi or TV, and only spotty  cell phone service. For emergencies there’s a landline. Needless to say, there’s no room service, but the tiny houses are stocked with provisions (like pasta and pasta sauce, beef jerky, s’mores mix) that you can buy on the honor system.

The toilets run out of space after 15 flushes, so if you’re there with a full house – some cabins sleep up to 4 – you probably don’t want to spend more than a night there, enjoying life in the woods. Unless you’re happy with enjoying life in the woods the old-fashioned slit-trench and poison ivy way.

Hook Number Two: you don’t learn the secret location until 24-48 hours before your reservation time. All you know is that public transportation and a small town won’t be that far away, and that you’re in for a “stripped-down adventure.”

Which, as it turns out, a lot of people are interested in being in for. The Boston houses are fully booked through July, and Saturday nights are booked up until December.

“I like to call it the anti-vacation,” said Chief Executive Officer Jon Staff, who launched Getaway with his friend Pete Davis, a first-year student at Harvard Law School.

For the past half-century, the American vacation model was to spend a small fortune to fly to a faraway place to which the vacationers would likely never go back, said Staff, 28, who is completing an MBA at Harvard Business School. “You’re probably only going to go there once, so you feel incredible pressure to do lots of things." Now that Americans work longer hours and spend their nights and weekends chained to handheld devices, there’s less call for capital-V "Vacations" and more for basic respite, he said.(Source: Bloomberg)

“Basic respite” aside, Getaway is also used by those who want to see just what tiny house living is like before deciding to go minimalist, forsaking his and her sinks, walk-in closets, and things like privacy, to own a tiny home of their own. Which is why I’d be tempted to try one out.

Not that I’m ever going to have a tiny house. I’m too much of a city girl for that. Where would you plunk a tiny house in downtown Boston?

But, in truth, much as I’d like to a Getaway anti-vacation, I’m also too much of a city girl to be comfortable out in the sticks where I couldn’t see any other human habitation. I don’t care if I’m just a jog away from public transportation and small town whatever. Being in a cabin in the woods would creep me out, unless I took the full house option (plus dog), so that there would be enough of us to have at least two night watchmen/women on duty.

Cities don’t scare me, but the little house in the big woods sure does.

Many years ago – in a time before mobile phones – my sisters and I rented a house on a lake outside Worcester, and we rotated in and out with friends and family, so that at any given time, there were at least two of us there overnight.

Other than the fact that the walls to the bathroom didn’t extend all the way up, making it a bit difficult to achieve any privacy, the place was quite nice.

That was the good news.

The bad news was that there was no one around, and, come nightfall, the surrounds were pitch black and scary. No landline, either. To make a call, you had to walk a couple of miles down a pitch black, winding, narrow, rutted dirt road, to the spot outside an auto body shop where there was a pay phone.

Oh, there was a house next door, but the owners were on vacation. They’d left their two dogs, Doberman pinschers named Rocky and Erica, behind. Someone came over to feed them during the day, but Rocky and Erica had the run of the place, thanks to a dog door that this duo made frequent use of throughout the night. The clatter made by their entrances and exits made it all but impossible for me to listen to what I really wanted to keep my ear out for, which was the arrival of an ax murderer with my name on his blade.

I guess in case of an emergency, one of us could have risked the wrath of Rocky and Erica and slithered in through the dog door to use the neighbors landline.

For me, this was an almost entirely sleepless vacation, other than the day time napping.

So much as I’d like to experience tiny house living and make my way to a getaway, I guess I’m just too much of a chicken. Not to mention that I’m just too much of a non-hipster, and thus am not the demo being targeted here.

Nonetheless, I think the idea is a fun one, and I wish the founders well. Maybe I’ll wait until next year, and book one for late June. I can check in at 3 p.m., enjoy tiny house living until 7:45 p.m., and make my way back to safety before dark.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Gig Economy? Yes and no.

There was an article in The Boston Globe the other day on the gig economy. I really wasn’t going to read it. What would it have to say that I didn’t already know up close and personal, after more than a decade of loadin’ my 16 tons on a freelance basis?

I was not surprised that there were no surprises, although I found the profession of the gigster that was first mentioned as an exemplar of free-lancery an odd one. I mean, can a professional stunt performer in Boston work on anything other than an occasional basis? Oh, sure, there are some films made here, but we’re not exactly Hooray for Hollywood territory.

I’m pretty sure there are more gig economy workers doing tech work, writing brochures, or driving for Uber than there are stunt men.

According to a 2014 study commissioned by the Freelancers Union, 53 million Americans are independent workers, about 34 percent of the total workforce. A study from Intuit predicts that by 2020, 40 percent of US workers will fall into this category. (Source: Boston Globe)

For some of us, the growth of the gig economy has been a boon.

When I jumped corporate ship I was dee-lighted to be out of the commuting, managing, and politicking fray. And thrilled that I was able to immediately find work through my network, without having to do any self-promoting, me-branding or glad-handing. I’m fortunate in that my work has just pretty much shown up when I needed it.

And most of the folks I know who are freelancers are just as happy with it as not. Which is apparently in keeping with others:

According to the Freelancers Union, a 300,000-plus member nonprofit, nearly nine in 10 of its members surveyed said they would not return to a traditional job if given the chance.

Nonetheless, the freelancers lot is not necessarily a happy one. You’re on your own for benefits – health insurance, vacation, the company holiday party – and when you’re goldbrickin’, you’re goldbrickin’ on your own dime.

Most likely, unless you’re on a long term contract, your income is not going to be even from one month to the next. And you’re subject to the bureaucratic accounts payable whims of your clients. On that front, I’ve been spectacularly fortunate. Several of my clients pay net 15. Another’s somewhere between 45 and 60, which is predictable enough.

I did have one client that announced with great flourish that they were going onto a new payment system “for the convenience of our vendors.” Now, how a payment system that went from paying in 30 days to paying in 70-90 days can be positioned as for the payee’s convenience rather than that of the payer is beyond me.

But to me the real downside of the gig economy is that it’s more difficult to build relationships with folks if you’re not actually working with them, day in, day out. Some of my closest friendships were forged at work. I’m sure that’s true for many people. Yes, I have made a couple of reasonably strong friendships with my clients, but most of the relationships are just not the same.

Full-time work is where I also built the network that has always been the source of my freelance projects. I didn’t build this network consciously. The folks I’ve found my work through were the people I liked; some of them are true friends-for-life.

Plus, full-time work is where I developed the skills that enabled me to make a living as a free-lancer. I’m not talking about being able to write. That I could do before I entered the workforce. But the ability to write about technology, to develop messaging, to understand markets, to “get” the B2B enterprise world, etc. That’s all stuff that I learned on the job. And that’s where I’ve made my living once I decided to jump out of corporate and into gig world.

I might have been able to cobble together a living as a writer without knowing anything about technology – but it wouldn’t have been in technology companies. So would not, quite frankly, have been as rewarding monetarily as scrambling about looking for any-old-writing project would have been.

And I wouldn’t have had that wonderful network of mine. I’d have to have built “my brand”, be perpetually on the lookout for opportunities, and other things I didn’t have to do, thanks to all those years in the full-time world.

I feel bad for “the kids” who won’t have the chance to ever experience a full-time job. Who won’t be able to make those friends, develop those skills, and, frankly, drive your self nuts by getting emotionally invested and all swept up in the meshugas of the workplace.

I do have supreme confidence that they’ll figure something out. But good luck to them. I think they’re going to need it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Home Ec meets 3D printing

My mother was a pretty fair seamstress, and she made a lot of clothing for me and my sisters.

Of course, just as I always craved “store-bought” cake, which we had in our house once or twice a year (my father had a tremendous sweet tooth, and my mother did scratch baking several times a week), I always craved “store-bought” clothing. As great as everything looked in the pattern book, a home made outfit wasn’t quite couture. Not that something bought off the rack was, either. Still, at least it had the potential of looking like what everyone else was wearing. I say potential because it was just as likely that what my mother bought for us when we did get something she hadn’t made was some sort of off brand. Like that Anderson Little suit that sort of looked like a John Meyer of Norwich. But not quite.

Unlike my mother, and both of my sisters (who still whip up curtains on occasion), I never really learned to sew. The one item I made, a sort of hang-around the house muumuu, had a crooked yoke.

Learning to sew, however, was pretty much a staple requirement for girls during my youth. All of my friends could sew a bit. For starters, we could all sew on buttons, make minor repairs, and hem a skirt. And most of us at least learned the rudiments of cutting out a pattern and working a Singer sewing machine.

I took sewing lessons at the Girls’ Club.

And I was aware that there was something out there called “Home Economics” that public school girls took at some point during high school, while the boys went off and learned how to build a bird house in “Shop.” Catholic schools, in my universe, didn’t go in for Home Ec. Maybe we were too close, generation-wise, to having been maids, seamstresses, cooks, and cleaning ladies. Let those swanky Protestant girls whose grandmothers hadn’t scrubbed floors in the New Country learn how to clean in high school. We would take Latin instead.

I’m guessing that at this point in time, the arrival of boatloads of cheap clothing items has done away with the need to learn to sew. Why toil for valuable hours that could be spent on Snapchat to make a dress you could get at H&M for $20, wear twice, and toss out?

And now, on the horizon, is 3D printing of clothing.

So far, it’s used for the hautest of haute couture, destined for display at the Met’s Costume Institute, clothing that cannot actually be worn by anyone, even if they could afford it to begin with.

But it’s heading our way.

When that happens, “it can be as revolutionary as the sewing machine,” said Andrew Bolton, Manus x Machina’s [Met exhibit] curator. “It means you can 3D print your dress to your exact measurements at home.”

Couture clothes, in the traditional fashion industry definition, are “items made for you, that fit your body,” Bolton explained. Usually that means the garments are expensive, rare, and difficult to obtain. But with 3D printing, this extravagance will move into any home that has a printer. “Because it has the ability to mould exactly to your measurements, it’s environmentally friendly, too” Bolton said. “There’s no waste, whereas there’s always waste with textiles.” (Source: Bloomberg)

So far, most of what’s getting 3D printed is not exactly wearable, unless you’re interested in wearing something highly structured and inflexible. Forget that comfy jersey dress, or even an uncomfortable Lyrca club mini. Forget that flowing, drapey crepe number. The chiffon bridesmaid dress. Body armor is more like it.

But the “early adopters” are working on hard goods: jewelry, footwear, eyewear, pocket books.

Just think, by the time all those self-driving cars are out there, ready to take us shopping, there’ll be no need to actually go shopping. Admittedly, a lot of our shopping is online. But most of us still have occasion to go into a brick and mortar and buy physical goods. We want to see what’s out there. We want to see what’s on sale. We want to do some impulse buying. We want it now.

Before we know it, now will actually be now. Push a button and watch your 3D printer whip you up a little black dress, a new pair of jeans.

Who needs home ec?