The ultimate in convenience, or a repulsive symptom of late capitalist excess?
While perusing one of my favourite apps last week I made a startling and exciting discovery. The Kingsland Night N Day, which is part of the Gull petrol station along Great North Rd, had been added to Uber Eats. Among the items you can have delivered from a service station are a hot dog on a stick, scooped ice cream, half a kilo of off-brand gummy lollies, a lasagne topper, and a pack of Cameo Cremes. Initially, you could also get a 2L bottle of milk but that option appears to have been removed. Upsetting for those at home hungover and wanting large quantities of milk brought straight to their door for at a markup.
As someone who is constantly either wanting a treat, eating a treat, or experiencing regret after eating too many treats, the selection piqued my interest. Sure, the desserts section on Uber Eats is varied and plentiful, but sometimes all you want is a packet of Toffee Pops Original. Would they taste all the better for costing $7.90 plus delivery? Is the expansion from home delivery of actual meals into the ready-made snack market an ominous sign of late capitalism's complete capitulation to convenience and laziness, so long as that's what the market demands?
On Wednesday afternoon the Metro team ordered a box of wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce ($9.90) and a packet of Snickers Pods ($7.90) to see what would be like to really lean into a life of slothful gluttony. $21.79, a whole box of wedges and most of a bag of Pods later I mainly felt quite sick.
Most places selling food via Uber Eats markup their prices to compensate for the cut Uber takes, an understandable move which nevertheless makes you start questioning your life choices as the bill quickly mounts, and that’s before you’re forced to contend with the $5.99 delivery fee whacked on at the end. What does it say about where we’re at as a society that there’s a viable market for people spending more than $20 to have two non-essential treats couriered to them when the very people doing the couriering are usually working more than one job to make ends meet. Seems bad?
The delivery took 32 minutes to get from Kingsland to the Bauer office in central Auckland, slightly more than originally predicted but still very fast considering I walked less than 20 steps to receive it.
Usually, when you collect your Uber Eats bag, the restaurant has drawn a little Sharpie smiley face next to your name. Today there is no smiley. I understand. Someone ordering a box of wedges and a bag of Pods to their desk doesn’t deserve a smiley.
The wedges are warm, not hot - but no cooler really than if you were to buy them from the service station itself. “Not bad for Uber Eats,” my colleague says. “It’s kind of like adult baby food - warm and mushy,” my editor muses, as he eats another. Again this is true but no different than if we’d bought them straight from the source. A huge splodge of sour cream has been added to the box and the heat has made it run a bit, so about a quarter are inaccessible without eating in a manner more disgusting than I would prefer in front of my colleagues. Luckily several Night N Day-branded napkins have been chucked inside the bag.
On the Uber Eats app, you can finish off your order by rating each individual item delivered, ticking either thumbs up or thumbs down and there is the option to add further feedback. This makes sense when it comes to something like wedges, each scoop of which is affected by variables which can greatly impact the enjoyability of the wedge-eating experience. It makes less sense for a bag of Pods. Pods are Pods, unsure how Uber Eats could fuck that one up.
Ultimately, the experience was tasty but mildly unsettling. During the ordering process, I became briefly enraged when I saw some very yum-looking waffle fries were currently sold out and unavailable. I imagined having to explain to my sweet Granddad, whose Depression-era anti-waste mentality is still so strong he recently "ate around" the mould on an ancient piece of garlic bread he'd microwaved, that I got mad because the wide array of treats available to me wasn’t quite vast enough for my liking. I worry about what the age of convenience is doing to our psyches. To misquote Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, “Your Silicon Valley disrupters were so preoccupied with whether or not they could deliver a single packet of Squiggles to Auckland office workers, they didn't stop to think if they should.” If some Snickers Pods aren’t worth walking around the corner to the dairy for, maybe we didn’t really want them that much after all.
Photography: Alex Blackwood