IN my recent adventure moving house I tested out a theory. It turns out it’s a lot cheaper to furnish a house than it used to be.
In need of a washing machine, a fridge and a microwave I put out a shout on Facebook.
A recently replaced dryer was offered for free, and a microwave. Both in fine working order mind you, just taking up space in the sheds of their respective homes.
A fridge was offered for $50. Not the prettiest, but in working order and a good size.
This left the washing machine.
When my house-moving helpers sat down for a well deserved pub lunch I opened up a laptop, tethered it to my phone and hit the Gumtree classifieds site.
My helpers expressed some dismay that I hadn’t organised this in advance.
There was method in my madness, there’s not much point calling about the appliance if you can’t come get it right away; that way lies disappointment and gazumping.
The first person I called was holding the washer while a prospective buyer thought about it. I was ready to go, with cash in hand, but they were admirably resolute in sticking to their promise to the wavering buyer.
To each their own.
The second number I called wasn’t home that day. I only had the truck for a day, so they were out.
The third number was at home and ready to do business. I said I’d be there in 40 minutes and advised the helpers to finish their pints.
There followed a magical mystery tour of Canberra’s outer suburbs. With the stern directions of the Google Maps lady ringing in our ears we were in and out in minutes.
The appliances were generally out by the side of the house when we got there.
For $120, or the cost of a big night out before the taxi fare home, I was able to buy the whitegoods for a whole house. Add on $10 worth of diesel if you like.
Fifteen years ago, when making a similar move, I spent closer to a thousand dollars fitting out the house and the fridge then didn’t even have a freezer.
Sure there were classifieds in the paper back then, but they were expensive so there was no point advertising cheap things you mostly just wanted someone to take away.
Without GPS navigation the backstreets of West Belconnen also would have lost their lustre compared to a shopping precinct.
This is the disintermediation the futurists have been banging on about for the last 20 years.
Once there were good livings to be made picking things up cheap and flogging them not quite so cheap in a centralised location.
Now multi billion dollar multinationals offer us microservices. Gumtree is owned by eBay and harvests a hefty chunk of personal data to let you contact sellers. Google provides my navigation and tracks my movements.
Instead of having to own a truck I rent one from the Hertz website as needed. That last company does employ some local people to hand over the truck keys, for now.
It would be terrifying to even the slightly paranoid.
But my beer is cold, my food is hot, my clothes are clean and dry, and it cost me less than a night at the pub.
The future is scary, but it has some consolations.
(It is not, however, perfect. A couple of days later Gumtree responded to my interest in washing machines by emailing me a page of other washers for sale in Canberra. Too late, my friends.)