• Alumni

Activity Feed

I would like to comment on two things: 1. Whole Foods way of tackling online shopping, 2. being careful not to disserve the customer with technology.

1. I believe that the current way of working with Instacart, while beneficial to enter the digital space, cannot be a long-term solution. Having a person physically shop for you actually increases the total duration that a person spends shopping because you spend time online selecting and then the person has to find the items in the store. In my opinion, Amazon’s warehouse delivery model seems a more likely longer term solution (as shown in many other countries e.g. Germany where this is already the norm). Because building such an infrastructure takes a lot of time, Whole Foods needs to make sure it is not left behind by relying on Instacart.

2. During my most recent visit in Whole Foods in NYC, I experienced a technology enabled queuing system where customers don’t stand in one but multiple queues and are called by a machine. When I got to the beginning of the system, each of the 6 lines had 1 customer. I soon realized that the machine actually didn’t know who joined the line when and so by chance I was called after all the other lines’ later arriving 2nds had been called. My conclusion from this is that companies like Whole Foods need to be very careful when implementing new technology to not draw away its customers.

On November 19, 2016, Sabine commented on Misunderstanding the American Electorate :

I think over time it has become quite evident that what consumers or voters report often drastically differs what they actually did/will do. I therefore believe that the future will not lie in asking people (through whichever method) but in finding out about them. I am convinced that digital technologies are the only efficient way of doing this (living with every person surveyed for a week and observing their behavior is simply way to expensive). I agree that Civis may not have found a great solution yet but I am not sure that going back to basics is the answer given how much evidence we have of people misreporting (intentionally or unintentionally).

On November 19, 2016, Sabine commented on BlueStar – Managing diabetes one click at a time :

Thank you for sharing your insights on this company! It is very impressive that their app has proved to be so effective and has thus been FDA approved! One thing I was wondering is whether connecting patients to each other patients is actually something patients would appreciate. There are two cases to consider here: the waiting room and the online forum. I have never heard patients talk to each other about their condition in a doctor’s waiting room even though likely other patients have similar conditions when they are waiting for the same doctor to treat them. Nevertheless, there are obviously forums online where people share these things anonymously. However because this app is not at all anonymous (it requires to share a lot of personal information), I believe the case is more comparable to the waiting room situation and I am therefore not sure patients would appreciate sharing with other patients. In addition, my impression of forums where people do share such information is not necessarily very trustworthy. I would therefore not advise this company to open up for communication between users.

On November 19, 2016, Sabine commented on The Ethics of AI: Robotic Cars, Licensed to Kill :

I agree with Alex, the decision of what the car should do cannot be taken by the car company because then car companies could compete for customers over who protects passengers the most. However, I think this will be very difficult to implement because 1. there is no legal right/wrong in the situations described in the post. So current law itself cannot be applied in this case, 2. government cannot mandate exact forms of programming cars when there is no legal reason, and 3. situations are rarely as simple as in the examples so it will be very difficult to follow through with actual punishment in case a situation like this actually takes place.

On November 19, 2016, Sabine commented on You’ve Got Mail from @USPostalService :

Thank you for your post on this interesting topic. Based on my experience in this space, I agree that there is still lot’s to do to move USPS into a defensible digital position, I actually believe that your suggestions don’t go quite far enough. The amount of fixed costs in this industry are immense and so the decline in mail volume is life threatening. Possible solutions therefore need to either significantly increase mail volume or drastically reduce costs. Other postal services internationally are experimenting with the following solutions:
a) significantly reducing the number of delivery days (e.g. Italy: 3-day-delivery in rural areas)
b) community mailboxes (e.g. Canada)
c) replacing full time mail delivery employees with part-time students/ stay-at-home parents (e.g. Netherlands)
d) filling the system with cheap unaddressed mail options (e.g. Germany).
I believe that USPS will eventually have to evaluate similarly drastic ideas.

I think this is a very interesting concept and even though I haven’t seen one and don’t drink coffee, I believe it can work. However, I would question two things:

1. Regarding the statistic on the number of people who care about environmental impact: I am not convinced that this statistic can be fully trusted. Not because of the statistic but because many people say one thing and do something different especially when it comes to the environment. Most people say they care but if they are offered a cheaper alternative for the same quality, many will not be willing to pay much extra for the environment. Like you argue, I also believe they should target those people who do care.

2. I am not sure the concept of essentially “food/drinks trucks” makes eating and drinking necessarily more sustainable. I believe it really depends on what your base is. If e.g. you compare to Starbucks, sure, but if you compare to making a big jug of coffee at home and drinking it from mugs rather than single-use cups, the environmental friendliness of this concept is less obvious.

On November 7, 2016, Sabine commented on Cruising Toward a Cleaner Future :

Thank you for this interesting post! One thing I was wondering as I read your comment on the larger ships is whether this contradiction is still true when you take number of passengers into account. I tried to find articles on this but was unable to. However, based on simple scale logic, I would assume that bigger ships if nothing else cause lower environmental impact per person.

One thing I find interesting about this is that while the opening of the Northwest passage allows for shorter travel times and this lower costs, at the same time, lower oil prices cause ships to take longer routes to avoid high charges for the Suez and the Panama Canal. This worsens environmental impact to a much greater degree. I would thus argue that the shipping industry as a whole is not concerned about the environment but only about their cost at this point because the industry in such big trouble given the surplus of ships which will worsen as routes shorten.

See BBC article form earlier this year:

On November 7, 2016, Sabine commented on The NIKE Model: Garbage In, Sneakers Out :

I really enjoyed reading your article about Nike and especially your last point on taking the consumer along their sustainability journey! I fully agree! If Nike is actually serious about sustainability, they should use their position and especially their brand equity to make consumers care about it, too. In my opinion, the strategy they are currently following is a great start but more focused on protecting themselves from negative media by NGOs etc. than actually making the planet more sustainable by actively changing consumer behavior.

On November 7, 2016, Sabine commented on More Plastic Than Fish in the Sea? A Big Problem for Pack2Go :

Thank you very much for sharing your insights on this very important topic! I actually believe that your argument is missing one important aspect: the negative externalities of plastic. This means that plastic is actually too cheap. While this allows lower income families to purchase more plastic, it means that society as a whole carries the cost difference between this lower price plastic and bio-degradable plastic. I would actually argue that banning plastic or taxing it should be a government priority to maximize welfare overall.