“I needed Nearbuy today.”

I’ve actually heard this a lot from friends, colleagues and classmates. It usually goes exactly the same way. I describe the concept to someone, and they respond with mild enthusiasm. Then, a couple of days pass, and suddenly out of nowhere I get a text message – “I needed Nearbuy today.” It’s come up with soccer gloves, cord catches, gold dots, Cadbury eggs, and contractor bags.

For me, it’s been a lot of things. Green tea powder, Ritter Sport chocolate bars, kombucha, and — on one day in the middle of the spring semester — esoteric A/V cables.

I had a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter in my bag, and a monitor with a DVI cable. I needed a DVI to HDMI cable. I walked to the nearest 99¢ store, because they have weird things like that sometimes. No dice. I called the independent Mac tech store, and they had a mix of adapters that could help me out, but would cost me three times more than I cared to spend. I thought about Radio Shack, but couldn’t find the right item on their site. I tried Amazon Prime Now, but they had a $15 minimum and the adapter I needed only cost $6. Eventually, I remembered that a Micro Center had opened up not far from the coworking space I was working in, so I popped over there and was able to purchase the precise cable I needed.

What was interesting here, though, is that Micro Center advertises “18-minute store pickup” on their site. You order an item, they pull it from their super-confusing shelves, and then you just go in there and pay and leave.


When I got there, though, there was a bit of a line at checkout. I realized I needed a few other things, so I got to wandering the aisles. In the end, I left with my DVI to HDMI adapter, but also with a couple of USB flash drives.

And this is the real reason I ultimately removed in-store pickup from Nearbuy. There’s no way I’d be able to accurately predict my needs without the experience of walking through the store. And the experience of juggling my online order with the things I’d grabbed in-store was confusing enough. In the end, I saved no time.

In-store wayfinding is a fascinating problem to solve, but I’m reasonably convinced that in-store pickup isn’t the best way to handle most shopping experiences. Even in my case, with a very specific and time-sensitive need, it benefited both me and the merchant to let me find my own way to the shelves.

Journeys | Jetsam