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When traffic is bad and fuel is expensive, delivery will be popular

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Don’t Drink And Write

Last week, I talked about some lawmaker’s wish to enact a bill that proposes the practice of telecommuting (or working from home). The desire is a natural offshoot of worsening traffic congestion. Stay home if you can. Stop adding to the problem. Makes sense.

Now, while most people only see bad things in this stifling situation, there are also those who recognize an opportunity to make something positive (read: make money) out of our collective quandary.

In case you haven’t noticed, the outdoor advertising business is flourishing. The billboards are bigger, brighter and more colorful than they’ve ever been. LED digital displays even show us videos while we sit helplessly in the middle of EDSA. I’m sure the sales pitch of billboard space providers to their potential clients goes something like this: “Let us help you reach the countless motorists and commuters stuck in traffic every day. They have no choice but to see your ad.”

Malls are also making a killing these days. All kinds of shops and services now flock to giant shopping centers in an effort to go where the customers are. Car companies prefer to put up pocket mall displays instead of staging one major-production event. They’re cheaper and more effective in bringing the brand and the products to the target market. Even government agencies like the LTO and the DFA have branches in malls. Heck, you can now also hear Mass after buying groceries or before watching a movie. Everything is right inside one massive commercial complex — no need to drive and endure gridlocks from one errand to another.

But one particular type of business is sure to boom in this bumper-to-bumper climate: delivery. I’m not making this up: Just before writing this very paragraph, I got a text message instructing me to collect a package from my building’s reception area. So I went down and picked up a delivery from LBC. It turned out to be just an invite from a Japanese automaker. What used to be hand-delivered by company-employed messengers or drivers are now being distributed via courier services. I have no doubt traffic has a lot to do with this. It’s more cost-efficient than dispatching their gas-guzzling service vehicle to multiple destinations (and subjecting their personnel to awkward encounters with entitled and power-tripping editors). A delivery service is professional, punctual and impersonal. Exactly how I like it.

Last week, ride-hailing company Grab Philippines unveiled a new service: food delivery. If you launch the Grab app on your smartphone (assuming it’s updated), you will see a new GrabFood tab. There, you will have wireless access to 600 establishments that offer to cook your dinner. Once you’ve placed and paid for your order, all you have to do is relax and go back to your Netflix movie while waiting for a Grab driver to bring you your large burrito and Coke Zero (like sugar-free soda is going to compensate for all the fattening ingredients stuffed inside a flour tortilla).

To be clear, food delivery is nothing new. Foodpanda has been bringing me my favorite rice toppings for years now. But when a transport network company — one that can’t even sort out the many problems confronting its taxi service — starts doing it, you have to believe that there is serious money to be made from fetching grub for lazy people. Especially in an environment where traffic is bad and fuel is expensive.

Incidentally, Grab also launched its grocery delivery service in Singapore this week. You can bet your annual budget for chips and dips that Grab Philippines is likewise preparing to introduce it in our territory. Imagine not having to shed your bathrobe in order to replenish the refrigerator. All for a fee, of course. But who cares? At least you won’t have to crawl through traffic, pay for fuel and parking, and miss the Wimbledon or World Cup championship match.

Delivery service will only get more popular as motor-vehicle traffic gets worse. And it won’t be just for food, groceries and event invitations. Soon, somebody will offer to bring you other essentials just to spare you the trouble of driving in heavy traffic. Like medicine, clothes, maybe even a romantic partner. But the last one is probably illegal.