Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Robot deliveries okay with me

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Nothing ruins my day like a courier calling card left in the mail box.

It takes me back to every birthday or Christmas spent trying to retrieve parcels. In any other context, refusing to give me my stuff would be a form of theft.

There was the time the courier driver arrived before eight on a Saturday morning. He rang the intercom from 15 floors below and refused to deliver to the apartment door. I went down in my dressing gown. I gave him a dressing down. He didn't care.

There was the Christmas parcel I never got. I was on holiday when the calling card was left in the mailbox and I was still on holiday when the depot thought too much time had passed so sent it back. I'll never know what happiness was in that bright yellow wrapping in Christmas 2015.

There was the courier company that charged me $10 to redeliver two parcels because I'd inconvenienced them by not being home when they turned up the first time.

The robots are coming to take our jobs. Let's find out which direction they're coming from and line up the courier drivers as our human shields.

Except for Simon. I just met Simon the courier driver. He's the only one who deserves to be saved from the robots.

There is a fortune to be made in giving the courier industry a shake up. It's not rocket science. All you do is take the Uber app - this shouldn't be difficult given how good courier companies are at taking other people's things - and modify it for courier drivers.

Alert! A notification pops up on your phone. A parcel has arrived for you. Please choose from the following times when you would like it delivered.

Please, God, tell me someone in New Zealand Post has thought of this as a way to save the company from its own inability to deliver parcels at a time suiting the customer, no doubt in some way contributing to the loss of 500 jobs.

The robots are coming for NZ Post. Anyone who suggests we pour money into NZ Post to keep it the way it is gets to join the courier drivers in the human shield.

I love the thought of six-day-a-week mail delivery but the bills that arrive once a month, the quarterly rates and the annual birthday card from Aunty Ngita don't justify the cost.

The robots came for the horse and cart drivers in the 1920s, they came for the telephone switchboard operators in the 1960s, they're busy feasting on check-out operators right now.

They're coming to take 46 per cent of the jobs we do.

The robots sound terrifying but their arrival isn't a bad thing.

Why spend eight hours developing carpal tunnel syndrome from scanning item after item at the check out?

Instead, you can spend eight hours monitoring the suckers scanning their own groceries and only interact to demand their IDs when, yes, you know they've been buying liquor legally for 20 years but you just didn't like the cut of their jib.

Sure, there will be fewer check-out jobs, but there will always be jobs.

Just ask Mercedes. It turned out you can't make bespoke cars with robots alone, so you have to hire some people to do the fiddly bits.

When the robots come, I'm saving Simon. Simon is the only decent and kind human in the courier business.

He popped his smiling face over my fence and told me he had a plan so I wouldn't have to miss my parcel next time.

If it suited me, he was going to put the next parcel just here, even if I wasn't home.

That's what he did next time.

But, I might not need to save Simon from the robots.

He's probably going to invent the app that saves the courier business.

- Herald on Sunday

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Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something trying very hard to avoid growing up. So far it’s working, except for the husband, the mortgage and the proper job. She lives between Auckland and Wellington. When she’s not writing for the Herald on Sunday, she co-hosts TV3’s 7pm current affairs programme Story.

Read more by Heather du Plessis-Allan

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