December 6, 2021

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All I want for Christmas is a delivery address that a delivery courier can find

All I want for Christmas is a delivery address that a delivery courier can find
Something for the Weekend, Sir? Below the note is scrawled an ominous threat: "We know where you live." Instinctively I look up and down the street in case I can spot who might have just stuffed the note halfway into my letterbox. Is anyone hurrying away, suspiciously covering their face? An unmarked van parked opposite…

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Below the note is scrawled an ominous threat: “We know where you live.”

Instinctively I look up and down the street in case I can spot who might have just stuffed the note halfway into my letterbox. Is anyone hurrying away, suspiciously covering their face? An unmarked van parked opposite with darkened windows?

Nope. I re-read the handwritten message. “We know where you live.”

Well, thank goodness for that! It would be a disastrously embarrassing faux pas in the etiquette of conventional logic for someone to walk up to my door and slip a card into my letterbox without knowing where I live. It’s just as well they wrote it down or who knows what might have been the consequences? Once you create a tear in the fabric of reality, all manner of nasties can crawl through.

At the top of the note is printed: “Sorry you were out when we called.”

At least the courier has a sense of humour. I allow myself an exhalation of relief.

Unfortunately, my vocal chords are still tense and my sigh is anything but silent; it is not just audible but unnaturally high-pitched. A dog-walker passes by at that moment and casts a startled glance in my direction. I cough and say “ahem” a couple of times in the hope that he might reinterpret my sigh as a prelude to clearing my throat. The ruse works perfectly: the dog-walker has stopped outside my house and is waiting to hear what I have to say to him, now that I have cleared my throat.

I have nothing to say. Yeah, I know. As usual.

It is a good sign that couriers know where I live, at last. I’d rather they leave me “Sorry we missed you” notes than toss the package over the gate of a house 2.7 km away and mark the order on my online account as DELIVERED, accompanied by a photo of it sitting on a lawn that I don’t have. We are making progress from those bad old days when lockdown cleared the public highways of regular people and filled them instead with baffled newbie package-delivery couriers inexplicably armed with street maps dating from the 1950s.

The reason this matters is that once we cross the starting line of Halloween, there will be a rollercoaster rush of online ordering leading up to Santa’s traditional nighttime reverse-burglary. It’s not Christmas presents I’m worried about so much as the greater seasonal splurge of consumer commercialism interfering with my occasional personal – but essential – need to replace dying devices and peripherals for work.

If the courier delivers my replacement webcam, cables, SSDs or whatever to the wrong address, like they did repeatedly last year, it will turn out to be a dark and Dickensian Yuletide season chez Dabbs. My usual goodwill to all men will be scared off by a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Panic. And if it interrupts my job, it will be followed by a visit by the Spirit of New Year Poverty.

For this reason, I have been testing the delivery waters early by ordering irrelevant products that I have no immediate need for. If they actually turn up, I can always offer them to colleagues and family as potential gifts.

Portable battery chargers? Phone cases? Nah, my new favourite perennial Christmas-ready gift is a digital breathalyser. I note that Alcosense has anticipated my thoughts by announcing its Lite 2 in good time. “Simply turn it on, wait for it to count down to zero and then blow until it beeps,” say the instructions – which only goes to show that even ex-pornstars can get a job in copywriting.

One good reason for hanging on to the digital breathalyser might be so I can use it in conjunction with one of those 200-mile limit EVs all the car showrooms want me to buy, a mere two years after selling me a conventional one that runs for 1,000 km on a single tank of diesel. Is this Christmas the right time to buy, though?

It comes down to expense. Sure, EV prices have come down but only for pug-ugly crapalongs that spend more time parked in a remote industrial estate product awaiting a component replacement after a manufacturer recall than actually being driven anywhere. Me, if I’m going electric, I’ll have the electric Aston Martin DB6, please.

Photo of Lunaz Group's EV version of the Aston-Martin DB6

The Lunaz Group, which specialises in refitting classic cars to run on batteries, reckons the electric DB6 might cost a bit more than a Renault Zoë. Still, I bet you’d feel million dollars behind the wheel of this beast having spent exactly that sum (plus taxes) to acquire it.

Maybe next Christmas.

More affordable might be the electric Moke. It has a modest reach of 144 km but then I’d only need it to nip around The Village and for the occasional chase after escapees along the beach until Rover blobs them.

Photo of EV version of the Mini Moke

The perfect Christmas present when I was a boy was a remote-controlled car. So the perfect upgrade now that I am a bit bigger could be the Tamiya Wild One MAX. Yes, it’s a man-sized version of the famous toy stunt car. You sit in it and drive it at the wheel, rather than twiddle little joysticks that snap off.

Photo of Tamiya Wild One MAX man-sized stunt vehicle

I can’t wait to drive it down some gigantic steps or over the edge of a pond by mistake.

But enough of my wishlist. I’m wondering how the previously confused courier suddenly knows where I live. Until a week ago, my packages were being routinely distributed to various bemused homeowners who weren’t me, all over the neighbourhood, like charity parcels for the needy – assuming they were in need of such life essentials as cable stripper tools and a half-kilo of Sugru. What has changed?

It may have something to do with Amazon’s latest wheeze: being able to deliver gifts to people whose address you don’t know.

There’s logic to this: delivering known packages to unknown addresses (at least they’re unknown to the delivery drivers) is what Amazon does best, in my experience. So it could be that Amazon is now magically able to deal with all those known unknown unknowns, otherwise known as “doing a Rumsfeld”.

Actually, no. It works like this: you order something and enter the intended recipient’s mobile phone number – which you do know. An SMS then shoots off to that number, asking for their delivery address. The recipient reads the SMS and thinks: “Hmm, yes, this looks totally honest and above board. I will give them my address right away. Maybe I’d better also send them my bank logins and PINs, just in case.”

What could possibly go wrong?

I feel I may soon find out for myself. Be seeing you!

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Alistair Dabbs

Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He apologises for talking about Christmas earlier and earlier each year. Next week’s column will investigate supply chain problems for Easter eggs. More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.

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