Postcards from Quarkwood, #4: ‘The Corner Shop (III)’

by Hari Sriskantha


Sterling Connor had just finished his keynote presentation, announcing The Corner Shop’s new Automatic Delivery Network. They would use the data they had collected on customers over the last few years to predict what things you needed and then automatically send them to you.

The crowd were excited. It felt like the future. Sure, you can already do your shopping online, access thousands of products and get everything delivered to your front door, but the need to actually choose stuff? Cavemen had to choose stuff. Surely technology could have solved this before now? Answer: no. In fact, it couldn’t even solve it now. For Sterling had only developed a same-day delivery option — with all choices still required — but someone had started a rumour about the automatic thing, and the Internet had uncharacteristically confused it as fact. And so, Sterling decided to give the people what they wanted, instead of pointing out how stupid the people were being.

And so he had a lot of work to do, but figured he could just sort out the technicalities later. However, the following week, it was revealed that the NSA had backdoor access to all The Corner Shop’s servers, and the same rumour engine from before claimed that they had even co-operated to develop the automatic algorithm, so that they could catch people before they bought illegal things. Of course, this wasn’t true, given that a. the algorithm didn’t exist and b. they obviously didn’t sell stuff that was illegal. In fact, closer inspection revealed that that was just a bad retelling of the plot of Minority Report. But someone set up a boycott Facebook group, Sterling was bankrupt in three months and now all his shops are Tescos.

But on the plus side, Uncle Jim’s tin-foil hat business was doing great!