Here is an interesting share from Modern Materials Handling where editorial director Bob Trebilcock has been documenting the implications of COVID-19 on procurement, order fulfillment, and delivery in a series of opinion pieces titled “The COVID-19 Diaries.” 

In this particular entry, Bob shares an email response from Doug Laden, CEO of Deliveright, a white glove, furniture delivery network. Firms like Laden’s are taking a hit, but not for the reasons you might think. Here’s why…

For those who’ve not heard the term before, white glove typically corresponds with the delivery of items that are larger, more expensive, and require assembly. While most deliveries are made “curbside”, unloaded on or next to the curb at the end of your driveway, a white glove service provider will carry the item into your home, up stairs, and through tight hallways to wherever the customer ultimately wants their new sofa, appliance, or treadmill, for example. Once inside, the delivery professional will assemble the item and remove any packing materials. For appliances, delivery often involves installation as well as the removal of old appliances as well.

With that in mind, it is pretty clear why this faction of the industry might struggle more mightily than others. The success of white glove service is largely dependent on the ability to provide extreme customer service through direct interaction within the homes of customers. In this way, white glover services demonstrate a deep care and respect for each residence they visit as if it were their own.

But at this particular moment in time, that can’t happen. Nor should it!

Most people know that, as seen in the overwhelming amount of green on the POLITICO graph above. That said, we must never forget the wisdom of Tommy Lee Jones as Agent Kay in the original Men in Black from 1997:“A person is smart. People are dumb…”

We know this can be interpreted a lot of different ways, so we want to be super clear. It is smart to practice social distancing. It is smart to avoid going out unless absolutely necessary. The precautions you take when it is necessary are smart. Working from home is the right call! Choosing green when given the option is an indicator of genius! All those people in the green part of the graph are smart!

What’s dumb, to use TLJ’s word, is the inability to recognize that there are some industries where Zoom doesn’t cut it. It is unfair to expect companies to maintain the pre-outbreak standard. The Deliverright CEO outlines a specific example of this as it pertains to his company, proposing a scenario wherein individuals who are spending more and more time at home begin to grow tired of existing furnishings.

“If orders stay at recent levels or anywhere close, while deliveries get pushed out until White Glove is available again, a lot of furniture will be sitting in warehouses. The system will start to choke if delivery volume decreases.”