UU students make frequent use of rapid delivery services such as Gorillas, whose depot is close to the IBB student housing complex. Photo: DUB

Lazy or addicted? Rapid delivery services popular among UU students

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In this day and age, you're just one click away from ordering anything your heart desires. Some junk food after a night of heavy drinking? Check. Buying a clothing item in three different sizes and returning the other two free of charge? No biggie. What about having a bottle of Smirnoff delivered to your friends’ place just to mess with them? Most students welcome rapid delivery services with open arms while others worry about a dystopian future in which no one gets off their sofa anymore.

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There are currently three rapid delivery companies operating in Utrecht: Gorillas, Flink, and Getir. They can deliver groceries to your home in just 15 minutes. According to a survey conducted by the platform Studeersnel.nl in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom, about 50 percent of university students order groceries online occasionally. Of those, 5 percent don't go to the supermarket at all anymore. Not having to leave the house is the main reason why they use these apps. 

The survey also shows that students generally find the advent of rapid delivery services a positive development, a good supplement to conventional supermarkets. In addition, students based in the Netherlands are pleased with the offer of local products in Gorrilas' Amsterdam and Rotterdam branches, to name but two examples.

Especially when you’re hungover, it’s a real blessing that you can have some junk food delivered right to your doorstep within minutes

Sam, a law student at UU, finds the apps useful, although he does admit that they make him lazier. He lives in a student house on the banks of the Vaartsche Rijn and uses rapid delivery services to order his groceries once or twice a week. In the winter, he used to do it three to four times a week. “It’s easy. Especially when you’re hungover, it’s a real blessing that you can have some junk food delivered right to your doorstep within minutes. But we also order things in the evening quite often, when the supermarkets are closed and we feel like having some snacks. And it’s not that much more expensive.”

At first, Sam ordered mostly from Gorillas because it was around the corner from his house and the delivery took less than five minutes. Now that the number of customers has significantly increased, it takes much longer, so he switched to Getir, which has better offers according to the student. He is open to changing services again, depending on where he can score the best discounts. The products he orders online the most are bread, eggs, cheese, and a bottle of Coke.

Such "laziness" is common among the residents of the IBB complex as well. Merel lives on the 11th floor. She once bumped into a delivery guy on the staircase going up to the 17th floor because the lift was broken and the people who had ordered the food didn’t feel like coming down. She sees the same phenomenon in her own house. “Experienced delivery guys have certain tricks. They put the package in the lift and then send it up, for example. If the lift is broken, sometimes we agree over the intercom to meet each other halfway on the staircase. But some delivery people don’t even bother anymore and just leave everything on the ground floor.” In Merel's view, ordering groceries online makes no sense because supermarket Jumbo is just a three-minute walk away.

For students living in the Utrecht Science Park, rapid delivery services could come in handy as the nearest regular-sized supermarket is in Bunnik. Most companies do not include De Uithof in their delivery range, however. The only option available is Picnic, but in that case, they have to wait two or three days to get their groceries and the minimum order amount is 35 euros. Katja, who lives in the Science Park, says that she sees Picnic cars in the area from time to time, but she doesn't know anyone who uses the service. “I’ve only used it once because I was in quarantine.”

One can literally get addicted to rapid delivery services

For the students living in the city, rapid delivery services are even used to pull pranks. A while ago, "icing" friends with the help of delivery apps was all the rage. In case you don't know, "icing" is the practice of hiding a bottle of Smirnoff Ice in the house and the person who finds it has to chug it all down at once. Students used delivery services to have bottles of Smirnoff Ice delivered to their friends' addresses. The person who opens the door has to drink it all down in one go.

The hype died down quickly when the delivery services started to charge more for bottles of Smirnoff Ice and raised the minimum order value to 10 euros, explains Bram, who has recently graduated. When he was living at IBB, he made frequent use of delivery apps to "ice" his housemates. Now, he lives in an SSH townhouse and has grown a little more serious, which is why he hardly orders anything online anymore. “Ordering from rapid delivery companies is addictive. It really doesn’t make you feel better, but you do it anyway.” He proceeds to show us a video from Dutch public broadcaster NOS 3 explaining how these companies capitalise on the release of dopamine (also known as "the reward chemical") in the human brain, which means one can actually get addicted to the apps.

Katalin, a Clinical Psychology student, is not a big fan of rapid delivery either and fears a dystopian future in which we never do anything ourselves anymore. “Maximum ease doesn’t actually bring you any satisfaction. You can only be truly satisfied if you make an effort to get your reward. Rapid delivery also increases our sense of alienation because we no longer have to go outside to do anything. That way, we can all remain seated on our sofas, lazy and depressed.” Nevertheless, she orders most of her clothes online. “Well, fitting rooms make me feel depressed. I can’t always be true to those principles.”

You need food anyway, whether you get it online or at the supermarket. Clothes, however, are a whole different story

Loa, a Global Sustainability Science (GSS) student, is the opposite. She does order food online from time to time but is fundamentally opposed to buying clothes online. “You need food anyway, whether you get it online or at the supermarket. Clothes, on the other hand, are often ordered unnecessarily and the majority of them are sent back, so the environmental impact is a lot bigger. That’s why I buy most of my clothes in second-hand shops." Her roommate blushingly admits that she orders a lot of clothes online but she says she tries to return as few items as possible because she recently found out that many of them are thrown away.

Some students take a more extreme stance on sustainability. Lis, who also studies GSS, never orders anything online and often engages in “dumpster diving” at Gorillas' depot. It's not uncommon for her and her friends to find products that only just expired in the bins behind the building, which is on their way home from university. “So much goes to waste, especially fresh fruit and vegetables. Sometimes they're a bit bruised, but we don’t mind that.”

According to her, supermarkets throw away a lot of food as well, but they lock their containers. “We often run into Gorillas employees and they’re totally fine with us taking the products they discard. They only have a problem with it higher up in the hierarchy because the municipality doesn’t really allow this”.

At the end of the day, Lis and her fellow divers are also getting a rush of dopamine. Their reward: free food. 

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