What data science _should_ be doing
I recently read this New York Times article about a company that figures out how to get the best deal when you rent a car. The company is called AutoSlash and the idea is you book with them and they keep looking for good deals, coupons, or free offers every day until you actually need the car.
Wait a minute, a data science model that actually directly improves the lives of its customers? Why can’t we have more of these? Obviously the car companies absolutely hate this idea. But what are they going to do, stop offering online shopping?
Why don’t we see this in every category of shopping? It seems to me that you could do something like this and start a meta-marketplace, where you buy something and then, depending on how long you’re willing to wait until delivery, the model looks for a better online deal, in exchange for a small commission. Then you’d have to make sure that on average the commission is paying for itself with better deals, but my guess is it would work if you allowed it a few days to search per purchase. Or if you really are a doubter, fix a minimum wait time and let the company take some (larger) percentage of the difference between the initial price and the eventual best price.
Another way of saying this, is that when you go online to buy something, depending on the scale (say it’s on the expensive side) you probably shop around for a few days or weeks. Why do that in person? Just have a computer do it for you and tell you at the end what deal it gave you. Don’t get bombarded by ads, let the computer get bombarded by ads for you.