Online Grocery Store Rant & Why I Love Online Commerce

Had to chime in with after reading a story about online grocery stores today. I used PinkDot in LA for 8 years and loved it. Can’t say what happened when they became PDXQuick but prior to that they had an amazing call center with account history, personalization, recommendations and most importantly people to talk with. Their site really didn’t capture that and I only used it once. Webvan on the other hand I’ve used in Portland for 2 years, first as Homegrocer and then as Webvan. I even got my weekly groceries on Sunday, the day before they shut down.

But let’s not get into the grand misconception that the web is some how a new business model. It’s a new distribution channel period. Isn’t that why grocery stores, milk trucks etc. stopped delivering years ago because the profit-margins just weren’t there.

Of course I might be a little bitter after understanding more about profit-margins for the grocery industry hit home recently. Webvan was the only dot com I ever bought and now I have a couple thousand $$ worth of education about understanding business models over likability and I loved loved Webvan.

Screw shopping, I didn’t have the time or inclination to do that. The only thing I ever went to the store for was the deli, because that was the one thing Webvan lacked. I never got a bruised apple, fatty chicken, spoiled milk. I haven’t shopped in a traditional grocery store since I moved to Portland. I tried Netgrocer to begin with but they had such a limited selection and they didn’t deliver perishables.  I was stoked when Kozmo opened so I could get a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers and a video for my unexpected company in less than 10 minutes. We even had a Portland/Seattle-based company called They’d wash cars, pet sit, housekeeping, mow the lawn. Whatever you need they had the service for it.

I’ll admit I’m not the “average consumer” but hell I love love love the internet. I’ve done all my Christmas shopping online for over 4 years, you couldn’t twist my arm to deal with store around the holiday, people are insane. I also ship presents back East, so the convenience is wonderful. I’ve had 2 problems with shopping my whole time online, once a present was delayed and the other time liquor was confiscated by customs in the mid-90’s (How would I knew you couldn’t ship liquor internationally? Shouldn’t the site tell me that?) Once I found about about domestic shipping laws I became wine member at e-vineyard, where I get 2 whites and red every month at my door.

I would definitely buy that test-fridge that sent my shopping list to the store. But then again I’d try just about anything related to technology. If I had my way I’d just a brain chip that downloads my memories and lets me organized them. Let’s face it a computer has limited capacity, but a hell of a finder feature. Maybe a one-time download and a re-org of it’s contact. I want finger/retina scans so I’m never without my identification. I haven’t written a paper check since the early 90’s using telephone and then the internet to schedule payments for all bills. I beam people cash/PayPal from my PDA for coffee and I met my fiancee online.

Whew have I ranted enough? I’m just glad that even if it was for a short time I enjoyed the conveniences that many online sites offer. Don’t think I would remember my mom’s birthday if she hadn’t set the reminder on ICQ. BTW Safeway now delivering in my town, ah I’m happy again.

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