Posted by: nickgerlich | February 20, 2008

We Deliver For You

Just about everything has been sold in the online arena. Pet food, furniture, wheelbarrows…you name it, and it’s been tried. Even groceries have been tried by a number of firms, but in nearly every case, the result was the same: Failure.

But the failure of others is not the deterrent one might think. Last summer added groceries to its enormous array of products, confident that people would buy dry goods in bulk. But groceries are a different breed of product; consumers are fussier when it comes to things they are going to put in their mouth. And never mind the problem with perishables and the problems one would have shipping them.

WTGDAll these concerns aside, West Texas Grocery Delivery has launched a new shopping and delivery operation for the Amarillo and Canyon area and its periphery. For $12 customers can have next-day delivery; for an additional $8, same-day delivery can be requested for emergency items.

WTGD is a lot like similar delivery services in larger cities, and it effectively overcomes some of the problems associated with selling a limited array of goods from afar. Customers can request the grocery of their choice, and can either phone in their order, or select their purchases online at the WTGD site.

Still, I am not convinced I would ever utilize such a service. As a typical busy person, it would take me a lot of time to develop explicit shopping lists; it would probably take me even more time to sift through an online catalog. When we do our grocery shopping, we know what we want primarily by sight, and we already know the layout of the store. To have to re-think everything would probably consume more time than just going to the store and doing the dirty work ourselves.

Furthermore, using someone else to shop means you will never make in-store decisions. Price promotions will be of no effect; end cap display will not sway you; comparison shopping will be a thing of the past; impulse shopping will be over.

While you may think this is all not necessarily a bad thing, consider the scrutiny you use when grocery shopping. As much drudgery as this weekly task may be, my wife and I still like to be in control over our dining choices.

Busy people, though, may indeed find services like WTGD to be a godsend. If you know in advance exactly what you want, and seek no variety, sale prices, or impulse purchases, then this is the ticket.

As for WTGD, they need to do some major work on their site. It is clearly produced from a simple template, yet it does not fit entirely along the horizontal dimension. There are huge blank spaces, excessive ALL CAPS text, and horribly pixelated images. Anyone with a few HTML coding skills could do much better than this.

But the site is powered by ProStores, a division of eBay. ProStores provides all the coding for a shopping cart and secure order processing. The vendor still needs their own merchant credit card processing account, but there is also the ability to use PayPal (another eBay company). The downside is that ProStores charges a monthly member fee, and also takes a percentage of every successful transaction.

Overall, I give WTGD credit for trying to make this work in the Amarillo area. It’s certainly not for everyone. More importantly, though, I think the $12 service charge is too low to cover labor and gasoline. But once you charge enough to yield a satisfactory return, you price yourself right out of the market.

Which probably helps explain why we don’t buy pet food, furniture, and wheelbarrows online.Dr “Cart Attack” Gerlich


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