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The Almighty Buck

Webvan Out Of Gas 137

Posted by timothy
from the making-it-up-on-volume dept.
Alowishus writes: "Looks like it's the end of the road for Webvan. Their website appears to be down, and Oakland local news reported employees clearing out their possessions from the company's warehouse. A press conference is scheduled for Monday." First kozmo.com, now this -- I'm giving up hope on ultra-cheap delivery by web as a business model to support my retirement fund. Perhaps Peapod can buck the trend, though.
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Webvan Out Of Gas

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  • Sorry, but what is Webvan ? I've never heard about it so far.

    -- Pure FTP server [pureftpd.org] - Upgrade your FTP server to something simple and secure.
  • by GreyPoopon (411036) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nopoopg'> on Monday July 09, 2001 @04:08AM (#98400)
    I can't help but think that a major part of failures of these companies (like priceline and webvan) is mostly related to poor management strategies. It should honestly be possible to make money this way. I, for one, enjoy the convenience of being able to shop by internet and have things delivered to my door. It, obviously, works great for the non-perishable items.

    There are plenty of surviving home-delivery services out there that either accept a shopping list via the phone, or come to your house and pick it up. Then, they shop for you and deliver your groceries, charging you a premium for the service. I would think that webvan could have struck a deal with the local grocery stores that allowed them to charge a lower premium than the non-web-based services. Most people would still pay the premium to have their shopping done for them. In fact, I know of plenty of satisfied customers from the Atlanta area, before it shut down.

    So what's the scoop here? Why are businesses like this having so much trouble? No ENOUGH business? Or just stupid management?

    GreyPoopon
    --

  • It looks like WebVan has been doomed to failure for months, thanks to their CEO (who gets out with a measly $375k a year).

    http://forum.fuckedcompany.com/fc/phparchives/sear ch.php?search=webvan [fuckedcompany.com]
  • Who can stop to think about WebVan and other grocery delivery sites when my favorite sites [bbspot.com] are running out of cash?

    But seriously I just read in the Economist [economist.com] how Tesco is teaming with Safeway to build a profitable grocery delivery service. It's based on picking the groceries out of existing stores and not expensive new warehouses. It's been very successful (profitable) in Britain. Unfortunately the article requires a paid online subscription to the magazine, but it shows there is hope.

  • It was a service that allowed you to shop for your groceries online, and then delivered them to your home at only a modest premium. Many times, they offered same day delivery.

    GreyPoopon
    --

  • More info here [yahoo.com]
  • by Stephen (20676) on Monday July 09, 2001 @04:11AM (#98405) Homepage
    In the UK, Tesco [tesco.com] has made an enormous success out of grocery home delivery. In fact, so successful that it's about to expand into the US [bbc.co.uk] under the Safeway mark.

    The key to Tesco's success is twofold. First, it's already a well-known brand -- it's our largest supermarket chain. And secondly, it distributes the goods from existing stores, so no extra warehouses etc. to build. (Our second largest supermarket chain, Sainsbury's, tried and failed to make the warehouse model work.)

  • http://ah-thuisservice.ah.nl/hss/shop is still up.
  • ... because their operational area is smaller than it used to be.

    If you look at the listings of the areas they service on their webpage, you'll notice Houston, TX is not listed. They used to deliver groceries for Randall's (a local grocery chain now owned by Safeway) customers here up until a year or two ago. I don't know whether it was their being bought by Safeway or lack of interest (most likely the latter, because they haven't brought in anything to replace it), but they announced that they were dumping the program, and that was the last we heard of it. Until this story ran, I had assumed Peapod had gone out of business. *shrug*

    In short, Peapod seems to be following the same trend as the other two, or at least suffering somewhat due to lack of interest in markets...

    Just my $.02...

  • by JCMay (158033) <JeffMayNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Monday July 09, 2001 @04:13AM (#98408) Homepage
    My grandparents (who live in East Point, an Atlanta suburb) found WebVan to be quite convenient. Grandpa has macular degeneration and can't see well enough to drive anymore; Grandma has muscular atrophy and doesn't get around much either.

    It makes you wonder how the old practice of delivering milk door-to-door worked. I remember as recently as fifteen years ago my grandparents had their milk delivered every morning in glass quart bottles.

  • WebVan just never chose to use that model. Their whole business plan depended on supplying the goods themselves. Peapod, OTOH, does exactly what you suggest -- buys from local supermarkets and delivers. If the business model you suggest is viable, they should be.
  • by daniel_isaacs (249732) on Monday July 09, 2001 @04:21AM (#98410) Homepage
    I never lived in an area Webvan serviced. And I'm not home all that much, and would hate to have my Mint Choc. Chip sitting on the porch for a few hours.

    A service that a few of the grocers are now offering is an ExpressLane [204.60.166.107]. You give them a list, and 4 hours notice, and they'll get all the stuff, bag it, and have it waiting for you. They even have a special checkout line. There is generally a $5 service fee, but you can do 30 minutes worth of shopping in 5 minutes. And you just stop by on your way back home from work. Minimal alteration of your daily activities.

    As an added bonus, at least where I live, I get to say I went to Harris Teeter. And I really like saying "Teeter"

  • My grandparents (who live in East Point, an Atlanta suburb) found WebVan to be quite convenient. Grandpa has macular degeneration and can't see well enough to drive anymore; Grandma has muscular atrophy and doesn't get around much either.

    Well, they'll now have to use one of the other (non web-based) delivery services. But it'll cost a bit more, probably.

    It makes you wonder how the old practice of delivering milk door-to-door worked. I remember as recently as fifteen years ago my grandparents had their milk delivered every morning in glass quart bottles.

    This probably worked because the dairy was local. One of the reasons you don't see it much today is because local dairy farms are rare now. They have collapsed into just a few massive dairy farms. Based on what I'm reading, I think this is where Webvan screwed up. They tried to build huge distribution centers, and then ship the goods eighty or more miles to individual customers. Imagine what it would cost to handle such shipping with just a few hours turnaround time. They'd have probably been better off if they'd partnered with local grocery stores, and then hired local drivers to shop and drop off the goods. Since most grocery stores now have their inventory computerized, it should theoretically be possible to partner with an online service -- but they'll have to do a lot better job of keeping their inventory clean.

    GreyPoopon
    --

  • Peapod learned their lesson early on. They used to be driven by customer service, bending over to ensure that the customer was happy. The shopper would call if an item was out of stock, and they'd suggest alternatives. The drivers would carry items to your kitchen. It was a pretty nice, relaxed kind of service.

    They quickly figured out that service costs money, and did a SprintPCS-style turnaround. (If you've been a customer for more than a year and have tried dealing with customer support, you know exactly what I mean.) They figured out that they could serve more people more quickly if they dropped all but the base required service. Now, drivers are instructed to deposit items just inside the door and scram, excepting special circumstance. In their larger markets, they no longer shop a large grocery store, but a little warehouse which usually only contains a small subset of the items which are listed on their web site, which means that you typically won't get a substantial number of things you ordered, requiring you to head on down to the grocery yourself. The "shoppers" (I'm unsure of the new title) are not only no longer instructed to contact customers, but no longer allowed. They're timed on how long they have to complete each order, which is a fraction of the time previously alotted.

    I was still a Peapod user throughout the changeover, and orders went from being typically 95%+ fulfilled to around 50-60%, with absolutely nothing included that you wouldn't see in the main 3 aisles of your typical grocer. Peapod's response to comments on the site and service and notes about errors on the web site went from personal responses to "Thank you for your idea, little man. Please be placated by the following runaround," and defensive form letters stating that they were in no way legally responsible for any errors on the site, and "please contact this number to be run around in circles by someone with vapid marketroid scripts until you give up if you've got something that you foolishly think needs fixing."

    It's unfortunate. Peapod used to be a pretty nice service, but I can't see using it anymore unless you've got really generic tastes, are disabled, or are somehow incapable of shopping for yourself.

    Now - I tried WebVan a few times. They continued to take their time, knocking themselves out to make everyone happy. They really never got to the point of optimizing customer service out of their operation.

  • by thesparkle (174382) on Monday July 09, 2001 @04:26AM (#98413) Homepage
    In our area, both of the online grocers pulled out last fall. The problem? Too wide of a delivery area.

    They had to build a big warehouse to store products and then needed a fleet of vehicles to deliver goods. Gas prices went up and added to costs, changing economy (remember, most of the early adapters and users of online services were those most affected by the downturn in the tech market) and dried up VC money to fuel operations. Finally, because there were three or more of these services out there nationally, I believe they overextended themselves to gain marketshare - therefore dooming themselves in the process. There was not a steady group of customers to support the industry.

    It is really too bad. It seems like such a simple and successful idea. I have a feeling it is going to be back in the near future.
  • Here in the south, a very successful retail grocer is about to venture into the web based grocery delivery realm. http://www.publixdirect.com A strong company who has pledged quite a bit o' capital to make it work.
  • You never heard of them; I never heard of them.... until their business obituary appeared. Maybe if we had heard of them back when they were actually in business, they might have had a better chance.

    I hear of a huge number of companies, but never heard of this one.

  • by Lizard_King (149713) on Monday July 09, 2001 @04:36AM (#98416) Journal
    We have a service called HomeRuns [homeruns.com] that seems pretty successful here in Boston. I can't attest to their business model and how it differs from WebVan, but every day it seems that I have to dodge their army of delivery trucks on my bike.
  • Papa Johns? I mean, comon we're all IT geeks right? Just a little Dr. Pepper + PJ Pizza. And you can even order it online. :)

    :)

  • Would you pay a higher premium for better customer service? How much of a higher premium would you be willing to consider?
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday July 09, 2001 @04:44AM (#98419)
    For those unfamiliar with Webvan, is/was an on-line grocery store. You went to their site, ordered your groceries, picked a delivery date/time and your groceries were delivered. They tried to get economies of scale by using a large warehouse to store, pick and ship the orders.

    People tried them once, because they were novel, new, and their neighbors mentioned them at parties. That didn't translate into regular, large orders that Webvan needed to be a viable business.

    There were a number of things that contributed to their demise:

    1. Price - Food is a large part of most budgets, even for the folks Webvan targeted. Discounting is very much part of the grocery business, and Webvan didn't play that game. High margin items, such as soda, were cheaper at stores than on Webvan. The major chains have made shoppers very price sensitive, and Webvan was viewed at the upper end of the price range (whether they were or not is irrelevant), which meant people would use them in a pinch, but still went to the store for their major purchases.

    2. Order Size - Grocery shopping is really impulse buying - stores want to get you in with a few specials, to get you to walk through their store. They know you'll see other items you need, adding to the total sale per customer. Even if you go in with a list, you probably would find a few things you needed that you forgot. Webvan, because of its web-based model, wasn't really good at capturing the impulse buy that drives the total sale. Much of the buying is touch and feel - people like to see the meat, fruit, and vegetables and pick what they like. Yes, Webvan would refund the money, but that doesn't do you much good when your trying to make a salad and the vegetables aren't up to your standards (although I must say everything I got from Webvan was fine - but they still need to overcome the feeling that I must see it before I buy it).

    3. Advantage over stores - While it was great that Webvan delivered, they completely missed the "I need it now" market. That may have been smart, because cost of delivering a carton of eggs and some milk would be kill any profit on the order. (Webvan did add a delivery charge for small orders near the end) However, since I still had to run to the store to get one or two items, it was just as easy to make a list of other things I needed as well. This meant there was no compelling reason to use Webvan, since it really didn't cut down significantly on trips to the store.

    4. Convenience - Scheduling delivery was hard - next day service was rarely available, forcing people to plan 3-4 days in advance. It's just as easy to sneak in a trip to the store.

    In short, Webvan offered no clear advantages to going to the store that made buyers switch to them. Retail stores could even adopt parts of Webvan's model, making their position even weaker. In Atlanta, several stores even offered fax/online/phone ordering - they would take and pack the order for your pickup - one even offered drive through pickup.

    Finally, Webvan failed to learn from history. Home delivery of groceries is nothing new - there are services that will stock your pantry on a regular schedule. Sometimes there is a reason why a business model hasn't been a roaring success - their aren't enough customers. Scaling up a business model that hasn't been successful in the past and wrapping the web around it doesn't change the fundamentals.
  • Would you pay a higher premium for better customer service? How much of a higher premium would you be willing to consider?

    I know I would, even 20-25% of the order if service was so perfect that I never had to bother with a trip to the grocer again.

    I think the average person in the States will allow a salesman to push them down, spit on their face, step on their neck, call them fat and shackle them to the front of a trolley to save 1% though.

  • I'm not surprised to see companies such as this fail. I work for a midwestern food wholesaler and our company is struggling somewhat due to gas prices and tighter compeition. Having to succeed while doing so with smaller orders and thinner margins just doesn't seem feasible.
  • And secondly, it distributes the goods from existing stores, so no extra warehouses etc. to build.

    Actually, building warehouses was one of the strengths of Webvan, believe it or not. Because they only did home delivery, they could find the cheapest land in the area to service the entire city. I guarantee that Safeway has a whole heck of a lot more invested in real estate in the markets where it competed with Webvan.

    I'm glad to hear Safeway is getting into home delivery. I liked Webvan's concept, and was surprised that they couldn't make it fly. Home delivery won't be Safeway's primary business, so they can take time to build it right.

  • When you sell groceries (or anything else) for less than you buy them for, you will not be able to stay in business indefinitely.

    Why does the dot-bom industry think that the standard laws of business (like profit) don't apply to them?

    Does anyone remember when people started companies by bootstrapping (start small....grow over time)?
  • But surely the chepest land is going to be the stuff miles away from anyone, which adds to the running costs of the vehicles. They were on a loser to begin with.
  • Sounds exactly like Quixtar in the U.S or A2K in Oz. ie; (1) well known brand - goodwill is a company's most valuable asset, and (2) existing warehouses. Of course there is (3) completely debt-free.

    You can't call 25,000,000+ hits per day a failure.

  • But surely the chepest land is going to be the stuff miles away from anyone, which adds to the running costs of the vehicles. They were on a loser to begin with.

    Not necessarily. Besides, is Safeway going to be offering home delivery from all their stores? That means buying at least one van for each store in a given market...believe me, gas is cheaper.

  • I'm a consultant as well. The company that I work with has a standing order program where people can set up an order and delivery cycle for just about everything that they need. Granted that the above post covers a few valid topics, by sitting down with my customer, I can chat with them and find out how often they need an item, so when their current supply is either gone or almost gone, the replacement stock is sitting on their front door. Plus, the money that I am making with this is nothing to complain about.
  • What today's teenagers don't realize is that all the cash that's flowing from their parent's pockets and being converetd into Nintendos, clothes, records, and all the other stuff is just a short term loan. We'll get it all back, with interest, when their "new-new economy" companies fail.

    Yes, old age and treachery will overcome youth and exuberence once again.
  • I was just checking yahoo mail and saw a WebVan banner ad [yimg.com].

    Paul

  • You can't call 25,000,000+ hits per day a failure.

    Yeah, but of all the hits that Quixtar gets, how many of them aren't already Amway representatives? Very few, I'd say, because Amway's prices aren't competitive with the rest of the market.

  • there were no indications that the site was soon to die...even got a confirmation email early Sunday afternoon.

    Now we're not sure if we should wait or order from Peapod...going to the store is simply not an option :)


    ---- Sigs are bad for your health ----

  • by weave (48069) on Monday July 09, 2001 @05:10AM (#98432) Journal
    I remember seeing some stupid MSN commercial a year or two ago about a bunch of people being locked in a house and had to live totally on stuff purchased over the net. They acted like this was going to be some reality-type series of TV commercials. Since I don't watch TV often, I never saw another.

    Are these people still locked up in the house? Maybe they better get rescued cause it looks like they are all going to starve to death now!

  • I heard it didnt' go too well with WebVan.com [osopinion.com]...
    --
  • You can ski down their stock price chart!

    Consequently, why am I being told to "slow down, cowboy!" when the last time I posted was about a week ago? Argh.
  • Gee,
    I tried Peapod about 2 years ago, and got the same service you now get. I placed my first order, and it was only 40% complete. They would not even bring the groceries INSIDE, but left them on the front porch.

    It was my first and last order
  • I use Tesco's home delivery service, and it's great, it's been nearly a year since I set foot in a supermarket, and seeing as how I hate the places, it's well worth the 5UKP it costs for delivery. You don't miss out on the bogof (buy one get one free) offers, and they always urn up well within thier allotted delivery time.

    I couldn't be happier with the system the way it is, I do my week's groceries in around ten minutes.

    I am not a Tesco employee.
  • i live near boston, and i swear that i heard that homeruns was going out of business. given that i see about a million of their trucks in a day, i guess that's not quite true...
  • These seem to be pretty good vehicles for delivery. They have absolutely NO product. They just place your order with a local restauraunt, pick it up, deliever it, and take your cash. Seems to be that they could expand into a generic delivery service with a bit of effort.
  • In the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis/St. Paul) Simon Delivers ( http://www.simondelivers.com ) still appears to be going strong.

    I suspect that for a business of this type, there are any number of ways to fail. The fact that this business failed does not necessarily mean that this particular type of service is unworkable.
  • by stilwebm (129567) on Monday July 09, 2001 @05:37AM (#98440)
    Did we not all see this one coming? Come on, anyone who's ever taken accounting knows that the margins on groceries are tiny (4%-5% vs the ideal 9%-12% for public corporations). Through in the number of times Webvan almost fell, and it is no surprise that they are closing up shop. What is surprising is that they made it this long.
  • by kontakt (319439) on Monday July 09, 2001 @05:37AM (#98441)

    Here in Toronto, we never had Webvan, but we've got a great copycat called Grocery Gateway [grocerygateway.com]. These guys are unreal - and let me tell you, it has *nothing* to do with delivering groceries.

    For example, their delivery windows are only 1 hour wide - so no mint chocolate chip ice cream sitting on your porch. The drivers (what are they paying these guys!?) are customer service freaks - if they think they're going to be even 1 minute late, they call you and let you know. If you go nuts and tell them they suck (not that I ever did), they calmly ask you to please call the customer service number.

    Then the real service shines. The customer service reps are the exact opposite of everything you've every experienced. They are nice, polite and best of all, they give you free groceries. In the case above, my whole order was free, because it arrived 2 minutes after the delivery window I selected.

    It makes me wonder what the Webvan experience was like. Not enough repeat customers? What did they charge anyway?


    Feed the beast. [mindpixel.com]

  • I first tried Tesco's online shopping four years ago. It wasn't available to me then, due to delivery areas, and isn't available to me now for the same reason. I'm only nine miles from the nearest warehouse according to the website, for heaven's sake. If this is the state nationwide, it can only be a minority that can use the service.

    Bah. I'll be sticking to the Co-op, then...

  • Webvan Out Of Gas - ugh. This reads like a headline you'd see on fc.
  • my biggest gripe was that cold items (milk, ice cream, etc) weren't kept as cold as I like them to be. I'm always rushing home after getting groceries so that I can get the coldies in the fridge in record time. and I always buy the cold stuff last so it doesn't sit while I'm shopping for the rest of the goods.

    after a few months of trying peapod (years ago, before they had a Net presence and you had to dial into their modem bank, ONLY) I dropped them.

    its good for when you're home sick for extended periods of time (flu season) but other than that, I saw no real savings in time since I still had to go out myself for the cold goods.

    --

  • Well... There goes the only stable supply of orange crush in the SF bay area. Webvan trucked it in from Dallas, TX. The California bottling plants haven't made the stuff in years.

    Anyone know of a store that carries it, in the greater SF bay area? I only have 2 bottles left!

    Temkin

  • I'd not heard of Webvan before, but I had seen that banner before. I always looked at the "shopping cart", but looked away before it ever got to the "Webvan" part of the animation. Now that you point it out to me, I see the Webvan part of the ad.

    This banner ad is a failure. They should have had a NON-animated GIF so you'd see the name of the company before you looked away. As it is, I never saw the name of the company.

  • Our family uses Simon Delivers where we live in Minnesota. Ordering groceries from the web is a godsend. It saves tons of time and the selection is much, much larger. I hope Simons does okay because I'd hate to think I had to start going to the grocery store again. *shudders in horror* =)
  • Do they really wear the bowties, green jackets, and hats?

    Miko O'Sullivan

  • I've used WebVan several times and I thought they had wonderful service. In fact, I don't think I've ever talked to anyone who's used the service and wasn't satisfied.

    The problem WebVan had was just atrocious management. I've never worked for WebVan, but it's obvious from how they were doing things that they were doomed from the very beginning.

    For instance, they never gave their Bay Area delivery service time to become profitable before expanding into other areas.

    As another example, WebVan purchased warehouse space in several locations they didn't service in anticipation of setting up shop there.

    I really believe in the idea WebVan had. If properly managed, I think it could be very successful. Now if only I had some capital to start things up with. :)
    --
  • 1. Price - Food is a large part of most budgets, even for the folks Webvan targeted. Discounting is very much part of the grocery business, and Webvan didn't play that game. High margin items, such as soda, were cheaper at stores than on Webvan. The major chains have made shoppers very price sensitive, and Webvan was viewed at the upper end of the price range (whether they were or not is irrelevant), which meant people would use them in a pinch, but still went to the store for their major purchases.

    I would be willing to pay a little more for home delivery, as long as it is reliably done when promised. Given the poor quality so many businesses under pressure from venture capitalists have gone to, I would worry that they would be able to keep it up. But making the margin so high that for my order to be way more than the cost of driving to the regular grocery store would have soon become a serious negative. If their costs for delivery and e-commerce were too much, they would have a problem. But they would have to be quality, too.

    2. Order Size - Grocery shopping is really impulse buying - stores want to get you in with a few specials, to get you to walk through their store. They know you'll see other items you need, adding to the total sale per customer. Even if you go in with a list, you probably would find a few things you needed that you forgot. Webvan, because of its web-based model, wasn't really good at capturing the impulse buy that drives the total sale. Much of the buying is touch and feel - people like to see the meat, fruit, and vegetables and pick what they like. Yes, Webvan would refund the money, but that doesn't do you much good when your trying to make a salad and the vegetables aren't up to your standards (although I must say everything I got from Webvan was fine - but they still need to overcome the feeling that I must see it before I buy it).

    Did they have a means for you to add on to your order if it was still N hours before delivery?

    3. Advantage over stores - While it was great that Webvan delivered, they completely missed the "I need it now" market. That may have been smart, because cost of delivering a carton of eggs and some milk would be kill any profit on the order. (Webvan did add a delivery charge for small orders near the end) However, since I still had to run to the store to get one or two items, it was just as easy to make a list of other things I needed as well. This meant there was no compelling reason to use Webvan, since it really didn't cut down significantly on trips to the store.

    That's likely a problem for them. Even if they could make a profit or break even or absorb the loss to keep you as a customer for later profits, on the small order with your list added on, the time to deliver from the one big warehouse would still be a negative. What would be needed is for it to be scaled up to enough customers to have distribution centers located closer to customers to make it a rapid delivery service. My grocery store is close because within 2-4 miles of there is enough market, even with 2 or 3 other stores around, to make their profit. The grocery business does require large consumer markets.

    4. Convenience - Scheduling delivery was hard - next day service was rarely available, forcing people to plan 3-4 days in advance. It's just as easy to sneak in a trip to the store. In short, Webvan offered no clear advantages to going to the store that made buyers switch to them. Retail stores could even adopt parts of Webvan's model, making their position even weaker. In Atlanta, several stores even offered fax/online/phone ordering - they would take and pack the order for your pickup - one even offered drive through pickup.

    That could certainly hurt them. Next day should have been a standard, with special premium emergency delivery for a fee.

    Finally, Webvan failed to learn from history. Home delivery of groceries is nothing new \226 there are services that will stock your pantry on a regular schedule. Sometimes there is a reason why a business model hasn\222t been a roaring success \226 their aren\222t enough customers. Scaling up a business model that hasn\222t been successful in the past and wrapping the web around it doesn\222t change the fundamentals.

    The web really could be an improvement to the model. Instead of calling on the phone and dealing with a person or a stupid answering machine, the web, if done right, could be better than that. You could see the products in pictures, which is better than not seeing it at all, though not as good as picking it up and making sure it's really what you want. But this particular kind of B2C model can't really replace regular grocery stores any time soon. Pizza and sub deliveries succeed because people are willing to pay the extra amount (and the place in Dallas I get pizza from [pizzaguy.com] is especially good) for quick delivery. If home grocery delivery might succeed, it might be the result of growing up from these businesses. But it may never be cheap, so we should not expect it to take over.

    I'm a consultant - I convert gibberish into cash-flow.

    Same here. Isn't it ironic that people that buy gibberish have so much of the cash to flow out?

  • .. if you cut out the middleman.

    For this business model to be truly effective, it's going to have to be the stores themselves that take the orders, assemble them, and then deliver them to the customers. A big part of the problem is that these places either have to have their own stock in warehouses (which is problematic for several reasons) or go out to somebody else's brick-and-mortar store and do "custom shopping" (which is not terribly practical.)

    On the other hand, if you're the owner of an actual supermarket, a lot of these problems are solved for you. You've got all the items on hand already, and you presumably have a small army of skinny earringed teenage punks (making slightly over minimum wage) at your disposal. So have a couple of them spend their time doing nothing but filling orders placed online. Charge the customer the normal price that they would pay if they were to actually visit the store, and then tack on a surcharge to cover labor, fuel, vehicle maintenance, etc.

    A company like Webvan that does nothing but delivery of Internet orders might work in the future, but in the here and now you've got to have some existing infrastructure to make the whole venture viable (and profitable.) As home delivery of groceries becomes more popular (and given people's preoccupation with things that make their lives easier, there is no reason to believe that it won't), it will be easier for these companies to turn a profit.
  • The problem is economies of scale. In order for these companies to make money, they need to be big. The need to push volume, just like a brick-and-mortar supermarket does. This is a problem with a lot of "dot.com" startups. They start out too big. Its like opening a chain of 100 small shops plus the infrastructure to support them. You need to start small and then work up to a larger operation, not start big and hope to attract enough customers to keep you afloat.
  • Homeruns is bleeding red ink but has managed to outlast Webvan and Peapod in the Boston area by staying private during the meltdown. There's a reasonably up-to-date article from Boston.com here [boston.com].

    I seem to remember them increasing their delivery charges a while ago, and they're still struggling, but they're not out of business yet.

  • Surprisingly enough, a company that spent $140 to deliver $100 worth of groceries went under.

    Many of the dotcoms (I worked for one [zedo.com], and I speak of what I want through) felt all of the old business models were invalid. Well, the rules bent when new companies were flooded with what seemed to be an unending supply of capital, but when that bubble burst, a lot of folks got bit in the ass. Webvan raised $375million in it's IPO, only to crash 2 weeks later. [cnet.com] And this was before the big bubble burst on Wall Street.

    Groceries are a tough business. You get maybe a 4% margin on things. It's almost better to put your money in a passbook and draw 2% or 3% at zero risk.

  • by janpod66 (323734) on Monday July 09, 2001 @06:51AM (#98455)
    This is pretty sad. Having groceries delivered makes a lot of sense: it saves gas, time, and hassles. And given today's standardized, prepackaged products and nondescript fresh fruits and vegetables, there isn't much point in selecting merchandise yourself anymore anyway.

    But it takes time for people to change their habits. If you are a .com that bets on make-it-or-break-it in three years, that's not going to work.

    Web ordering of groceries and home delivery should have started locally and in specialty populations: homebound individuals, company groceries, busy upscale single professionals (BUSPs?), people living in Manhattan, etc. Companies can and should make sure every step along the way that they break even. Then, their user populations will naturally tend to expand as more and more people discover the convenience and habits adjust. A tie-in with cheap handhelds for making grocery lists in the kitchen (where the computer normally isn't) would also have helped.

    I hope Peapod will be able to stick with it and that others will not be scared away by this. Webvan failed because they wanted to grow too fast; the idea was and is fundamentally sound.

  • In the twin cities, (Minnesota, USA), we have a company called Simon Delivers, that's doing extrodinaryly well. All my friends use them, and grocery's are easy as ever. (They have a 1000+ person waiting list ) The thing about simon though it th at they are NOT ON DEMAND. You go online, buy your grocerys, and than at your schdeuled time they come and give you your grocerys. IT's really cool, and so far it's worked for them. http://www.simondelivers.com And no, I do not work for them, I jsut think it's really cool. Here in MN it works. HA!
  • Milk delivery worked because everyone got their milk delivered back then, almost every day, and there were only a handful of products. You could load up your milk truck with your limited product selection, then drive down the street and make delivery after delivery, day in and day out. You did not have to pick, pack, and ship to bunch of random customers.
  • Grocery Gateway is the greatest thing ever to happen to my grocery shopping life since the all you can eat olive bars in Lowblaws! I force everybody I know to use their service at least once, and most of them start using it at least 2 times a month. Eveybody is discovering the great glowing joy and peace associated with watching the GG driver carry 36 1.5l bottles of Perrier, 48 Red Caps, and a case of root beer up 5 flights of stairs into my kitchen. If you don't use it now, start! If you don't you are just a slave to the grind. peace, g
  • I just skimmed the site and it looks pretty good (beer and wine, delivered, is a plus), but there's no President's Choice stuff! I really miss that in the States. Some of the local stores have a small selection of the PC line, but it's nothing like going to a big Loblaws.

    Does Loblaws have a delivery service yet? Do they still have their own bank?

  • I liked Webvan, but after a few months stopped using them. I don't buy a lot of packaged food, and when they started upping the minimum free delivery amount, even monthly shopping couldn't come up with enough, despite using them to get my $45 transit pass. When I found someplace else for that, the incentive went away entirely. I liked it because I had just bought a house in a neighborhood with no local supermarket. Most delivery services do not come to my inner-city neighborhood, although this is changing.

    The grocery market runs on almost no margin, and consumers are very price-conscious. People regularly go to several stores on a weekly shopping tour to get the lowest price on as many items as possible (despite the time and effort and gas involved.) Even my socially conscious affluent organic-food-eating neighbors have the choice of a farmers market, large chain supermarket and good-sized co-op within ten miles, and those are just the stores with large selections of, or exclusively carry, organic items. They regularly go to all of them. Value-added stuff has to be pretty damn good to even get anyone's attention, and there were still not enough takers to make it viable.

    They did try to group deliveries, but they didn't seem to do a good job. My development was at one point getting nearly a dozen deliveries a week, but attempts to find out how to consolidate that into maybe two or three went nowhere. All you got was that little icon saying "In your neighborhood!" on the schedule, whatever that meant. I think it meant they were in Dekalb county, myself.

    And transportation kills them. Here in Atlanta they were running their entire operation out of a warehouse in Suwanee, on the edge of the metro area.

    Yes, land costs were lower, but it takes 45 minutes to drive to my area from there, and that is with absolutely no traffic. Also, they had to pay a lot to get employees, because the largest group of low-wage, low-skill employees are in the city and have no cars. Low-wage employees cannot afford to live in the northern suburbs, and you can be sure all those soccer moms weren't going to have their precious affluent offspring working in warehouses packing meat.

    They did run busses from the train to their facility, but even so that is pushing a two-hour commute for the typical line employee from South Fulton or Dekalb. People will do it, but it has to be worth it.

    They are building a Publix across the street from me here in East Lake. I can't wait. Publix is a large regional chain based in Florida and now one of the big players in the Atlanta market, despite being here only about ten years. I like their stores, and they are bringing them back to the city now that non-poor people are starting to live there again. I shopped with them for decades in Florida and it will be nice to have one within walking distance again.

    They have announced some kind of Internet shopping arrangement, but I don't have any details. I think the whole Webvan thing has them scared, as well it should. I would be happy if they would package up my order and have it ready for me to pick up; if they can accurately fill the order, that right there would be a major improvement.
  • In this age of supercompetition between .coms, you would think that the only way you would have even the slightest chance is to advertise.
    Thats exactly how all the other dot coms whent out of biz they spent all thier money on "branding" remember million dollar superbowl comercials?. The ad industry made a fortune telling the dot coms they had to advertise advertise advertise when what they really needed to do was watch the bottom line and focus on their product or service


  • >As an added bonus, at least where I live, I get >to say I went to Harris Teeter. And I really like >saying "Teeter"

    You must not live in Atlanta, then. I would like to know what is going to happen to the big gaping unfinished now-owned-by-Kroger hole in the new shopping center across from my office...
  • Really? We accept credit cards at my business and we get the funds in 2 to 3 business days.

    I don't think that was the problem. Seems like razor-thin margins to me. It costs a lot to run a van fleet. Items like gas, insurance, maintenance add up quickly.
  • I'm giving up hope on ultra-cheap delivery by web as a business model to support my retirement fund.

    That's just it - so many dot-com businesses confused the ordering mechanism ("Yay! I can use the Internet to order products!") with a business model.

    But a real business model is focused on how you can extract profit from what ever endeavor your business is engaged in. Profitability is the bottom line in any business, whether it's a 7-Eleven, a fertilizer plant, or a game company.

    So many dot-com outfits bit the dust because they missed this Business 101 fact. Sure, some of them had bad management, but who had any management experience in the world of online commerce before there was any online commerce?

    My guess is that now that the first wave of front-runners has died off, the hardier surviors are going to continue to grow and thrive, but at a sustainable, more realistic pace. All those "stupid" managers will be a lot more experienced, and like any industry, the world of online commerce will mature as effective practices become more well-known.

  • Groceries are a tough business. You get maybe a 4% margin on things. It's almost better to put your money in a passbook and draw 2% or 3% at zero risk.

    Umm...those aren't comparable. Yes, they net about 4% on that gallon of milk. Fortunately for them, that's not an annual rate. The milk sits in the cooler for what, maybe a week? 4% compounded every week for a year is... yikes, over 700%. Those aren't comparable, either.

    Groceries are a tough business. But it's a lot more profitable than passbook savings.

  • The dotcom I used to work for (redundancy - bah!) used to use a specialised office food delivery service - I imagine it was expensive.

    Then we moved to Tesco's delivery service. I think delivery used to be free for orders of £50 or more, but even if they were charging £5, it would have been well worth it to get supermarket prices and to have a beefy guy drag all the juice, bottle water and snack treats up the stairs.

    I can't immediately find a link, by it's regularly reported that Tesco's online home shopping is the largest web grocer in the world, in terms of turnover.

    I've registered for their shopping service, but as my local Tesco is only a few blocks away, it's easier for me to pop down a couple of times a week. They occasionally send me "wish you were here" postcards.

    I have amazing brand loyalty to Tesco, which is a bit weird considering they're just a supermarket. I've bought a fair selection of financial products through them.

    Oh, and it probably doesn't hurt that they've just listed [tesco.com] my site [newsfilter.co.uk] on their ISPs website, next to other sites with budgets ever so slightly larger than mine. :)
  • Schwans has been around for decades, they deliver to your door, and if you want to add/change something at the last second (I.E. when the man is standing in your doorway with your food) you can easily. Granted it's only frozen products but then what the heck are geeks doing eating fresh veggies? If you want to create a web-groceries store.. let me send my order and allow me to stop and load/pick it up on my way home. (Meijer stores... you listening??? I'd pay a 10% charge for their employees to collect my shopping list for me so I dont have to wait in line, listen to that woman with 80 children scream at them for doing nothing, and smell that person in front of the line arguing about 12 cents on the recipt.
  • "Much of the buying is touch and feel - people like to see the meat, fruit, and vegetables and pick what they like"

    Absolutely! When I go to the grocery store, some of the produce they have is simply unacceptable. None of it is exactly cheap, and I am not interested in bruised or over-ripe fruits and vegetables. Same for meat. I want to be certain that I pick out a good cut.

    That is probably the main reason I have never ordered groceries on-line. If there was a "premium" grocer who would only stock top-grade stuff, I might consider it.

    Sure, I have no problem purchasing books, cds, and dvds on-line, but *I* want to pick out the perishable goods myself.
  • by Coward, Anonymous (55185) on Monday July 09, 2001 @07:31AM (#98469)
    My grandparents (who live in East Point, an Atlanta suburb) found WebVan to be quite convenient.

    Since they live near Atlanta, they can probably order groceries online from ingles2go.com [ingles2go.com]. If you don't know, Ingles is a grocery store chain and have an advantage over webvan in that they already have warehouses and stores set up which are profitable so they don't need to make enough in deliveries to cover the warehouse costs, just enough to cover the extra employee costs.
  • The most upsetting thing about the demise of Home Grocer/Webvan is the fact that the CEO they hired and fired within the last year(not the present CEO), who managed to burn through all the money they had and who made sure that Home Grocer(the more efficient model of the two) was forgotten after it was swallowed up, will still receive close to $30,000 a month -- FOREVER! -- seriously...though I wonder who will be cutting the checks.
    Maybe them closing shop is a tricky way to forfeit their obligation to this scumbag suit. It seem like $360,000 would be a decent sum to save each year -- a worthwhile excuse to go through bankruptcy proceedings.
    E.K.
  • Well, they'll now have to use one of the other (non web-based) delivery services. But it'll cost a bit more, probably.
    Yeah, it's called their daughters. My mother and her younger sister do pretty much all their shopping for them. It's fortunate that most of the family is so convenient; I'm the farthest one away: about 500 miles.

    I agree about WebVan needed a better system. I was not aware of their internal structure; I'd think that large chains of grocery stores like Publix, Kroger, Big Star or whatever, could be talked into this kind of thing.

    Eighty miles is a very long distance to cover with a delivery truck, anyway. How far apart are UPS centers? Post Offices? That's the delivery radius they should have shot for.

  • The baseline stupidity involved here is the belief that somehow the economic of product delivery would be significantly affected by a better ordering interface, which is the only innovation the internet provides in this instance.

    If there were a sufficient market for home grocery delivery BEYOND the established need that is met by conventional grocery stores employing an interesting technological marvel known as the AUDIO TELEPHONE then grocery chains would have been developing it well in advance of the internet. Instead, if you look at the trends in groceries you see things going the other direction - less groceries offering delivery service, bagging service, even self-serve check-out is on the rise. A service where someone collects and fills your order and then delivers it to your door is clearly on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum from this trend. So what is it these internet entrpeneurs know that companies that have been in the grocery business for decades don't? NOTHING. Because they're fucking morons.

    And yeah, yeah, you can say, hey, 'Jath, is it worth getting so up in arms about another stupid, moronic, idiotic internet business model that failed? Where do you think the tech stock meltdown that helped precipitate the current economic downturn came from? Every worthwhile tech business that took a beating in the market ought to send webvan.com an e-mail that says "thanks for ruining it for real companies, assholes." Nothing like a little stupidity and greed.

  • > You can ski down their stock price chart!

    Sure, if you can hack double-black-diamond slopes ;-)

  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday July 09, 2001 @07:48AM (#98474) Journal

    Oh... The Days.

    Pimply faced freshman dropping out for 50k entry level jobs. "B2C petstore play"s. The first day pop. Office casual. The company game room. NASDAQ 5000. Exasperated recruiters. Hailing the new economy. Planes trailing banners with ads for jobs. BMW or Mercedes offered as choice at hire-time. Renaming stadiums. Venture capitalists. Pre-IPO stock options. Pundits predicting Dow 30000. Bashing the old economy. Lavish parties. Companies like Webvan.

    Did I leave anything out?

  • kind of gives a sick and sadistic twist to
    "Where do you want to go today?"

  • I was one of those who always used Webvan. I live in SF, where there are lots of corner stores, so I could get things like fresh milk there - I would then order all the staples from Webvan and not have to move my car while they were delivered.

    Maybe I'm in the minority, but I can't be bothered to shop on price in the grocery store. Who fucking cares if a bag of potato chips is fifty cents off? My time is worth far more than that. Guess not enough people agreed with me.

    Plus, their service was always extremely friendly, again unlike at Safeway. Again, I guess not enough customers cared about that.

  • The pure play model of Webvan was due to fail, like most of the other ones who tried. Capital costs of the warehouses and of learning the trade weigh too much. Brick and click will work. Either in-house (like Tesco) or through a partnership of a brick and mortar grocer with an asp, like where I shop here in Vancouver: it's a tiny grocer (Stong's) that gives awesome service thanks to software from Peachtree Network. I know the same asp powers Wakefern in NY State, IGA in Quebec, and a few others in North America and Europe.
  • Do you mean the dotcomguy?
    The experiment managed to last the whole year 2000
    as the InterNet business crashed and burned.
    See http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,40940,00. html
    http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/computing/01/02/dot co mguy.update/
  • >Why does the dot-bom industry think that the standard laws of business (like profit) don't apply to them?

    I think they know now that it does.
  • This idea has been tried in 50s and it never realy worked all that well, so I doubt we are talking here only about "habits" ...
  • One day you will become like that person arguing about 12 cents etc ..
    It is only question of time and a bit of bad luck.
  • by Silver A (13776) on Monday July 09, 2001 @08:20AM (#98482)
    The fundamental problem with webvan seems to be that they tried to expand too fast and didn't make enough money to support the expansion. But why did they try to expand too fast? Because the internet is worldwide. There was (and maybe still is) a belief that if you're on the 'net, *everyone* can see you, so you'd better be able to service everyone. Or at least everyone in the United States.

    For some sorts of operations, that makes sense. If my product is an electronic download, anyone in the world who has an internet connection can receive my product. For lightweight, non-perishable products, the postal service or its competitors can provide delivery cheaply enough that people won't squawk over the price of delivery. For groceries, delivery is expensive, and the more areas you cover, the more it costs.

    So Webvan tried to become a national player, when no grocery chain had succeeded yet, instead of concentrating on capturing enough of the Bay Area market to make a profit. So it's gone tits-up.com. Oh well.

  • by Galvatron (115029) on Monday July 09, 2001 @08:21AM (#98483)
    They should have planned to make a profit nearly instantly. The key is to start small, and make a profit. Then, when you've proven your model, you spend more of that venture capital to expand to a new market. Prove the new market, then expand again.

    Instead, what they did was they spent half their money going into EVERY market, and then the rest ran out before they had a chance to iron out the kinks in their business plan. Web based ordering CAN work, the question is how. Maybe it's just a niche market, requiring that people come to a physical location to pick up their orders or a gross markup for delivery. I'm sure there are those out there (the disabled, for example) who would be willing to pay for that kind of service. Alternatively, maybe Webvan really WAS on the right track, and would have gathered a large enough customer base by next year to be profitable, as they claimed right up to the end.

    However, Webvan will never know because they moronically spent all their money in the first (and, as it turns out, only) two years of their existence. It's not like web-based ordering is a natural monopoly, where only the first person to establish themselves will make money. In the long run, whoever can compete best on price and service is who will rule the market. So, there was no reason for Webvan's frenzied growth, because the markets would never be locked off to them.

    Now, there's a few supermarkets going about this the right way. They're taking tentative steps toward web based ordering, feeling out the market. Eventually, one of them will hit on the winning combination, and the rest will shortly follow. I, for one, am not sad to see Webvan go.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • It seems that most of the problems from this business model stem from delivery. If grocers had an online site where you could select the items you want and have them packaged and ready when you get there I would be willing to pay for this service. No more running through gigantic, crowded supermarkets not being able to find what you need.

    This also allows for people who want to pick their own meats and veggies to do so. Just put everything else on the online list, run in to get the things you want to pick out, then pay everything at once. The things you want to pick out are usually (conveniently) all at the same side of the store anyway (meats, fruits, veggies, bakery).

    I am not disabled and do not need someone to deliver groceries to my house. I just don't want to spend my day shopping. Or for that matter, waiting for a delivery person to show up.
  • For those of us down here in the southeast of the US, there really is no Webvan-like grocery service. Why is that? Probably because PublixDirect will be coming soon, and I doubt anyone wants to compete with them.

    And while it may sound like a version of unix, Publix is actually the best brick-and-mortar grocery store around these parts. And they are working on their first warehouse for their "online grocer" business as we speak.

    Based on how excellent their grocery stores are, I will be very interested to see how a REAL grocer executes this business model.

    http://www.publixdirect.com/


  • I was the Steward for a house of 20 people here is Boston for a few months, and HomeRuns absolutely rocks. They are very reliable, and a heck of a lot easier to use when you are ordering mostly the same items every week, than physically going to the store. Plus, it's so cool to click around on the web and have food appear in your fridge the next day. 8) I was looking forward to the possibility of getting WebVan now and again after I move to California, but alas... Perhaps this GroceryWorks thing will work out, though, considering the nearest supermarket is a Safeway.
  • For instance, they never gave their Bay Area delivery service time to become profitable before expanding into other areas.

    That's exactly it. Webvan had a great service going. The marketing was good, the site was pretty good too.

    But greed got in the way. They wanted to be the Microsoft of grocery delivery, and way too fast.

    For instance, here in chicago, if one were to open a webvan-type service, but limit it to, say downtown and Lincoln Park (a population-dense, yuppie-laden, fashionable neighborhood of a few square miles), one could do a ton of business in a small area, target your marketing through far less expensive local means, and probably turn a profit fairly quickly.

    But that means actually starting a business as 99.99% of businesses start -- small, and grow naturally.
    -----------------------
  • .. if you cut out the middleman.

    For this business model to be truly effective, it's going to have to be the stores themselves that take the orders, assemble them, and then deliver them to the customers.

    I think that this type of model can be used to set up a network of local stores. Someone external supply the web front end, and the store does all the rest.

    This seems to be what The Peachtree Network [peachtreenetwork.com] is doing.

    I have not tried them out yet (and with local stores doing the work the service might be quite variable), but plan on using them next year when we move to Peterborough, ON, served by Charlotte Pantry [charlottepantry.com], just down the street from our new house.

    If you are not using such a service yet, go check to see if they have a presence in your Canadian or USian postal code. If not, you can send them the contact information for your favourite local grocer and perhaps get service started.

  • Not really forever, but pretty close.

    Shaheen was guaranteed $375,000 a year for the rest of his life, and if he dies it transfers to his wife.

    Sometimes when I read about things like this, I wonder what the hell happened to America. It used to be if you had a good idea, and the enthusiasm to get the job done, you would succeed.

    Now you need to hire-a-name, pay them an insane amount of money to attach themselves to your company (like somekind of frickin' alien creature) so they can bleed it dry.

    More and more, it looks like the dot commies were nothing but a shelter for organized crime -- like the insurance companies and savings & loans of days gone by (and today, to some extent).

    Sadness for depths to which America has descended! She seems like that young and beautiful runaway girl, confused and fearful, eyeing the pimps and their limosines and wondering whether to cross over into that terrible darkness. Let's hope she regains her strength and spirit and returns to the straight and true path!



    Treatment, not tyranny. End the drug war and free our American POWs.
  • Do you mean the dotcomguy?

    Nope. Same idea, but a houseful (about 4 or 5) of adults who were supposed to just live on stuff purchased over the net. Kind of typical of Microsoft, take someone else's idea, rework it, and pass it off as original! :-)

  • I, too, am a grateful SimonDelivers customer in St. Paul. I'm neither an employee nor a shareholder, though you wouldn't guess it from the way I'm about to start gushing. I will admit that it's in my best interest to help them do well, since I fscking LOVE this service.

    A large part of the reason for their waiting list is that they're being careful about rolling out their coverage. A company that offered grocery delivery Way Back When went under largely because they hired a whole bunch of sloppy, lazy drivers who did a lousy job of filling and packing orders. My wife and I did the Dance of Joy (tm) the day they added our ZIP code to their list.

    It's true that delivery is not on demand, but that didn't matter for us. The shopping list is in the same spot on the fridge; it's just that the weekly shopping trip is now done in my underwear. I still giggle gleefully when I come home after work to a cooler full of groceries.

    Another poster made a point about scheduled delivery services missing out on impulse shopping. That may be true, but I personally prefer to WALK to the corner market for a gallon of milk than to drive out to Grocery Coliseum and wait in the Express (what a fscking joke!) Lane for 20 minutes.

    Simon's also done a pretty good job of rolling out his own specials, coupons, and suggestions on the website and the fliers that come with the groceries. In my experience, these are every bit as effective as your normal point-of-sale advertising (and I have the CC receipts to prove it!).

    I really believe that for as long as the Bigass Supermarkets continue to employ drooling idiot employees to serve their drooling idiot consumers, I'll be staying as far away as possible.

    Please, Simon, I'm begging you: don't screw this up!

  • by artemis67 (93453) on Monday July 09, 2001 @10:41AM (#98504)
    George Shaheen, the CEO who bailed after 18 months, had a golden parachute in his contract with Webvan to be compensated $375,000/a year for the rest of his life. Now, I don't fault the guy for negotiating a killer deal when he signed on; and I understand that Webvan had to be very generous when shopping around for a CEO who could save their bacon (so to speak). However, this severance package was clearly over-the-top, and far more than the struggling company could afford to pay. They gambled, they lost. And I guess George will have to go find a job now.
  • The "MSN House" thing was a gag. A fake. An act. It wasn't really intended even to look real. The people were acting (badly). They were using a script. It was a commercial mini-film from the outset. Parody. Just parody.

    And I'll echo what someone else said. "Billions of dollars and this is what they come up with?" I'm more than satisfied that they canned it without letting it bottom out.

    I have the same problem with Intel advertising, although lately they're smart enough to pawn the creativity aspect off to someone who's clearly creative, i.e., the Blue Man Group. It's still got nothing to do with CPUs, but at least it's more entertaining than embarassing to watch.

    --Blair
  • Well, it worked before the 50's because many people didn't have cars. In the 50's, you had stay-at-home wives with cars and lots of time (if I may oversimplify), comparatively little congestion, and cheap gas. So, you didn't need home delivery. In the 00's, we have lots busy two job couples with no time for anything, expensive gas, and very congested highways. So, what didn't make much sense in the 50's may well make sense again.
  • Assuming it was a good idea initially, which is a strong assumption, there would be no reason to bring in 'a name' to make it work.

    A lot of company bring in 'big names' in much the way hollywood brings in a big name ... to get 'a buzz' going.

    The implication in all of this ... that movies can be made better by adding 'a big name' or that a corporation can be more successful by similar tactics ... I think the whole argument for doing it is specious at best.

    A good movie with good actors ought to succeed, a good product with good management ought also to succeed.

    When it requires some PR 'buzz blitz' to make things succeed ... a campaign of talking heads and name-droppers ... that's a questionable direction for a society to take.


    Treatment, not tyranny. End the drug war and free our American POWs.
  • I feel uncomfortable seeing BMG harnessed to sell Intel CPU's. They were a fairly scary sadistic performance art group. Now they seem like harmless Disney characters.
  • The price of Fame.

    You do know that Pee Wee's Playhouse started in the art theaters of San Francisco, don't you?

    There's some old tape of one of those original stage shows (featuring Phil Hartman as Cap'n Bill or Sailor Dan or something; he's on the make now that he's on dry land, and he's not being too choosy) that'll clue you into the continuing subversion of the Saturday Morning version.

    The BMG's aren't exactly harmless in their Intel commercials, either. Launching one against a wall; clocking him with the rotating exclamation point, etc.

    --Blair
  • Well, so much for that - an e-mail went out today that HomeRuns is ceasing all operations today (day before Friday the 13th). Shame - their service ran circles around the competition [peapod.com].

Staff meeting in the conference room in 3 minutes.

Working...