October 15, 2001
1:31 AM   Subscribe

From the ashes, rises the phoenix. A company named WhyRunOut has taken over where Webvan left off (or they just bought my personal data from the webvan firesale). Hopefully they'll expand slowly and get profitable, it'd be nice to see Kozmo and Webvan like services come back.
posted by mathowie (18 comments total)
very nice web site. clean, simple and fast. i like it. too bad i don't live in the US :(
posted by arrowhead at 2:13 AM on October 15, 2001

I'm a fickle, single dude who has the luxury of just picking up whatever he pleases from the empty Wal-Mart at three am every night, so maybe I'm not the norm, but I thought the problem last time was that the whole concept of having groceries delivered was sort of flawed. I seem to remember people arguing that they actually liked the excuse to get out of the house and perform a simple task. I like the idea of these services personally, but I have a hard time seeing them as being viable, outside of certain cities.
posted by dong_resin at 2:22 AM on October 15, 2001

I used to use UrbanFetch when it was open in the UK, but I agree that the whole thing seemed insane from a business standpoint - a real throwback to the 'anything goes' boom days of e-business.

I mean, Amazon are struggling to make a profit, so why should an Amazon that delivers within an hour do any better? You've got to spend money to beat an age-old road congestion problem, for starters... then you've got to hope you can sell enough product to cover your costs. And UrbanFetch operated a no-quibbles refund policy, so they'd deliver something to me in an hour (for free) and then I'd ask for a refund, so they'd turn up in another hour (again for free) and take the item back from me.

1-hour city delivery services could have operated just fine via print catalogues and phone calls, but surprise surprise very few (if any) are in operation. Why should the Web change this paradigm? I'd rather these companies thought things through and stayed in business than launched for 6 months and then closed down massively in debt.
posted by skylar at 3:08 AM on October 15, 2001

If Amazon can't make a profit, delivering non-perishable and easily handled goods all around the world, the only hope for WhyRunOut would be to make their service a "personal shopper" kind of luxury.
Although I've never understood why home delivery -which works so well in the U.S. - doesn't seem to work for great companies like Webvan. My guess is that the people running them are too generous and idealistic.
Why should crappy pizza joints work and make a profit and not this?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:37 AM on October 15, 2001

People I know want to see, feel, and smell their food before they buy it.

The system that needs to be fixed is the checkout line. (There shouldn’t be one.) You should be able to run through the store, load up a cart, leave a payment card in a slot on the cart, indicate pick-up or delivery, abandon your cart in a sort of cart corral (with no wait) on the way out, and then just go away.

Depending on what you indicated before you left, you would either come back to the store later to get your bagged groceries placed in your car by spotted flunkies, or your groceries would be delivered to your home, where, presumably, you or someone else would be waiting to open the door and let the flunkies bring them in.

That sort of system eliminates most of the unwanted labor and retains the necessary squeezing and sniffing parts of the gathering ritual.
posted by pracowity at 4:33 AM on October 15, 2001

People I know want to see, feel, and smell their food before they buy it.

Who wants to feel/smell canned goods, paper towels, gallons of milk, 6-packs of Coke, etc.? The concept, to me, has always been to have your bulk goods scheduled and delivered, freeing you up to just pop in and choose your steaks and tomatoes. If this became widespread, it would free the "supermarkets" up to change dramatically, providing much more emphasis on quality and selection of those items you actually do care about selecting by hand.

I still like the concept.
posted by rushmc at 6:10 AM on October 15, 2001

From the looks of it, one of the big differences between WhyRunOut and it's predecessors is that it doesn't have an inventory of its own. It's essentially a delivery service for items from already existing brick and mortar retailers -- a la Food.com's delivery service. This means that their overhead will be significantly less than what Webvan or Kosmo dealt with. I don't know that it will make a difference, but it does mean that they're using a somewhat different business model to begin with, and it's one that's been shown to work.
posted by elfgirl at 6:14 AM on October 15, 2001

Goddamn I miss Kozmo/Webvan. 'Course, it didn't hurt that my SO worked for Kozmo Portland, so we feasted nightly on cheap junkfood and videos.

The vegetables sold me on Webvan -- they had an absolutely stunning selection of produce.
posted by ph00dz at 6:26 AM on October 15, 2001

I used Webvan regularly when I lived in Atlanta. I eventually went back to traditional grocery shopping because I did not live in a neighborhood where bins of groceries could remain unattended at my doorstep without being stolen or vandalized and scheduling an attended delivery time in advance was too difficult.

So the one hour delivery time sells this to me, since while I might not be able to say if I'll be around at this time tomorrow, I think I can safely stay put for sixty minutes.

However for me and my particular area, WhyRunOut getting their products from local markets is actually a drawback. Living in the suburbs of a smallish North Carolina city means the recycled paper and environmentally friendly cleaning and personal care products I want aren't available on store shelves. While a Webvan type service would have these items available in their own inventory, WhyRunOut is running to the same so-so Harris Teeter where they don't carry recycled napkins or that sandalwood soap I like.

Oh and I second ph00dz emotion about Webvan produce. It was preternaturally attractive.
posted by jennyb at 7:02 AM on October 15, 2001

Hmmm... I entered my zip code and it gave me a registration page which I took to mean service was available in my area. After filling out a fair amount of personal information, including directions to my house, I received a notice that said: "You will receive an email soon indicating when we will be servicing your area."

So, potential fillers-out of personal info beware.
posted by jennyb at 7:07 AM on October 15, 2001

Okay, that's because I missed this tag line that the top of the page:

WhyRunOut hopes to deliver to your area soon!

I'm going to stop posting now. Thank you.
posted by jennyb at 7:10 AM on October 15, 2001

I really really miss WebVan. The members of our household were extremely depressed when we got our last delivery in July, only the day before they went out of business. Our deliverydude was all weepy eyed when he handed us our 18 bags of groceries. So were we. I have great markets around my house, but I must say that I hate going to them so this WhyRunOut thing sounds like a fabulous idea. I can't wait to try it and support a web-based business again! Although I know that their produce won't be nearly as good as WebVan's because, well, our local markets havn't really gotten the hang of cleaning out their gross fruit.
posted by raintea at 7:29 AM on October 15, 2001

> Who wants to feel/smell canned goods, paper towels,
> gallons of milk, 6-packs of Coke, etc.?

Many people. People heft and squeeze paper towels, make sure the milk looks good and doesn't have any leaky or crusty bits, etc. I never just take the nearest carton of milk or the cheapest paper towels. I want to see and feel what I'm buying. And I don't robotically eat the same brands and flavors and amounts every week: I want to look each time and compare what I've bought before with the latest selections on the shelves.

If you're going to be in the store looking for your ideal tomatoes, you may as well spend five minutes more picking up the canned goods. To me, WhyRunOut looks like why WhyGetOffTheCouch in disguise.
posted by pracowity at 7:58 AM on October 15, 2001

Life has sucked since Webvan died. I don't have a store within walking distance, so it put a big crimp in my car-free existence.

I hope these guys open up shop soon in Portland. Thanks, mathowie!
posted by frykitty at 8:55 AM on October 15, 2001

i would just like to say that it's thanks to you webvan loving hippies that my brother lost money on his stock investment in peapod.

posted by moz at 8:59 AM on October 15, 2001

canned goods are heavy. cartons of soda are heavy. I walk to the market when I have to go. this greatly limits the amount I can carry, and it makes for some hellish walks back home.

I used webvan to deliver to me, once a month, all the heavy items I would need for the next month. now that webvan is gone and there's not a safeway in the neighborhood, my husband has to do without coke much of the time.
posted by rebeccablood at 2:48 PM on October 15, 2001

I loved Webvan. I've always hated shopping; I find myself thinking evil thoughts about anonymous people minding their own business but who happen to be blocking the aisle I want to go down, having inane conversations about the merits of canned tomatoes, or spawning children from hell who are polluting my earspace. For some reason, the moment I enter a grocery store my tolerance level goes through the basement floor. Even if I am well-organized and can get everything in one batch, it's an hour of darkness in my week that is precious. I'd rather order the stuff (at work) online then spend the hour with my dog who is chronically neglected. It's not an opportunity to be a couch-potato pracowity, it's an opportunity to be a dog's...dog, if you will.
posted by dness2 at 3:08 PM on October 15, 2001

thank you mathowie!
posted by bee at 7:05 PM on October 15, 2001

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