TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Touch Tone Grocery Shopping - Promise Never Realized?

Re: Touch Tone Grocery Shopping - Promise Never Realized?

Thu, 03 Aug 2006 06:30:03 -0400 wrote:

> In looking through 1960-era articles and advertisements about future
> telephone service (including Touch Tone service), a continuing theme
> was telephone grocery shopping. The newspaper's ad every day would
> contain code numbers next to each advertised product. A housewife
> would use this to call in an order.

> I realize some supermarkets have Internet orders, but I don't think
> telephone pick up ever became widespread as originally forseen. (I
> wonder if it ever was used for grocery shopping).

> I suspect some retailing issues had an impact:

> 1) At one time grocery stores delivered, no more.
> 2) Grocery stores evolved into self-service supermarkets with lower
> prices and less support. A busy supermarket did not have the resources
> to have people pull orders.

> 3) Desire to select their own products, such as meat, fruits, and
> vegatables.

> Some things we do use today like telephone banking of course came to
> pass. Unfortunately, today you are forced to use the automatic system
> and can't talk to a person when you need one without a long wait and
> aggravation.

snip of phone technology

> [public replies please]

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Internet grocery shopping and delivery
> was a very good feature and when I lived around Chicago area (both in
> Skokie and on the north side of Chicago, it was offered by a company
> called 'Pea Pod', and although we had to pay a relatively small fee
> for the service, Pea Pod generally made its money from Jewel Food
> Stores, with whom they had a relationship. The service was rather good
> and very prompt. Here in Independence, we do not have 'internet grocery
> shopping' at the present time, but one of the grocery stores (Safeway)
> had planned on starting it a few years ago, but then Walmart showed up
> and chased not only Safeway, but the three other major grocery stores
> out of town. And Walmart, of course, has no provision for doing
> anything different than cash and carry, in huge quantities. A chain of
> stores called 'Marvins IGA' moved in where the old Country Mart had
> been located, but they are just barely hanging on, financially, and do
> not feel they could afford the cost of working along with the internet
> people. PAT]

What most people don't realize is how expensive it is to run an Internet
shopping setup. There's a huge cost of startup to deal with 24/7, fraud
prevention, security, E&O, etc ... A small business will have trouble
keeping up unless they make it an Internet order taking setup with
billing handled manually. And many small folks do this but for a
grocery, doing this is more expensive than running a checkout line.
While the uninformed press and consumers keep thinking that Internet
stores are cheaper to operate than brick and morter, in general most
physical stores have gotten very efficient and are in fact cheaper IN
TOTAL to operate than Internet stores. What this means is that Internet
shopping and delivery becomes a premium item and many times there just
isn't enough of a market to pay for it. Amazon is the exception to all
of this but they are not a local store selling via the Internet, they
are one of the few .com Internet stores that survived. And I'm convinced
it's more due to the strange economics of the book industry and not that
they figured it out way better than the pet food sellers.

What in many cases still works best for automated orders is FAX. It's
incredibly rare that the store (or lunch service mostly) gets
something that isn't what the customer wanted. And if they can't read
it, they can call and figure it out. But this mainly works for
businesses already in the delivery market.

When growing up some friends our family (this was a small town) ran a
local grocery. A major hassle with delivery was mistakes (both ways)
complaints of things missing that weren't, complaints about produce
selection, etc ... Some real, some bogus. One advantage the local store
had was that a bad check was from someone in the area and was usually
a mistake that was quickly corrected, but in any case was usually
handled locally. With the Internet, you open up all kinds of scam
possibilities from folks on the other side of the planet. And the
rules for CC cards is if there's a complaint the merchant agrees to
allow the money to be withdrawn from their account until the issue is
resolved. All in all the profits to a grocer are based on getting you
into the store and you buying things you didn't plan.

I've seen a lot of Wal-Mart is bad because they're big in this forum.
Let me ask this. Were Penny's and Sears bad because they put a lot of
smaller retailers out of business? Was IGA bad because they put the
local indenpendent out of business. Was Kroger's bad because they did it
to IGA? Is Wal-Mart now bad because ...?

Over and over the majority of people have voted with their wallets
that they want large selections at dirt cheap prices over personal
service. At least until things go wrong. :)

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: But although on the interest you can do
business from all over the world, an internet grocey service is mostly
going to be local; a merchant who was asked to deliver groceries from
his local store to some addresss in Nigeria or wherever would look at
the order rather askance. He is going to deliver to somewhere within
a few miles of his store, so he in effect has the same protection as
he does with someone local coming in and writing him a bad check. And
although the 'majority' of people have voted and said they prefer low
prices over customer service, you claim, there are still those of us
who for whatever reason find shopping in a large mall environment very
difficult, and much prefer local, downtown merchants whose prices are
not that much higher (sometimes the same, now and then less) who also
provide delivery service. For example with me; it is much more
preferable to be able to call Proscript (one of the local pharmacies)
and ask the clerk "please refill (serial number on the botle) and send
it out to me this afternoon"; it gets sent out and my account gets
charged; I have it usually in an hour or so. Just try to do that with
Walmart pharmacy or for that matter, even Walgreens (of which we have
one now in town also.) When I mentioned to Angie (Proscript clerk)
that not only would Walgreen's not deliver and demanded cash on the
spot, she was amazed. She knew that to be the case with Walmart of
course, and neither of them (Walmart nor Walgreens) will take requests
over the phone based on the serial number on the bottle; they both
demand to have you bring in the empty bottle personally, and stand in
line for however long waiting, and have your cash or credit card
available handily. Local store are always so much better, no matter
what. PAT]

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