Remembering Webvan

6 Aug

{Originally post here.}

When we lived in Seattle, it was at the height of the dot-com boom, so we were able to witness and take part in many ahead-of-their time web services like kozmo.com, Homegrocer and Webvan. For about a year, I used the internet as my primary means of ordering lunch at work (kozmo) and I used Homegrocer and Webvan as my primary means of getting groceries (Homegrocer was bought by Webvan before Webvan imploded like all of the other dot-com companies).
What I loved about ordering groceries online is that I could build my list gradually throughout a week, adding items when I discovered I needed them. Sure, you can keep a shopping list on paper and gradually add to that, too; but acquiring the items on that list still means going to the store, loading a cart, unloading it at the register, loading the bags in your car, unloading them when you get home (in our case to a second floor apartment FAr from our parking space), and then put everything away. With Webvan, the only step besides clicking links on a web page, was putting the groceries away. It was a huge timesaver and the produce quality was better than I could get at any local store.

After the dot-com bubble burst and Webvan disappeared, I tried online grocery shopping one more time with Albertsons. I was miserably disappointed after not receiving a few items on my list and getting bananas and peaches that were bruised and rotting within a day. So since 2001, I’ve ben sadly trotting the aisle of the grocery store, praising the moderate convenience of self-checkout lanes, and waxing nostalgic about the good-ole-days with Webvan.

Until this weekend…

I’m happy to report that I tried online grocery shopping again and I was pleasantly pleased. This order came from Vons (Safeway). The online shopping experience was great, far improved from the cutting edge technology that Webvan used in 2000. My produce arrived in fine shape (though the quality cannot compare to the rain-fresh fruits and vegetables that grow in Seattle). And for the first time in MANY years I had a refrigerator and pantry full of groceries without all that horrible effort.

But I’m happy to see that Amazon might be picking up where Webvan left off. The major chains can do an adequate job getting groceries to the home, but they will never be able to duplicate that friendly service or internet-coolness that was attached to Webvan. I will still buy groceries online from Vons, but the moment Amazon Fresh trucks start rolling down my street, I will be the first online.

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