Monday, July 8, 2013

The Fledgling eGrocery Business

Thanks Clavis.
Maybe we could work out a deal for my writing services.

What a great photo I "borrowed" from Clavis Technologies. I tried to read their story but it was a little too dry for my taste. No doubt, their diet would benefit from an increase in fibre intake. Maybe you will do better.

Talk about a business opportunity of the future but it has some major hurdles standing in its way.

As is my usual pattern, I learn about things by poking around and quite often that requires a lot of time and patience while you sort through all of the irrelevant stuff that repetitive Googling presents you with. (Yes I know, you should never end a sentence with a preposition. Mr. Stiver would give me a proper scolding for sure. (my grade 8 grammar teacher, principal, he split the class with the vice-Principal) But I don’t think that anything got lost in the presentation. It isn't text-messaging after all). 

Typically when one Googles they seldom move off of page one so it explains why all those Search Engine optimizer's out there exist since they are trying to find ways to get their useless websites to appear on page one in a search. 

BitsbyBozoplay appears on page one—all 10 of them including the last one which is some directory that lists a guy named Pierre Shepherd, doh. It was linked to the recipe story about Pierre’s Shepherd’s Pie which is a cooking character that exists in my personal makeup. Bing has only 3 references in total and they are all me, so Maverick aka Maverick the Marketing Guy did a superb job in selecting a workable blog name. Read The 4 Personality Types to get a better idea of all that stuff. Maverick isn't in that one but you will get a better idea of where I am coming form in that blog.

OK back to the eGrocery Business. For most of us the local grocery stores are just fine. I recently moved to another city (London, Ontario) where the food selection is different than what I grew up with in and around Toronto. I can’t find bread flour and good fresh meats, fish and vegetables are very hard to find and also very pricey. You can’t make decent bread in a bread maker without using bread flour.

I stopped driving my car because it was just wasting a lot of money and I wasn’t about to spend the grand on another brake job that you need to do about every two to three years in this neck of the woods due to the winters. Four wheel disc brakes provide superior stopping power but they rust like old tin cans especially if you use your car infrequently, as I did. So I just walk to the local discount general merchandise store which is Giant Tiger. They have a fairly good selection of products in the food and drug store environment with the exception of fresh meat or fish and the fresh fruit and vegetables are not so good since they get shipped from a warehouse which I think is in Ottawa. The selection is that which you would expect for the best sellers in any category supported with their own line of no-name selections. So if you were looking for bread flour you would find two or three regular all-purpose varieties only.

It is in Ottawa along with a frozen food distribution place in Brockville (390 and 320 miles from London. Google Giant Tiger, read the Wikipedia article and use Google Maps to run two “trips” to Ottawa and Brockville, convert the kilometres into miles (which I used to by googling but finally found the conversion button in Maps after I somehow lost it). Seems Gordon Reid, the founder got his idea from his working days as a sales rep in the US—modeled after Uncle Bill’s and inspired by the old Woolworth’s stores. Googling Uncle Bills discount gets you a bunch of links to some Vietnamese site that has had its account suspended. Not too sure what that is about, lol.

So to continue on with eGrocery thing. I thought well I wonder if there is a way to get the stuff I would like that I can’t find at Giant Tiger and you don’t need to hop on the bus, rent a car or phone a friend.

Interesting that Millionaire dropped the phone-a-friend lifeline and replaced it with ask-the-expert. It all has to do with sponsorship stuff—AT&T and Skype. Wikipedia isn't always bang on and university students know that you can’t use it isn't an acceptable source in a bibliography, but it is a very useful first visit inquiry. Well we are certainly seeing how my mind works. Jumping around more than a truckload of gigantic Mexican jumping beans. It works for me.

The next step was to Google “online fresh food in London, Ontario”. It is always wise to be very specific with Google. It is just a dumb computer after all. We live in Canada so we aren't interested in doing our grocery shopping in London, England or London, UK. Try typing “booby locke” instead of “Bobby Locke” in Google and see what you get—a friend did that one day. Got a lot more than he expected and I bet he didn't immediately open another browser tab.

I found one location for a It seems it is a service that is run by either current or graduated students of the University of Western Ontario (renowned for their business program) and its physical location is just to the east of the campus grounds. Now the beans in the head started bouncing and I thought, maybe this isn’t so bad even if the pricing was inflated. I would think you would have to charge extra since you would be a middleman and wouldn’t get any benefit of volume purchasing. But here is where I think this is a really creative idea based on my personal experience as a former university student.

Late at night every residence student and those that rent off campus get an uncontrollable urge for food—just about anything will do and the faster it gets there the better. But you don’t necessarily eat stuff that is the best for you and you aren’t likely to have a car since that is out of the budget along with cost of on-campus anything never mind parking. So grocery checkout has got a lot of uneducated buyers (they do study stuff in university, at times) who are more concerned about their stomachs at that time of night than they are about the pocketbook since to go to university today you need hordes of cash coming from everywhere. How you pay that back later isn't a big concern right now because university students are very much into the “now” mode of life.

I can see a future here if they can get over the distribution costs and improve their purchasing power so that they are competitive like other online offerings. In fact, it is often cheaper to buy a product online than it is to visit a store—gas, free shipping (sometimes), sales. I can also see a personal need being fulfilled here from time to time when short or long term health might make it a more viable option, but for now I can schlep on down to the local store and pack my stuff into my UnderArmor back pack and reusable fabric grocery bags. Plastic grocery bags are such a dumb idea. Yep, paper sacks do tear especially if you get them wet but there has to be a better idea. Giant Tiger gives me a nine cent deduction on my bill for not using 3 plastic bags.

As you get older, you recognize a thing called value and you end up creating a balance relating to things like quality, simplicity, ease of acquisition, waste, frugalness (yah, it's probably not an acceptable word, yet) and a host of other things that are learned over time. So I don’t see the eGrocery thing making a huge influx into the food business model just yet.

I Googled the same thing for Toronto and only found one eGrocery link and it was for an online “organic” food store. Eleven dollars for a bag of 1% organic milk for a $4 regular product—C’mon Man!!!

I really think that organic is just another word for “we will sell you the regular stuff which we will label as organic but we will charge you way more than the regular stuff costs”. Yes it’s got that kind of George Carlin feel to it for sure.  He had a major impact on me growing up and I firmly believe that he was one of the great philosophical minds of the 20th century. A little nuts, but he made you go “hmmm” a lot. 

Carlin had his moments when he went off the deep end like the section about “Advice for serial killers” in his last book (before he passed away), When will Jesus Pass the Pork Chops. The Wikipedia review of the book is a good example of an incomplete story like so many you find in that site. How do you write a book when your dead? The wiki story called Pass the Pork Chops his penultimate book. Ya think the writer(s) a Brit? 

If you want more information go find it yourself—George is probably smiling right now. I showed you how to do it, so stop suffering from the malady that all the liberal forces in the teaching world have spawned. If you really want to learn something you have to poke around and figure it out for yourself. Spoon feeding only results in a lot of waste and most of the stuff coming out of the other end.

I could never be a teacher, an instructor or coach you bet, but I don’t like the prospect of jail time for murder. Not the students, it would be all the bureaucratic b-essers that exist in the system that I just couldn't deal with.

George would be a little disappointed there. He wouldn't have chickened out and used b-essers, that’s how he made his point—a smack right between the %$#@*!& eyes. The seven words you can’t say on television is a primary example of his brilliance. Google it. It’s well worth the trip. Just make sure the little ones are not in the house right now.

How’s it hangin’, George? This is one guy that hasn't forgotten you.

Sort of didn't end up where it started, did it? The eGrocery thing.

Well when you go shopping you do come home with things that weren't on the list.

I usually forget my list at home.

Since writing this blog, a Facebook "friend" (in quotes because we haven't met but were matched up in one of the many Facebook games people play) who lives in the UK advised that eGrocery programs are quite common in the UK. The advice he gave was to just log on to any of the major food store chains and go from there. There is an upcharge of 5£ (equivalent to Just under $7.50 US) to cover the delivery charges so you do pay a premium since most orders will not be a full weeks supply. (use alt + 0163 on the PC keyboard to generate the £ key on a US keyboard)

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