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Groceries Online: Shop for Food from the Comfort of Your Home

Aired July 3, 2000 - 2:19 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a lot of you have probably seen those ads on TV and the Internet for online grocery services. We decided to check them out and see if they are really as good as they claim to be.

CNN's Eileen O'Connor says they can provide living solutions to hectic schedules.


EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are some people who just hate to shop.

GINA WILCOX, STREAMLINE.COM: We call them shopping avoiders. They're the people who would give their first-born rather than stand in that long line behind the woman with the check and the coupons.

O'CONNOR: They are an online grocer's dream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, no problem. Have a good day. OK, bye.

O'CONNOR: About 15 minutes and a $30-a-month service fee saves their customers two to three hours a week, according to's CEO, Timothy Demello.

TIMOTHY DEMELLO, STREAMLINE.COM: But I think it's really all about stress. I think it's all about understanding that there's things you want to do in life and there's things you need to do in life.

O'CONNOR: Streamline keeps its overhead down by delivering once a week by area. Overnight, orders are processed, food prepared, so the next day customers get their dry cleaning, videos, repaired shoes and groceries delivered right to the door. On-line grocery shopping may capture as much as 15 percent of the market, or over $100 billion, according to some industry estimates. Streamline wants to be in 20 markets in four years, serving the most sought-after consumers: suburban with kids.

WILCOX: That's the lady who's trying to get to the office at least 20 hours a week, make the soccer games and the ballet practices, and make sure the homework is done, as well as manage all the home finances. O'CONNOR: With six children, Terry Henritze fits the M.O. She uses Webvan, another online grocer that offers deliveries within 24 to 48 hours. Henritze says by setting up a personal shopping list, she saves as well by not being tempted by impulse items.

TERRY HENRITZE, ONLINE SHOPPER: I am a skeptic, too. I'm only going to do things that I feel are cost-efficient and time-efficient, and it has proved to be both.

O'CONNOR: That, says licensed nutritionist Mary Dickie, can mean a healthier diet.

MARY DICKIE, NUTRITIONIST: The more we can get people to think ahead of time about what they're going to eat, and then to bring the food home without being too tempted to buy the Ding Dongs and the Ho- Hos and the potato chips, the more healthy people will eat.


O'CONNOR: Although there are some people who say, though, that buying the Ding Dongs would be more tempting when you're doing it in the privacy of your home. There isn't that embarrassment factor, of course, at the checkout line -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Oh gosh, I'm such an impulse buyer at my local grocery store that I think I'd love to do this.

Eileen, on, our Web site, people have been leaving questions on our message board about online shopping -- a lot of interest in this. So we want to let you take some of these questions.

Someone named Don writes: "Do you find that you miss the product pictures? Have you made use of the personal lists or do you start a new cart every time you go shopping? And how often do you check the nutrition information of an item?"

O'CONNOR: Well, basically, I think that a lot of people, according to Streamline and Webvan and the other online grocers -- according to their own information -- they say that the people do like to use that personal shopping list, because it means that you have a list of all the things you that you regularly order. And so, every single week, all you have to do is go down the list and click on the part -- the little box that says order, and then just update your order for that week.

So that makes the ordering process much easier. And once you get that set up, according to Streamline, a lot of people report back that they can order within 15 minutes. Now, for product information, let's go to "The Marketplace," and you can see, in "Fresh Foods," if you click on "Fresh Foods," you can take a look at what it looks like. You can -- while some people, you know, want to see what those bakery goods look like, the fresh-baked bagels you can go to -- and you can see that blueberry bagel.

Although, in that product information, you're not going to get the calorie content and the fat. But again, you're not going to get that at your bakery either. They don't like to tell you those things. Now, go to "Packaged Food," and you can go to the baby food. And if you click on "Baby Cereal" for instance, as you can see, the product -- and you click on the little information button next to the oatmeal -- and you will that comes up is the nutrition facts that you will see on the back of the cereal box itself, just like it is in the grocery store.

Now again, this is a technology that does take some getting used to in order to learn where that product information is, and how to get into it very quickly. But once you learn it, it's a lot easier to adapt to and a lot of people are finding it very, very easy to use. And it is good for other people, the disabled and the elderly, who can't get out to shop necessarily. This will enable them to do so, and not have to rely on other people -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Right, I've heard it takes a while -- that the first time you want to set up, and decide want you delivered, but after that, it gets easier. But every time I see one of those vans in my neighborhood, I want it stopping at my house. But anyway, enough of me.

One more question about privacy issues. Should that be a concern?

O'CONNOR: Well, as you heard from Myron earlier in this broadcast, I mean, privacy issue a concern for a lot of online shoppers. And -- but I talked to the grocers about that, and they said, while they do gather information about customer preferences, they do not give out addresses. They do not give out credit card information. And they will give to some of their suppliers some of the aggregate information of the group. But they don't give out individual information.

And they say that it's helpful to customers. For instance, if you buy a lot of diapers, they will send you free diapers. And it's good for their suppliers, because they're only going to target those people who buy diapers to give their free products too.

ALLEN: All right, Eileen O'Connor, thank you. Good information. Happy Fourth.

O'CONNOR: Thanks, happy Fourth.



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