The importance of delivery to New Yorkers

I recently discovered, what TechCrunch called “Kozmo for booze.” For those of you who never knew, they were a movie-and-snacks delivery service that operated in Manhattan (and later in other cities) in the late-90s. Their angle was that they delivered your order for free in under an hour.

I was one of their first customers. I had met co-founder, i-banker Joseph Park, at an expo in 1998 when I was a sophomore in high school. The site was in beta and he was looking for testers. I signed up that night and used it at least once a week for the next two years before going to college. To give you a sense of how early on this was, my login credentials were password/password.

On Thanksgiving break my freshman year of college, I wanted to order a DVD and some Mike and Ikes. I went on to and found that I had a message waiting: I had a movie that was two weeks overdue. Pre-Netflix, Kozmo let you keep the DVD for a couple days, and then you had to drop it off in one of the locked dropboxes placed all over the city. In any case, I hadn’t been home in three months so I was sure that I hadn’t rented any movies recently. I called my dad to ask if he’d been using my Kozmo account while I was away, and he said that he didn’t even know how to sign in, so that was a no.

Trying to get to the bottom of this, I scanned through the recent orders. There was something suspicious about the most recent order placed two weeks ago, as I had thought, the first one since I’d left for school. I clicked on the link, and what did I find? The delivery had been made to a random street address in Portland, OR. Also listed were the three movies that had been ordered. I wish I had written the names down so I could better remember them now, but let’s just say they were called “Busty Babes 3,” “Return of the Ta-Tas,” and “I Like Them Young.” I was appalled…someone had ordered porn on my Kozmo account! And they’d used my credit card on file. Now, I know I was to blame for having created such a guessable username and password, but come on, have a little bit of decency people.

Being the computer nerd I was back then (and still am), I did a web search for the address and through a White Pages site found the telephone number. I was a hard-ass back then too, and I realized there was no reason to get mad when I could get even.

I called the phone number and a woman picked up. I said, “Hi, is Mike there?” Yes, he’d been stupid enough to put his name on the order. She had a sweet voice and said, “No, I’m sorry. This is his girlfriend. Who may I ask is calling?”

“Hi, this is Whitney. I was just calling to ask Mike if he could please return the copies of ‘Busty Babes 3,’ ‘Return of the Ta-Tas,’ and ‘I Like Them Young’ he rented from Kozmo. He’s racking up some serious late fees on my account.”

There was silence on the other end. I could hear her breathing change. “Ok, thank you for letting me know. Ba-bye.”

In that moment, I realized why I love the Internet.

Now, almost eight years later, Kozmo is long gone, Urbanfetch came and went, and FreshDirect has paved the way for the more successful pursuits of SeamlessWeb, and MaxDelivery (which delivers on their promise of “in under an hour” but only services downtown Manhattan).

Enter Wakozi, cornering the market for same-day delivery of wine, beer and spirits. They’re working to build a large database of wine shops, delis and bodegas in New York City, though their showing in TriBeCa is still pretty poor. While I haven’t placed an order yet, I tried out the website recently and wanted to share what I found.

When you first visit the website, it’s got a Google-white and basic interface. There’s an orange bubble on the bottom right corner of the page saying, “New here? Click here to learn how to use the site.” If you click there, or even if you just sit on the homepage for about a minute, orange bubbles start to pop up elsewhere on the page.

It’s a nice and simple touch to get people oriented to the page. Now, do people who will use this service need help understanding where to log in or type their address? Probably not. But I like the implementation of it nonetheless. What I don’t really like is what happens when you click on one of these bubbles. A large layer is displayed over the entire page with a lengthy description of the service, or outrageously long registration form.

That could have been handled much more elegantly, if they had instead displayed tidbits in context, similar to what was done on Yahoo!’s Shine.

Once you enter your address, you get a list of local stores, though in my case they also offered up a shop in midtown which I’m fairly certain would not deliver to me. [Update: I checked it again and now the East 42nd Street store is no longer showing]

Each shop has its own delivery time, required minimum delivery price, and hours — since in Wakozi’s model, the store is responsible for their own deliveries. You can isolate “wine shops” from “beer & convenience” stores, and also search by product name.

In reality, Wakozi is not much more than a directory. But the benefit they provide is convincing these small shops that don’t currently deliver that it’s in their best interest to participate. I don’t think I’ll be ordering a six-pack of beer with my dinner (I have plenty in the fridge), but I definitely think this is a great way to go for parties. Now I won’t have to recruit my friends to help me carry the cases before the bash.

Still don’t believe how important delivery is to us? Just check out That pretty much says it all.

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  1. says

    I like how your handled the videos with Mike’s girlfriend. My best Internet delivery experience so far has been with SeamlessWeb. A friend of a friend works there, but I hadn’t tried it until last week. Suffice it to say that it has the best user interface of all the services I’ve tried so far.

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