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A Consumer Reports: Buying Groceries Online

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I've had a few thoughts in the past about buying groceries online. One was more nostalgic and comparative, when thinking about how in New York City you can shop for your groceries in the store and then have them brought to your apartment, and how it's almost ironic that there, in a city where everything is so easily accessible that you can have anything--even pancakes--delivered to your door, whereas here in Los Angeles things are less accessible, and far fewer places deliver. Another is that it seems almost counterintuitive for someone such as myself to take the tangibility out of the process. So as ordering groceries online seems to be gaining in popularity (this Houston article says Americans spent $3.3 billion buying groceries online in 2005) I've given it more thought, but have always dismissed it as unnecessary and a tad indulgent. After all, I'm a capable young person--why can't I get my own darn groceries?

So here's the situation. I live within reasonable walking distance of a Ralphs, which I loathe, and will only frequent if I'm having a baking or cooking emergency and need to run out for one ingredient. I also live within very reasonable driving distance from at least one each of Vons, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Jons, Albertson's and Gelson's, as well as more Ralphs stores, and dozens of ethnic specialty stores. Sure, I get luxury envy for those folks, like morning newscasters, who brag about the ease of pointing and clicking to get their wares sent to their doorsteps, and yes, I was one of those Swingers-era late 90s and in my early 20s kind of people who thought it was a hoot to order from Pink Dot at all hours--the wackier the order the better.

But the Dot's luminous sheen didn't hang around long, and its novelty (and 7-11 style inconvenient pricing for basic goods) lost its charm. I'd never seriously contemplated going online to get my groceries. Until this weekend.