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Never leave the house again

Dinner and a movie go virtual.

I’m a fan of a regular Yahoo Internet Life feature that measures the “Net way” of doing things against the “old way”–everything from renting a laptop (winner: Net) to buying Halloween candy (winner: old). After trying out a couple of new Web services myself, I’m happy to report that the Net way has won. Dinner and a movie have taken on a whole new meaning at my house.

SimonDelivers.com

I’d seen the SimonDelivers.com trucks trolling neighborhoods for a couple of years, so I still can’t believe it took a friend to point out that buying groceries online is much faster, easier, and pleasant than going to the store. After the demise of Webvan, a regional grocer, it appears that online services are reappearing locally, and that’s probably a good thing. When I checked around, I found my only other online option is Netgrocer.com, a national store with exorbitant delivery prices and unnecessarily complicated Gold, Silver, and Bronze club levels. If that’s your only option, then the idea of virtual groceries remains ridiculous. But if more local or regional stores follow the example of Twin Cities-based SimonDelivers.com, established in 1999, buying groceries online will be something to write home about.

Consider this example: SimonDelivers.com arranges to serve its customers in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and most suburbs once a week. Simply complete your order by 5 p.m. or 11 p.m. the previous day, depending on your drop-off time. Delivery is free within the first 30 days and for all orders totaling more than $80, plus you can pay online or in person. If you’re not home, the store will leave your groceries where you tell them to. Frozen and refrigerated items arrive in dry ice, so you don’t have to worry about spoiled or melted food. You can even order wine and beer as long as someone of legal age is home to sign for it. Selection and prices at SimonDelivers.com are on par with area stores and include a good selection of organic meat and produce. The store also accepts coupons. On the down side, SimonDelivers.com doesn’t yet serve apartment dwellers, and groceries arrive in more plastic packaging than you’d get if you went to the store yourself.

Netflix

If you’re a movie fan, you can’t lose with Netflix, which came via a word-of-mouth recommendation. Pay $20 per month, get as many DVD movies as you can watch, and never pay a late fee. I figured there had to be a catch. But six months after joining, I’m still not waxing nostalgic about my local video outlets, where selection was hit and miss, and long lines and late fees guaranteed. At Netflix, put the movies you want in a queue. Netflix sends the first three on your list in a paper sleeve that also acts as the postage paid return envelope. As soon as you send one back, it ships you the next. Movies generally take two or three days to appear. The only mishap so far: “The Third Man” got lost in the mail back to Netflix, but I didn’t have to pay for it. (Of course, if that happens too often, Netflix likely will cancel your membership.) Netflix has the deepest selection of any online DVD rental site, but competitors such as RentMyDVD.com and CafeDVD.com offer similar plans, plus the option of one-time rentals for about $5 or $5.50 respectively. One has to wonder what’s next in Web conveniences: PeelMyOrange.com?

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