Wine, Produce E-Tailers Struggle With "Nobody At Home"

For the last 15 years, E-Commerce has happily delivered goods just like the Pony Express did 150 years ago: someone walking up to a door, ringing a doorbell and either leaving the package or handing it to a consumer. But there are segments of E-Commerce today—especially with sites selling alcohol and perishable foods—where this approach simply doesn't work very well.

Wine deliveries often require signatures, and many fruits, vegetables and meats can be ruined by sitting out in extreme temperatures. Many two-income families are not home during much of the day, making such deliveries difficult. One vendor is trying to make some money off of this issue, by establishing alliances with businesses that will act as maildrops for such deliveries.

The move by Kinek is not without precedent. Overseas—especially in parts of Asia—such services are common, said Tom Bleir, Kinek's vice president for business development. "In Japan, everyone gets their packages at the corner convenience store," he said.

The Kinek effort goes beyond what Kinko's, Mailboxes Etc. or the U.S. Postal Service offer, Kinek officials argue, because the network allows the locations to be changed at will.

On Tuesday, the consumer might want the package to be near her home, while Wednesday's shipments are better delivered near her work. Next week, her packages should go to this business meeting 1,000 miles away and then to her parents' house in Canada, where she'll spend the holidays.

It's hard to see this option making a major impact on E-Commerce. But for the few niches where it's an issue, it could prove helpful.