E-Grocers Check Out

How could a business that seemed a perfect fit for cyber shopping fail to attract enough customers?

The awful moment of realization came last week for 1.3 million wired households. From Boston to the Bay, Web-savvy moms and dads discovered their salad days of food delivery on demand were over. There was no option other than that dreary old hunter-gatherer ritual--going to the grocery store.

In one week, two of America's largest online supermarkets--Webvan.com on the West Coast and HomeRuns.com on the East--abruptly shut down. They left behind at least 2,000 people without jobs, and irate customers wondering what happened to a service that of all things cyber, seemed like a sure bet.

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