Online vendors are seeking human loyalty in NYC, a city of more than 1 million dogs and cats. None have scratched the surface of a metropolitan problem: delivering quality supplies to the correct apartment.
With its high fur-baby population, NYC should be a training lab for animal retail, one of the fastest-growing categories of e-commerce. Unfortunately, online pet businesses operate on a model consisting of: 1) a house with a secure back porch, or 2) a high-rise with a vigilant doorman.
As the owner of two felines who resides in a walk-up, I happily climb a stoop and one flight of indoor stairs to be with my precious pets. I am a cat lady willing to buy in bulk.
In Manhattan, bulk means enough to last three weeks, but not so massive as to dominate closet space. Currently, online pet businesses are more attractive than the dark empire known as Amazon. Their automatic deliveries offer more flexible scheduling.
Yet no chain has figured out how to make my purchases consistently come to me instead of someone else.
Once, my 17-pound bucket of Tidy Cat ended up at my super’s apartment. With so many packages coming and going in a multiunit building, my super doesn’t have the resources to hand deliver. So as I dragged and hurled the bucket down the stairs through the courtyard and up another set of stairs, I left a trail of sweat and resentment.
I could rent a car, but to avoid being towed, I would need associates to guard the vehicle while passing parcels from the Zipcar to my apartment.
Corner stores sell pet products, but they cater to emergencies, when a customer needs a bag of Friskies between shipments of healthier food.
A UPS guy once told me that good carriers from all organizations just want to finish their tasks accurately. Many maintain relationships with supers. Some have master keys. Others will ring buzzers until someone lets them in.
Recently, a longtime resident rang my bell and handed me someone else’s Chewy box. When I explained that the rightful recipient lived on the fourth floor, the resident held up her FitBit and proclaimed, “I have to get in 1,000 more steps tonight. I’ll take the box up myself.”
Ann Votaw is a freelance writer in New York City.