Student survival delivered in under an hour

The phenomenon started in the basement of a warehouse in the East Village of New York City. It began with a couple of couriers delivering movies and ice cream to customers in less than an hour. Now serving 11 cities across the country and celebrating its D.C. location’s one-year anniversary this month, Kosmo.com is catching the eye of the country one click at a time.

Kozmo offers a variety of products broken down into four categories – basics, entertainment, food and specialties.

Basics include personal care, household and medicine cabinet items along with sundries, miscellaneous items with no specific category including cigarettes and batteries. Compact disks, DVD’s, movies, books and magazines can be found in the entertainment section. Movie videos and DVDs are for rent or sale, but CDs are only for sale. Kozmo has movie deals with five of the seven major movie studios and stocks over 10,000 movie titles. The food section has a variety of snacks, meals, drinks and gourmet food items and specialties has an eclectic mix of items from digital cameras to baby toys.

For each of the 11 cities Kozmo serves – which include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and D.C. – the company hosts Web sites that offer products catered to the city’s tastes. Items special to D.C. include Whatsa Bagel, Wall Street Deli, Krispy Kremes and Marvelous Market products.

Warehouses centrally located in all 11 cities serve as the headquarters for each branch. Before purchasing a warehouse, Kozmo runs time tests to make sure couriers can reach every home and office in the city in less than an hour, said Stephanie Cohen Glass, director of communication for Kozmo.com.

After customers place their order online or by phone, the area Kozmo warehouse receives a copy of the order almost instantaneously, and workers start to package the order together. Everything posted on the Web site is contained within the warehouse and cartons are passed along a conveyor belt in front of storage units, where all the frozen and refrigerated items are kept. The items are placed in the carton and pushed further down the line. Next, the order-filler walks through the different isles of the warehouse filling the carton with the other products. The D.C. warehouse hosts about 18 isles and a special gated-off section for more expensive, specialty items like DVD players, VCRs, digital cameras and specialty gift items. Packages are prepared and ready for a courier in less than five minutes. Packages that contain cigarettes are placed in special red bags – most bags are green and orange with the Kozmo.com logo – reminding the courier to check for age identification. While ID is necessary to purchase cigarettes, the company does not check the ages of people who rent R-rated movies, Glass said.

Kozmo delivers from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. and is busiest on nights and weekends according to Glass. Customers’ biggest gripe is that the delivery service is not available 24 hours a day, but Kozmo’s focus for the upcoming years is on expanding to other cities, not staying open later in the cities where it already exists, Glass said.

Kozmo is no stranger to college campuses. In almost all Kozmo service locations a significant portion of business comes from students, Glass said. According to Glass, a large percentage of Kozmo’s D.C. business comes from college students, and 70-100 more GW students sign up with the online company each week. Toilet paper, movies and ice cream are the most popular items sold to GW students, Glass said. Kozmo has sponsored several events on campus, including Fall Fest, the Student Association Welcome Back BBQ, registration for Family Weekend and general tabling. The SA and Kozmo have a partnership in which the SA offers a Kozmo movie drop box in its office to generate more traffic to the office.

Junior Carolyn Majors said she orders from Kozmo two to three times a week, usually popcorn and a movie. Majors said she has never had any problems with the delivery service and loves the company’s accessibility.

(Kozmo has) everything from laundry detergent to food to movies and its normal rates, she said.

Sophomore Heather Murphy said she never orders from Kozmo even though many of her friends do. Murphy prefers to walk to Tower Video to get a movie and said there is something odd about ordering food online.

Kozmo courier Eugene Lee, 25, said he frequently delivers to GW and enjoys the recognition he gets from GW students.

People are always saying `hey that’s the Kozmo guy’ and pointing, he said. People like seeing me.

Although couriers do not know what is in the bags they deliver, Lee said he can tell he delivers mostly ice cream and movies. Lee said the worst part of the job is when nobody is home to receive an order.

According to Lee Kozmo offers a fun working atmosphere. Signs on the warehouse walls that read, A #1 company comes from a #1 team, Keep up the great work and We are here because of you – thank you, keep Lee motivated, he said.

One of the company’s founders selected the company’s name because of an infatuation with Cosmo Kramer’s character on the TV show Seinfeld. The company colors, green and orange, were picked because they are bold and noticeable, Glass said.

Kozmo’s newest addition to its Web sites is an inter-city gift service. Customers can search on different cities’ Web sites and have products wrapped and delivered to friends and family in less than an hour. Glass said gift-wrapped items are great from for the holidays, and the company will deliver Christmas day.

Kozmo is quickly integrating into popular cultures’ vocabulary, and more people are Kozmoing it more often as they make deliveries a daily part of their lives Glass said.

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