Living in Los Angeles creates in nearly every one of its residents a risk analyst who weighs effort versus outcome. We wonder: Is the pleasure of a massage, a manicure or a meal worth the punishment of the traffic en route? Are we so time-starved that we'll gladly pay someone else to suffer and bring the experience to us?
The answer to the latter question is often yes.
Venturing outside our homes means having to overcome any variety of logistical, financial and emotional hurdles. So, savvy entrepreneurs have tapped into our desire to avoid time-consuming or merely inconvenient tasks by offering mobile services that help us take better care of our bodies, pets, houses, clutter and guests. They'll give you a spray-on tan, update your wardrobe and pick up after Fido, all with a simple call.
Many of the businesses start out catering to the rich but eventually extend their services to the ordinary public. And though charges can still be steep, if any of the services help save an hour or two of errand time, it's money well spent -- or so we rationalize.
While at-home services tend to be the province of small businesses, some large grocery and pharmacy chains are making house calls, supplemented by Internet shopping sites that can ease the stress of shopping in person. You don't have to be Howard Hughes to hate waiting in the pharmacy line behind some pathetic, wheezing soul. And if you're cooped up recuperating from the flu, waiting for the delivery truck might be the highlight of your day.
On a more indulgent level, personal and grooming services are simply more luxurious, private and comfortable if you can have them under your own roof. To keep your home life running smoothly, you can hire experts to teach you organizational techniques. When you entertain, you can harness the once-secret sources of event planners so that even the do-it-yourself hostess can have an expert bartender add life to the party.
Of course, L.A. isn't nearly as delivery-dense as Manhattan, where even the corner deli comes to your door. But every day, it seems some ingenious go-getter has solved the tricky delivery route algorithms of this sprawling city and learned to get whatever it is you need whenever it is you want it. If pizza can make the trip, why can't everything else?
Here's an eclectic sampling of some of the many ordinary and extraordinary services to keep you happily at home.
When you're ill, just getting to the doctor's office can sap all of your effort and ambition for an entire day. Forget waiting in line at the pharmacy. Seven days a week, more than two dozen Sav-On Drugs pharmacies can arrange to deliver prescriptions. For an additional fee, a delivery service can bring the medicine to your door by 7 p.m. on days that you phone in your prescription by 11 a.m. The service is available in stores concentrated in central Los Angeles, as well as in Santa Monica, Northridge, Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades and other areas.
Cost: $6.50 for orders placed before 2 p.m., $12.50 after 2 p.m. Delivery is from 3 to 6 p.m. for early orders, by 7 for late.
Having your groceries delivered at home used to be commonplace. These days, you have to think of it as deconstructed catering. Indeed, at gourmet grocer Bristol Farms, the chain's largest stores deliver groceries via a fleet of catering trucks. Shoppers can go online to see if the grocer delivers in their ZIP Code (they span from Westlake Village to Mission Viejo). You can expect same-day delivery if ordering before 11 a.m.
Cost: $14.99 delivery fee for orders less than $125, or $4.99 for orders more than $125
Contact: (888) 353-2351; www.bristolfarms.com
The grocery delivery services at Albertsons and Vons direct shoppers to online grocery stores divided into aisles. Deliveries are within periods of 1 1/2 to 2 hours, seven days a week. The Vons website advises that pharmacy orders will soon be added to the grocery delivery service.
Cost: Albertsons, $9.95 delivery fee; Vons, $7.95 or $9.95
Contact: www.albertsons.com and www.vons.com
With six locations centered on the Westside and San Fernando Valley, Pink Dot isn't as large as it once was. But it's been in the grocery and sundries delivery business for two decades, aiming to deliver within 30 to 45 minutes, between 8 and 3 a.m.
Cost: $3.50 delivery fee
The rabbi would approve. In fact, the Rabbinical Council of California has given its stamp of approval to Kosher on Wheels, a nationwide kosher foods delivery service. The company does local delivery as well as Federal Express delivery of frozen edibles in all 50 states. Favorites like bagels and white fish, and potato knishes are on the menu. But this kosher food service also offers untraditional items like BBQ chicken wings, stuffed grape leaves and teriyaki beef skewers. Don't judge a book by its cover or (as reads the menu) a hot dog by its "blanket."