How to do your chores without ever leaving the house

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By Matt Lindner

For Sun-Times Media

We don’t need to convince you that it’s too cold to leave the house. But we can shame you for curling around a box of old Cheerios and looking woefully at that pile of clothes, hoping it will just disappear. This is 2014, and there are apps that will enable you to maintain a semblance of personhood while staying completely covered by an electric blanket.

Instead of bemoaning Monday’s historic low temperatures, we celebrate these innovations that could help you set a personal record for wintertime laziness.


Grocery stores have looked like a scene from “The Hunger Games” the past few days, so it’s no surprise some Chicagoans are opting to outsource their shopping.

San Francisco-based same-day grocery delivery service Instacart entered the Chicago market in the fall and just posted its best numbers to date.

“We had a record-setting weekend in terms of orders,” says Heather Wake, Instacart’s Chicago city manager. “Most of [Monday] is already booked as the inclement weather has continued.”

The app sends independent contractors to grocery stores such as Jewel-Osco and Mariano’s to do your shopping. It’s currently available in 23 Chicago neighborhoods from Avondale to Bridgeport.

Users are charged $3.99 for two-hour delivery or $14.99 to have orders delivered within the hour. (There’s a $10 minimum order.)

Wake asks for patience with the stores, which could close earlier if the weather worsens, and Instacart’s shoppers out there on the bad roads.

“Most of our personal shoppers are braving the elements and operating business as usual,” Wake says. “Some lucky ones have garages, while others got up early to shovel out their cars.”

Dry cleaning

Dropping off and picking up your dry cleaning isn’t a battle worth fighting for some.

Yes, there’s an app for that now too.

Dryv, which launched last month, is an on-demand dry cleaning app employing a number of independent drivers across the city.

Here’s how it works: Users put in a request for service through the app and within an hour, a driver will come pick up their clothes. The order is taken to a centralized dry cleaner in Chicago — Dryv wouldn’t specify with what company it has partnered, only to say the cleaner is capable of handling the demand — and back to you inside of 36 hours.

“We price everything to compete with local storefronts,” Dryv co-founder Chris Elipas says. “We think we’re cheaper than most delivery places and comparable to most neighborhood cleaners.”

Users pay per garment, and there’s no separate delivery fee. Elipas says drivers are paid a base amount plus a percentage of the order ticket.

Dryv is only available in five neighborhoods — River North, Streeterville, Old Town, Gold Coast and Lincoln Park — but Elipas has plans to expand.

“We’re currently concentrating on Chicago, building our user base and going from there,” he says.

Weather hasn’t been a factor just yet when it comes to getting to customers, but Elipas acknowledges that could change as things get more extreme.

“We haven’t even come close to 60 minutes yet [for a pickup],” he says. “That being said, we’ve also never operated in negative 15 degrees.”

A ride

Why try to move your car if you don’t have to, right?

Low-cost on-demand ride apps UberX, Sidecar and Lyft — whose drivers are regular folks using their own cars — could see fewer riders today because schools and offices are closed.

But it may be just as well because there may be fewer drivers too.

“There has been a slight dip in drivers with the freezing conditions,” says Sidecar spokesman Margaret Ryan.

She says that’s not much of an effect on Sidecar’s ability to meet demand, but she encourages users to leave a little extra time before and during travel.

“Our our average wait time in Chicago was roughly five to 15 minutes over the weekend due to the heavy snow and driving conditions,” she says. “We expect these times will be lower early this week since the snow has stopped, many main streets have been plowed and driving conditions are improving.”

No beer, sorry

Users logging onto food and alcohol delivery service Foxtrot received a disappointing message Monday:

“Hey Chicago, hope you’re staying safe. Due to the inclement weather, Foxtrot is currently closed. We plan on reopening Tuesday morning.”

Though closing shop when the new app would likely see higher-than-normal traffic may not seem like a smart business decision, CEO Mike LaVitola says the move was made for the safety of its independent contractors.

“We work with WeDeliver, which does the majority of our deliveries,” he says. “We would have loved to have been open but it came down to it’s one day, there’s no need to put these guys out there unnecessarily on a historically cold day.”

As you can imagine, users were a little bummed about the whole no-beer thing.

“We’ve gotten a lot of lighthearted feedback,” LaVitola says. “A lot of people want beer and snacks delivered for their snowed-in day, but it all seems in jest.”

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