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App helps take worry out of online shopping deliveries

Afraid to buy online because thieves might swipe the package from your front porch? Relax.

A group of 40 Tampa Bay businesses — most of them parcel post shops or mini-storage facilities — have united to accept and hold deliveries for $1 to $4 a package.

They're part of Kinek.com, a Canadian startup that assembled a network of 1,300 pickup spots across North America.

Register online and pick the closest (or cheapest) spot to have mail order purchases sent. You'll get a free download of a tracking app good for the big shippers and a text message when your package arrives.

Kinek gets its money from businesses that pay $1 a package for your patronage. Then the businesses decide what to charge you. A few (alas, none in the bay area) charge nothing in return for traffic, like service stations that install tires bought online.

Users go well beyond people in sketchy neighborhoods. Snowbirds use it to ease their winter migration to Florida, as well as people who live on the road, like RV park vacationers.

Kinek is the brainstorm of Canadian tech entrepreneur Kerry McLellan.

He knew he was not alone when he missed connecting with an unannounced delivery person three times before his purchase was returned to the sender.

"We will have twice the pickup points by fall," said Kendall McMenamon, general manager.

Eco paydirt: TheNakedHippie.com, an unusual Tampa company that creates eco-friendly-themed T-shirts, will be featured Thursday on ator Alicia Silverstone's favorites page on the OpenSky.com website.

An environmental activist who wrote a vegan nutrition guide and runs a rescued animal sanctuary, Silverstone is one of 80 celebrities peddling products she likes to her followers on OpenSky.

"The call that she chose us came right out of the blue," said Adrien Edwards, the 28-year-old Tampa graphic designer who co-founded The Naked Hippie as a spare-time endeavor. The apparel maker turns all profits from its $19 to $38 apparel made from organic cotton or recycled polyester into microloans (up to $1,000) for businesses in places like Sierra Leone, El Salvador and India.

Incidentally, The Naked Hippie put "the" in its name not out of some sense of formality. Edwards learned too late that a shorter version was a porno site.

The food had better be good: Tampa-based Beef 'O' Brady's has signed two deals to open franchised sports pubs in alcohol-free countries this summer in the Middle East. One covers Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. A second is for Qatar.

No hard feelings: Turns out musician Dave Carroll's YouTube sensation "United Breaks Guitars" was only the start of a crusade using social media to spread abused consumer rants.

After raising $1 million for the venture, the Canadian musician last week launched gripevine.com as a hub for honked-off customers to share complaints, post videos and shame companies into repairing shattered relationships. Complaints are free. But companies pay $100 and up, subscribing to a dashboard of automated tools that monitor and help cure what customers say about them on social media.

Carroll's singing video series, which details how United Airlines baggage handlers broke his guitar in 2008 then refused to pay enough to fix it, remains posted after 11.5 million plays.

"After United totally ignored me for nine months, I decided to reject all their offers to settle," said Carroll, who later would turn down $2,200 in cash. Ultimately, United contributed $3,000 in his name to a jazz school and paid a license fee to use his video in customer relations training.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8252.

App helps take worry out of online shopping deliveries 02/13/12 [Last modified: Monday, February 13, 2012 10:13pm]
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