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An inside look at top retailers and the consumers they covet

LED bulb died. No receipt, no packaging. How'd the return go?

Consumers who are less enamored of LED lightbulb technology than I am have complained to me over the years about their undesirable appearance, color and light dispersion (all true in early versions), but I am surprised when readers say LEDs fail prematurely. Most are guaranteed for five to 10 years and 50,000 hours or more.

Until last week, no LED bulb had failed on me. I assumed the unhappy consumers were buying inexpensive off-brands. I have had good luck with Philips and Cree brands, which are leading LED manufacturers.

But a Cree 3-way bulb that burned out last week was less than a year old. I didn't have the receipt to prove it, but Cree introduced the 3-way (30-60-100 watt) bulbs ($22 each) only a year ago. I took it to Home Depot without the original packaging or receipt, expecting to be turned away when I asked for a replacement.

Instead, I was given a new bulb without any problem. I also checked Cree's website about warranties. It said that a consumer can get a replacement if the bulb fails within 10 years if the consumer has the receipt and proof of purchase. I called Cree and asked if I could get a replacement without the receipt etc. The rep assured me that replacement without a receipt was no problem if Home Depot had turned me away. (He thought Home Depot only allowed returns within 90 days.)

I am not the only one having issues with Cree's 3-way bulb. A number of reviewers on Home Depot's site have also complained. Mike Watson, vice-president of product strategy at Cree in North Carolina, said that within a month of releasing the 3-way bulb last year, the company discovered a voltage spike when the user went rapidly through the 3 settings.  "After we noticed a higher than normal return rate, we instituted a fix," he said. Since then the return rate is much lower, according to Watson.

If an LED bulb fails on you, don't assume you're out of luck without a receipt or proof or purchase. If the retailer won't take it back, check the company's website or 800 number.

DoorDash, a restaurant delivery service, is coming to Twin Cities

Yet another delivery service is rolling out to the Twin Cities.

The latest player is another Silicon Valley-based startup called DoorDash. It is already up and running in several other cities and has recently set up an office in the North Loop. It plans to launch its local restaurant delivery service starting in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park and Edina on June 24.

Its roll out comes on the heels of delivery service Postmates’ arrival in the Twin Cities last month.

So how will DoorDash be different than the others in town offering similar services such as Bite Squad, Postmates, and GrubHub?

Fuad Hannon, a St. Paul native and general manager of the Minneapolis operation, said DoorDash uses smart algorithims to try to streamline the process and make it faster and cheaper for customers and more cost effective for local restaurants, too.

“At the heart of it, we’re a technology company,” he said, noting that the company has raised about $60 million in start-up financing.

Of course, we will have to wait and see how it really stacks up to the competition.

On the surface, DoorDash seems to be kind of a hybrid between Bite Squad and Postmates. Like Bite Squad, it partners with specific restaurants. And like Postmates, it has a smartphone app and uses an independent contractor model for its drivers and bikers similar to Uber.

Postmates will deliver anything from pretty much anywhere within its market. But DoorDash limits delivery to restaurants within about four miles in order to ensure better food quality when it arrives at your door, said Hannon.

DoorDash charges a delivery fee of $5 to $6. Menu prices could be the same or higher than the restaurant's in-store prices depending on DoorDash's agreement with those vendors. Some of the restaurants it is working with include Rusty Taco, Masu Sushi, Chino Latino and Holy Land.

As for the increasing number of competitors in this space in Minneapolis, Hannon said he's not worried about it becoming too crowded. After all, he said cities like New York and San Francisco have a lot more delivery options.

“It’s about who can provide the best service to customers -- has the best on-time rates, the lowest delivery fees, the best merchant support, the best menu team," he said. "I’m super bullish on Minneapolis.”

Over time, he said DoorDash plans to expand to the rest of the Twin Cities region. He promised St. Paul wouldn't have to wait too long.

And, yes, there will be some special perks at launch. The first 100 people to sign up on its website from the Twin Cities will get a $20 credit. And it will cut the delivery fee to $1 for your first delivery.