Groceries Now, Please

May 10, 2019

Before our daughter was born, we used to enjoy leisurely trips to the grocery store on Saturdays. Touch and smell a mango before buying it, get inspired while walking the aisles, get a fresh ground coffee…it was pleasant.

But in the world of tradeoffs, we’ve decided – like many others – that we would rather spend our Saturdays in other ways. Shuffling my child to/from hockey practice, playing with the dog, reading the morning paper, eating my husband’s to not be missed scrambled eggs…

In other words, not in a crowded grocery store. So we mostly order our groceries online. If you order your groceries online, who do you use and why?

In the US, only 3% of grocery spending takes place online. With the trend towards on demand and digital shift, we can expect this to grow. I hope that online grocery ordering gets the attention it deserves and companies get it right sooner rather than later.

We generally have really loved FreshDirect, but more recently I find myself ordering Whole Foods via Amazon Prime Now.


  • High Item Accuracy – I cannot remember a time that I ordered an item and received something other than what I ordered.
  • High Level of Availability – It’s infrequent that something I am ordering is out of stock (other than when they were changing warehouses and a number of items weren’t available).
  • High Availability of Delivery Slots – It’s infrequent that our most commonly used delivery slots (Monday morning) are unavailable. You can also now reserve delivery slots.
  • Competitive PricingFreshDirect is still less expensive than our local urban grocery store. We also have the delivery pass which is about $10/month for unlimited grocery delivery.
  • Convenient Eco Friendly Packaging – FreshDirect transferred to reusable bags from cardboard boxes. It’s more eco-friendly, and I find the delivery packages to be less cumbersome in general. I am a little grossed out by the reusability of the bags though.

So there’s a lot of great reasons to go with FreshDirect which is why it’s our first choice. Although there are only a few cons, they are obviate the conveniences one looks for in online grocery delivery ordering:

  • No Same Day Delivery – FreshDirect orders have to be placed the day before. So if you find yourself in a pinch, there’s no same day delivery option. Even worse, if FRESH DIRECT makes an error in your order, they have no way to get it to you same day. This might not be so bad if Amazon had not set the standard as “same day.”
  • Frequent Technology Issues – FreshDirect’s app has recently been plagued by tech issues which make it unable to be accessed and causes common grocery items to show up as unavailable (c’mon FreshDirect, I know you sell butter and I know I spelled it correctly!).

In short, if FreshDirect acquired Instacart and hired a few more engineers to increase uptime, they would be my go to grocery deliverer. In the meantime, they face issues like the one I had today where $80 worth of groceries for a dinner tonight and a Mother’s Day brunch this weekend were left out of my delivery and in the 20 minutes it took them to confirm they forgot to send me half my order and that they couldn’t get it to me until tomorrow or the next day, I placed an order through Amazon Prime Now for same day delivery. Which was completed by Amazon and ready to be delivered in about 20 minutes.

Which is a good segway to…

Whole Foods Prime Now:

  • Free Same Day Delivery – They offer free 2 hour window, same day delivery if you are a Prime member. This is huge, and getting delivery logistics right is a big reason why Amazon is eating the world. I’m kind of okay with that.
  • High Availability of Delivery Slots – I’ve only once had no same day delivery slots available, and that was when I was placing an order late in the day so it seemed reasonable.
  • Competitive Pricing – While I have not done an item for item comparison, prices seem to be consistent with going into Whole Foods in person. Also, see above for free delivery and if you use your Amazon Credit Card, you get 5% back.

So why isn’t Whole Foods via Amazon Prime Now my go to?

  • Low Item Accuracy – The items listed in the app are frequently different brands/sizes/etc. from items on the shelf. In order to avoid just getting nothing, I use the “get replacement” option. This is only an issue when the replacement items are not true replacements. For example, I’ve received “butter” as a replacement for “buttermilk”. Or a 12-pack of  eggs instead of the 18-pack which only mattered because I needed a certain number of eggs.
  • Low Level of Availability – Items that are pretty common (example: Whole Foods branded eggs) are frequently flagged as out of stock. A replacement is provided, but as noted above, the replacement is not always accurate.
  • Terrible Packaging – Everything comes delivered in a brown paper bag designed by someone who wanted no human person to be able to grip and carry the bag anywhere. Seriously. I did not know a brown paper bag could be so poorly constructed. They need to go green and figure out this bag situation.

So while I find Amazon Prime Now to be convenient and cost effective for groceries, if they could get the inventory syncing better and fix their packaging, I would be a bigger fan.

Both Amazon and FreshDirect have been equally good about providing refunds and credits for errors. I had the full $80 of missing grocery credited and a $40 credit for today’s FreshDirect error. Amazon has similarly refunded wrong items without any hassle.

But I would rather have on time, accurate deliveries over credits or freebies.

These are all first world problems to have, but with the world having fully shifted to on-demand, I’d like my groceries now. Please.

So who do you use and why? What’s your experience? Am I the only one getting butter for buttermilk or needing same day delivery?

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