Grocery Delivery Services – A Mixed Bag

As a creature of convenience and someone who hates grocery shopping, I really want to love all the grocery delivery services popping up around the country.  As VC money flows into many of these emerging companies and different business models emerge, I have noticed one common thread across all the services I have tried – inconsistency.  Yes, grocery delivery services are a mixed bag.

When these services work well (meaning, your order arrives when it’s supposed to and you actually receive ALL of the goods that you ordered), it’s wonderful.  But in my experience, this often doesn’t happen. 

There was the time hours before Snowzilla in January when instead of delivering my order, a company delivered part of someone’s else’s order to me.  Unfortunately, that person’s eggs, cheddar cheese and sour cream were not going to get me through the snowstorm.  I tried to contact customer service but the company did not provide a phone number so I emailed them and was guaranteed a reply within two hours.  Two hours later, with the snow already starting to fall and panic setting in on the Washington, DC area, I had no response.  So I used the online chat function and a customer service rep worked to replace my order and gave me a $10 credit for my troubles.  By the time the order was replaced in the system, many of the items were already out of stock in the store, so a much smaller order was delivered to me.

Other times, I’ve had overzealous delivery people who send multiple texts and call repeatedly to confirm my replacements (which I have already denoted on the order, making this contact unnecessary). This can become a nuisance if you are busy – which presumably you are if you don’t have time to go to the grocery store yourself.

Then there are the plain old awkward exchanges like the time last week when my delivery person informed me that I had not tipped her on my last 10 deliveries. Turns out, when I thought I was tipping her online, the tip was only going to the shopper and not the delivery person. So here she was, standing at the door to my home, essentially shaking me down for a big tip to compensate for my errant ways from prior deliveries.

All of these glitches lead me to wonder about the viability of these services. Most of them require customers to pay some sort of premium, either for delivery and tips or an increased price for the goods themselves. Personally, if I am paying a premium, I expect consistently good customer service.  And that is the very thing that seems to be lacking with many of these services.

While I am a huge proponent of on-demand services and high-tech solutions for their convenience, ease of use and cost savings, if they can’t deliver consistent results and satisfactory customer service, then how much value are they really adding?