Beyond writing for The Triangle, I just so happen to love to cook. But when I balance my time between my major, minor, fraternity, startup and writing, I seldom have the time to get to the grocery store.
Fortunately or unfortunately perhaps, Amazon recently began providing a grocery delivery service called Amazon Fresh in select regions. One of those regions just so happens to be Philadelphia. Of course for the sake of science and hunger, I had to try it out.
So what is Amazon Fresh? Simply put, Amazon Fresh is almost exactly like any other grocery delivery service. You go on a website, choose the groceries that you would like to purchase, pay and then set a delivery date.
However, unlike most delivery services, AmazonFresh is not tied to only one supermarket chain. Instead, Amazon acts as a central place to purchase from multiple artisanal markets, and maybe — just maybe — a legitimate grocery store.
Ordering from AmazonFresh was like ordering from any other online store, except that the website was broken and unfinished and much of the typical food one would expect at a grocery store was missing.
Considering the aggregate nature of Amazon Fresh, the primary brands that would show up when searching for something like chicken thighs were all organic, free range and consequently much more expensive. Now, in the case of chicken thighs, which I actually did order, the organic free-range option was also the only option. This was not an irregular occurrence.
As someone who has spent the last year trying to make the perfect chili recipe, I, of course, went looking for ground chuck. Granted chuck is not as common as ground beef, but out of all of Amazon’s various resources for food, not one of them had this.
Another oddity in the meat department was when I purchased bratwurst, the only option for brats they had were for frozen brats. Not a problem, but considering sausage tends to last for a while, why only offer a frozen version?
Amazon Fresh also offered to deliver non-food related goods. There were various books, DVDs, and other things that would appear while searching. Amazon’s grocery service could deliver all five seasons of “Downton Abbey” to my door, but not a pack of non-organic chicken thighs.
The site itself seemed to be incomplete. Only about half of the food products had no reviews at all. So one could never know if that brand of bread you bought received three stars because it was bad bread, or just that the delivery guy really screwed up one time.
This is not necessarily a fault, it’s more likely that the service is still new enough that many users have not yet had a chance to review them.
Searching for food was a mixed experience. Generally speaking, the items I wanted tended to appear at the top of the list. This is good. However, some items I searched did not show up at all when using their actual name, but did only when searching for the general type of food.
For example, searching for cayenne peppers revealed nothing. Searching for peppers on the other hand, presented a multitude of peppers including cayenne peppers close to the top of the list. To continue with this example, many items did not display their actual quantities. Some of the pictures for these food products were also just stock photos of what one item of this food would look like.
This brings me to the modern parable of how I ended up with 50 cayenne peppers. When I purchased these cayenne peppers, I noticed that the price per pepper was a little high ($1.25). I figured, since half of the food available was organic, that this must just be another case of expensive food. This thought was reinforced by the picture that came with the peppers, which portrayed just one singular pepper.
Of course, for the sake of my chili recipe, I ordered 10 peppers. Sounds good right? Wrong. Upon delivery I received not 10 peppers, but 10 bags of five peppers each. My vegetable door is quite literally overstuffed, and as I write this, I am eating raw spinach out of a bag just so I could make room for them.
Why does Amazon even want to get into the grocery delivery business anyway? In short, it has less to do with groceries and more to do with expanding its delivery operations. Amazon became the giant it is today by doing two things really well: consolidating all products into their service and organizing the most efficient way to get those products to your doorstep.
That’s why Amazon did that public relations stunt with the drones. It’s about delivery efficiency.
So when Amazon starts personally delivering products to your doorstep, it’s their way of cutting out delivery companies. I predict that within the next three years, we will begin to see items shipped directly from Amazon. I also predict that same-day delivery will become a widespread trend.
However, if Amazon really is in this solely to enter the grocery business, I would hope that they take some time to seriously revamp their service. Unless you feel obligated to buy free-range, organic food, I would not recommend its delivery service.
I personally will not be ordering from Amazon again, at least not until they provide some of the more common food choices one could get from a regular grocery store. The service is still in its infancy, and I expect it to become much better as time goes on.
Charles Burnett is a junior political science major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected].