Getting Fresh: A Review of Amazon Fresh's Grocery Delivery


As today is Amazon Prime Day (seriously, go sign up and check out their deals!!), it seems fitting to highlight the online megastar and one of their newest brainchildren: AmazonFresh. 

A Little Bit of Backstory... 
Amazon has already seriously raised the bar for retailers.  We now expect faster shipping, better customer service, and easy returns to come standard with our orders.  More and more people are signing up for Amazon Prime which promises shipping in two days, as well as perks like free music and movies, photo storage and special, can't-find-them-anywhere-else deals.  The variety of products available, convenience and ease of purchasing has dealt a serious blow to the brick-and-mortar retailers, as well.

But, up until recently, the grocery industry seemed pretty immune to all of the changes.  Despite Amazon's virtual (get it?) domination of the online market, they simply couldn't box up and ship fresh food (You can keep your 2-Day Shipping skim milk, thank you very much).

The profit margins for food delivery have always been essentially nonexistent.  Because frozen and fresh food needs to be picked and delivered same day, the ability to pull and ship in bulk is lost.  All orders must be handled, selected and delivered on an individual basis.  When you're talking about the employees, vehicles, fuel and time that each order would then require, the logistics seem cost-prohibitive (hence, why, when you order from a local grocery store, you're going to pay at least an $8 - $10 delivery fee). 

But, once again, Amazon is looking to change the game.  Their secret? Their size.  (Big is Beautiful, baby!)  Amazon's theory is that if they can create the same volume with groceries that they have with their less edible merchandise, the number of orders will offset the cost of delivery and greatly increase the profit margin.  And so, friends, AmazonFresh was born.  Kinda makes you all teary, doesn't it?

Our Involvement
Though AmazonFresh's pilot program was originally just in Seattle, this year it was expanded to include New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.  As our lives just got a little more complicated with a newborn, it seemed like the perfect time to check it out.

The Pros: 

Speed: If you place an order before 10AM, you can have it delivered the same day.  Place it by 10PM and you can have it first thing the next morning.

Convenience:  When placing your order, you can choose whether or not to have it be an Attended delivery or Unattended (Doorstep) Delivery. 

Attended Deliveries (meaning you're there to receive them) allow you to choose a one hour delivery window.  I also found that the delivery drivers often offer to bring them in for you. 
Unattended/Doorstep Deliveries don't require you to be at home, but the delivery window stretches to 3 hours. 

Fresh: The food is delivered in "temperature controlled bags" (totes with styrofoam coolers and ice packs on the inside).

Ease of Use:  Because it's Big Brother Amazon, all of your lists are stored and saved.  This makes reordering so easy.  Check off the things you need, select the quantity, and add them to your cart.  Need something else? Do a search.  No trawling through aisles trying to remember what the heck you needed in each section.  Shopping by stream of consciousness?  No problem here.  Which also brings me to my favorite aspect...

Amazon Dash Wand: This little bugger is the best thing ever.  A little larger than a stick of butter, the wand is equipped with two buttons: one for scanning and one for a microphone.  As you run out of a product, simply press the appropriate button and scan the barcode and the item will be added to your online grocery list.  Don't have a barcode? Just press the microphone button, tell the magic box what item you want to add and Bibbity Bobbity Boo - it's added too. 

Quality & Specialty:  I was a little concerned that the produce that I ordered wouldn't be the freshest or best quality.  Amazon allowed me to select how ripe I wanted things (for example, I like my bananas a little green) and the produce that was delivered looked and tasted great!  Amazon offers products that are free-range, cage free, gluten free, etc.  Whatever your cause or diet, Amazon probably has it covered. 

Eco Friendly: While this isn't a selling point that Amazon features, I think it's worth noting.  The totes and coolers that food is delivered in are reused (Empty ones are picked up when your next order is delivered).  The plastic bags that come in the coolers are recyclable.  And any of the ice packs can either be reused OR recycled. 

The Cons: 

Price: The pilot program cost us nothing to join, as we were already Prime Members (which costs $99 a year and is oh-so-worth-it.)  However, as the trial period comes to a close, the new cost will be $299 a year for Prime + Fresh.  So, yeah... 

Focus on Name Brands: While there are certainly a lot of items available, often a variety of brands is not.  This means that you're less able to price things out.  While it's great to have name brands for quality, I tend to be a giant cheapskate selective shopper and prefer to have several brands to choose from to keep the cost down. 

Limited Selection: I was surprised at the number of items that ARE available, but also disappointed at some of the things I couldn't find or that were marked as being "currently unavailable."  This meant that I still had to run to the store to pick up the remaining items, at which point the transaction ceased to be as much of a time saver. 

 All in All...
If I'm completely honest, the jury's still out as to whether or not we'll subscribe once the trial period is over and the cost increases to $299.  That's a lot of money to spend on something we don't really need.  That said, $99 of that is what we already pay for Prime (which is included in this subscription), so really that brings the cost of Fresh down to $200.  If I break it down further, assuming I use it at least twice a month (which I definitely would), I'm essentially paying $8 per delivery.  That's pretty standard compared to other grocery store delivery services.  

The biggest swing factor for me might be the baby.  After having attempted on several occasions to go grocery shopping with her - navigating the aisles, playing tetris with her carrier and food items, racing to get finished before she turned into a baby velociraptor, then struggling to bring her and my bags in from the parking lot - I can say that it very well might be worth $8 dollars to have them dropped at my door.  Some days, that might be a steal.
We'll ride out the rest of the trial (I think we still have til this fall) and see how I feel about it then.  Amazon is still tweaking the program itself, as they're always looking to be the biggest and best, so we'll have to see what the finished product will look like.  I'll keep you updated and meanwhile, give it a shot and post your feedback!  I'd love to hear how your experience was and whether or not you felt it was worth it!  Have a fabulous week!

PS Rereading this I realized that I always refer to Amazon as one sentient collective.  I think that's because I see them as the retail version of the Borg... Resistance is Futile.  :-)

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