Online grocers have an additional burden to be reliable

Today in first world problems: Amazon Fresh fails to deliver a grocery order, forcing a suburban New Jersey family to go to the grocery store.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve come to rely on Amazon Fresh for our groceries. The amount of time it saves for us makes it worthwhile. Typically they’ve delivered the groceries on time with no issues — including one time in the middle of a snow storm. Except for our last order.

As Amazon explained to us, they had a “website issue” with their local fulfillment center. The problem prevented the team from knowing that our order needed to be delivered at all. The rep I was talking to suggested that if it is not there in an hour there is little chance it will be delivered at all. As a workaround, she suggested we run out to the grocery store or get take out. Seriously ?

This was when I realized that the grocery delivery services have an additional burden of having to be more reliable than online retailers. Grocery shopping requires planning for the week. A missed or screwed up order creates a major inconvenience for the family. Whereas ordering something from Amazon and not having it delivered is annoying, losing one’s grocery order is a major issue.

Feature request #1: a button to re-order entire past order

The rep we spoke with indicated that “the issue has been fixed” and that we can place the order again. We got the take out that evening and went through the excruciatingly painful effort of going through our failed order and placing each and every item into the shopping cart again. If only there were a button to “re-order this order” that would place everything that was in it in a shopping cart for me to review and re-order, it would have saved half an hour of frustration. Knowing that our order was a failure, Amazon could’ve expedited our delivery window — but no, the order we needed tonight will be re-delivered two days from now.

Feature request #2: please don’t suggest I go to the grocery store as a work around for failed deliveries

Really, Amazon ? You are going to tell me that as a workaround for a vanishing grocery order I should run out to the grocery store or get take out ? You do realize that the entire point of Amazon Fresh service is so I don’t have to do that ? This is not a valid workaround for an e-grocer to offer. Instead, you could offer to cover the cost of the entire order as a good will gesture and ensure it gets delivered expeditiously.

The hillarity of the situation didn’t end there. We got an email from Amazon saying that our order is 2-3 hours late due to technical difficulties. The delivery window we had was 3-6pm, and the rep said that if it is not delivered by 7pm it won’t be delivered at all. Around 9:30pm I looked at our porch and the order wasn’t there and I went to bed.

At around 11pm my wife noticed that groceries were delivered. This is five hours late, four hours past the cut off we were given by Amazon. One of the cooler boxes was damaged, and they didn’t take the old coolers back. Had she gone to bed earlier, our groceries would sit there on the porch rotting all night.

Feature request #3: Get your act together

Please don’t tell me that my order is in “limbo” because of “website issues” between Amazon and their fulfillment center. Consult with your Amazon Web Services team on how to guarantee SQS message delivery. They offer excellent classes on that. I am sure your tech team can also find some inexpensive courses on Udemy that they may find helpful. I am also happy to review your enterprise architecture, for a fee.

Needless to say, we were vastly disappointed with Amazon Fresh. This isn’t the quality service we’ve come to expect from Amazon. Website issues, really ? Getting take out as a temporary workaround? Come on, Amazon, you can do better. Grocery delivery needs to be reliable. When some item we ordered from Amazon doesn’t get delivered on time, that is an annoyance. When Fresh delivery is missed — that is a major disruption to a busy family routine.

I am a software engineer and I know things happen. But I am just one person. Amazon has the money and resources to get things done right. If you want something done right, do it yourself. If Amazon Fresh can’t get groceries delivered right, I’ll go back to brick-and-mortar shopping myself.

P.S.: For heaven’s sake, why can’t I place Fresh orders with Alexa? Why do you I need another device in the kitchen, sitting right next to Echo, that looks like a sex toy, to buy groceries?