Online Groceries: Great & Sucky

For a few years now we’ve been using some of the online grocery stores offered by supermarkets. Not having a car means that it’s a major hassle to get all the shopping home, so the delivery services looked really useful, especially for heavy items.

We’ve tried Tesco Sainsbury and more recently Ocado the online service of Waitrose. We may have also used the Iceland online system, but they’ve dropped their service now.

Of those services, we’ve been using the Tesco service the longest, but now use it very rarely, if at all. Sainsbury has also recently fallen from favour too. Why have we stopped using them? Because they suck , big time.

Every single time, the items ordered are not available. Is it that difficult to manage stock levels? I’d have thought that the level of automation in supermarkets now would mean that they would have a constantly updating database of what stock they have. The tills are electronic and use barcodes to identify items, and they surely use the info from these to know when to re-order? So why can’t they give some indication during the order process that an item is unavailable or low in stock?

The other major irritation is the substitution system the stores use. These can only be operated by practical jokers. What other explanation can there be for some of the bizarre replacement items they come up with? “Let’s replace ‘2 cooked chicken breasts’ with ‘8 uncooked chicken drumsticks’, they both have the word ‘chicken’ in them.”

On top of all that, you have the late deliveries, the increased delivery charges if you want a delivery outside office hours, and the way they palm you off with goods with a “Best Before” date of the day of the delivery, or even earlier in some cases!

The Sainsbury deliveries to our flat in Brixton don’t come from our local store on Clapham High Street. They come from Sydenham.

It was refreshing then when Ocado started delivering to our area, even though the nearest store is probably on Kings Road in Chelsea. They deliver what you ask for. And if for some reason, they don’t have an item in stock, they’ll make a substitution, usually a very close item, and even better, they won’t charge you for it. They do charge slightly more for some goods, but delivery is free if you order over a certain amount (£60, I think).

We gave both Tesco and Sainsbury a few more goes to see if the service improved, and each time they surpassed themselves with up to a quarter of ordered items being unavailable.

Maybe it’s just out local delivery centres that are at fault, and that other people get great service, but from what I’ve read they seem to have a problem managing their stock levels in most of their stores.

Ocado really are as good as their adverts imply, and the slightly higher cost is outweighed by the lack of hassle involved with their service.

4 thoughts on “Online Groceries: Great & Sucky”

  1. Spot on re Ocado – I’ve been using them since they started – and they are perfect! They even apologised for being 5 minutes earlier than the alloted delivery slot time! And when we didn’t use them for a while – they send wonderful “what are we doing wrong” postcards which are highly personalised!

    ps – I never order fresh foods online (just dry goods) – I never use supermarkets for that stuff – I use my local high street for fruits, veg and meat.

  2. Hey Nigel – I just noticed something – I accidentally pressed the “post” button twice after I finished typing my previous comment. And whilst i was cursing myself for doig that – I noticed that the second post came back with an error saying “can’t accept this commnent so soon after your previous one – try again later” or something like that. That’s a great feature! Is it an MT plugin (I notice you using MT) – and where can I get it from? It’s just that I’ve been hit big-time by spammers to my comments on MT – and they usually come three at a time – to different entries.

  3. Re your comments on online ordering

    At Westside we had a collegue who was one of the triails for thease when they started one time he got a case/palletload of salad cream instead of
    his usual order.

    He was the VERY Big chap (ie on the leave behind if theres a fire list) not sure if you where around at the same time as he was.

  4. It’s part of the new comment spam protection in MT 2.661 (released last week).
    There’s been a lot of trouble over the last few months with spammers using blog comments to increase their Google ratings, and 2.66 was intended to stop that, but was buggy, hence 2.661

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