3 Strikes. How I went from early adopter to disinterested in Amazon Fresh

I have moved to Santa Monica in the last year. This has afforded me all kinds of awesome opportunities to really start eating clean. I can go to my friendly local co-op and get grass fed organic free range potato chips if I want 🙂 But still, the hustle and bustle of the big city makes it so that I don’t always have the time I need to go do some shopping. I was ecstatic when LA (and therefore SaMo) were introduced as Amazon Fresh test markets! That excitement lasted through 3 relatively miserable experiences that reminded me of why webvan failed, and why sadly, Amazon is probably going to do the same in this market.

Episode One – A New Client

One of the things that has happened recently is that I’ve become “mostly” vegetarian (I like the term Flexitarian. It allows me breakfast bacon, which I count as a sacrement more than a food.) We have gotten some pretty swell vegetarian cookbooks, and so I decided to test out Amazon Fresh with an order for all the stuff I needed for the Palak Paneer recipe out of The Indian Slow Cooker.


Palak Paneer looks like it would just be a bunch of ground up spinach, but it’s a shocking ammount of vegetables! Look at what it looks like before it’s been slow cookered for a jillion hours:


There’s onion and tomato and pepper and all kinds of nonsense up in that recipe. Spices, garlic, the works. So, that’s what I ordered from Amazon Fresh, excited to have all of my ingredients show up first thing in the morning, so that I could effortlessly cut them, put them in the slow cooker, and enjoy the convenience of having my organic groceries delivered to my doorstep. The next morning, when I woke up and checked my email, I received the following text in a friendly email from Amazon:

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 2.10.31 PMPretty helpful right? They delivered 1 out of the 4… uh… 99 cent things? And 0 out of the 3… uh… 0 cent things? It turns out that for this famous spinach dish I require, among other things, spinach. They had delivered 1/4 of the spinach required (I never figured out the other component.) What does this mean? Instead of getting to simply put it in the slow cooker and enjoy my day, these ingredients were utterly and completely useless to me. I had to get out of my house, go to the grocery store, and pick up 3 bunches of spinach.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, if you can’t deliver all of the components of a recipe, you are of no use to me. If I have to go pick up one of the things I ordered from a grocery store because you didn’t deliver it, I may as well pick them all up.

It is important to note, they didn’t tell me that they would be out of spinach during the ordering process, or even a few hours after ordering the groceries. I found out the next morning (probably after they had gone to pack my order and had discovered that they didn’t have anything.) So I went to the grocery store and felt a little bitter.

Episode Two – A Jaded Customer

So, I decide I’m going to make a lovely Vegetarian Chili! This should be a pretty easy thing for Amazon fresh to deliver to me, after all, chili is a staple filled food. It’s beans and peppers and onions. So, we do the same exact dance, I go on the website, put everything in my cart that I’m going to order for the recipe, order it and go on my happy way. I’m going to guess that you can guess how the experience goes… I go to sleep, wake up in the morning to see my Amazon Fresh Delivery Notification. It provides me no joy:

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.14.02 AMThe dreaded “Unable to Fulfill” message. My Chili recipe required 4 peppers, 2 Green Peppers and 2 red peppers. You know, for color! Well, once again, and without giving me the option to say: “you know what, just go ahead and ship 2 extra green peppers, I’ll deal with it” or absolutely any options, I received 9/10ths of a recipe’s worth of food. Once again, I had to take time out of my schedule to go to a store to buy ingredients for a recipe. At this point, Amazon Fresh was costing me 2x the time to order from, shopping on their website was not a painless experience, and on top of that, I had to do the shopping twice. I was unhappy, but willing to forgive, real time inventory is sometimes hard to do, and I’d rather get no red peppers than some really crappy red peppers, or so I figured.

Episode Three, In Which I tell Amazon Fresh “thanks but no thanks.”

This is the one that really sealed the deal. I decided I was going to make some vegetarian lasagna in the crockpot. Pretty exciting stuff. I had a real busy day, as I was going to be in all day meetings with a German Roboticist to discuss stuff that actually mattered, so getting to set up the meal before teh day started, and getting to “forget it” was splendid. I woke up that morning and was ecstatic to see that every single item had shipped from Amazon! Finally I was going to have a good experience.  In my order, there were eggs and spinach… Well, guess how it showed up:

photo 1 (1)Of my dozen eggs, most of them were crushed. Simply crushed. They also were not inside of a little plastic bag, they had clearly been simply jammed into the Amazon Fresh container with no regard to their ability to survive the transport. This means that they also leaked all into my spinach:

photo 2 (1)My Spinach was now full of crushed up egg goo. I wasn’t going to use all the spinach for the recipe, i was actually pretty happy at the idea of getting to use the rest of the spinach to make some lovely squash blossom quesadillas or something like that. You, unfortunately, can’t keep spinach that’s covered in egg goo in the fridge, that’s just not safe. So, by overstuffing the bag, and rushing the shipment, Amazon Fresh had delivered everything I had asked for in spirit, but not in fact. It was clear now that any time I may save from ordering from Amazon Fresh would be spent dealing with the issues of having to deal with Amazon’s logistics.


I am very fortunate to live in a walkers paradise. I am less than 1/2 mile from multiple grocery stores, ranging from a Von’s to a locally owned co-op. I had loved my Amazon Prime subscription so much, and the way it changed my shopping that I was willing to give Amazon Fresh a shot. It turns out, it’s less convenient, not any cheaper, and I end up having to shop twice. I wish them luck, but they’re going to have to do this without me.

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