NetGrocer promises, doesn't deliver

by brian d foy

NetGrocer is the latest e-business which cannot ship to me on time, and perhaps one of the last hold-outs from the dot-com era of broken promises. The problem is that I keep believing the promises.

I am on the road with my wife, who is singing with Michigan Opera Theater this month. Performances are in the evening, and we stay up later than that, so we do not keep normal hours. We are often up late enough to catch breakfast in the hotel restaurant before we go to sleep. Detroit grocery stores do keep normal hours though, so that's a problem.

I thought I would be slick: NetGrocer could send me groceries by FedEx. I could shop whenever I want, so I did. For some reasons I still believe in the promise of computers, easy living, and Tomorrow Land. I still think software and gadgets can make life easier, despite abounding negative evidence.

On May 7, around 2 am, I ordered a bunch of groceries. They said that delivery times were 1 to 4 days, but definitely by 3 pm on May 12 (yesterday). That would still give us a week at the hotel to eat everything I ordered. We could do that.

At 4 pm on May 12, one hour past the delivery date, I tried to track my packages through their website, but couldn't because there was no way to track them. My order status was "Processing". I called their customer service center. They could not find my order. I cancelled my order, dejected that once again I had let myself get burned by the hype of a better future. The truth is that I still have to get my rental car out of the garage, drive far away from the hotel, and shop in a real store crowded with real people.

Today, May 13, I got an email saying that my order had just shipped and should be there by May 12. I suppose that is true for certain values of May 12, just not the one that was yesterday. They must have some high tech software there (the mailer was NTMail 7.00.0018, if that is any clue). In any case, I do not have any space in the small hotel refrigerator that I just stocked with real food from the real grocery store. Now NetGrocer threatened to be also inconvenient in addition to disappointing.

Their email also says they are out of stock of some items, despite the claim on their website that they are in stock. Indeed, the web site claims different items are out of stock. That is some amazing inventory control software. When the real grocery store did not have something I wanted, I knew right away and choose something else.

I called my credit card company to dispute the charge, but NetGrocer has not charged my card, at least not yet (not even an authorization). I usually expect businesses to make me pay for my purchases, even if they ship it in error. They must have some high tech accounting software too.

As far as I can tell right now, three boxes are on their way to the hotel via FedEx, but they are going to get here after the show is over and we are already back in Chicago. Again, so much for the convenience of "e-business". Too bad I will probably just fall for the hype with some other company though.

Is there E-Commerce Anonymous? Anyone want to be my sponsor and keep me straight?


2004-05-14 05:37:42
Peapod is better.

In the Washington, DC metro area, we have Peapod and I've been pretty happy with it. I was always able to find what I wanted and have it delivered within a 2 hours timeframe for $4.95. It worked out great since I didn't have a car.

It's probably quite a bit different though as locally they're tied with Giant (a grocery chain).

The only down side was that they were *terrible* at picking produce...


2004-05-31 09:28:07
Abounding negative evidence -- but what for?
There is tons of evidence of incompetence everywhere. It is true for all kinds of businesses that ship stuff to end consumers. Whether software and gadgets can make life easier is an issue mostly orthogonal to the incompetence, because software does not exist in a vacuum. The "e" part in "e-commerce" will not and cannot fix the problems with the "commerce" part.
2004-05-31 12:00:48
Abounding negative evidence -- but what for?
There is also a lot of evidence of really good businesses, too.

In this case, the "Net" is part of the name and the concept of the business because it is supposed to fix the inconvenience of grocery shopping. That is the entire point of its existence. Without the "e" part of e-commerce, NetGrocer is nothing.