Damaged produce. Missed delivery windows. Excessive packaging. Automatic tipping.
Complaints about AmazonFresh, the internet retailer's grocery delivery and pickup service, have been flowing freely, proving to those who fear Amazon that the company doesn't do everything perfectly. While AmazonFresh aspires to be the the future of grocery shopping — if online ordering proves convenient enough to replace weekend supermarket trips — it doesn't seem to be quite there yet.
From "Good until recently" to "A failed experiment," many reviews of the 10-year-old grocery service have not been stellar."We continue listening to all feedback in order to bring customers the best possible experience when shopping AmazonFresh," an Amazon spokesperson said in an email.
AmazonFresh scored an average 3.3 stars out of 5, landing between "It's okay" and "I like it" in Amazon's review system.
The largest category of reviewers (29%) give it five stars, but the second-largest (28%) gave it one star. One fan wrote, "No fighting crowds / Just fresh food delivered while I slept! Now I can enjoy my Saturday doing the things I enjoy!" Another praised the site design compared with other online grocery services: "Being able to search my past orders with ease is a plus. Whoever created the website design knows what’s up and should receive an award because they made online ordering really easy, user friendly and even fun."
With its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods this year, Amazon has shown it is serious about groceries. Yet, despite its fans, AmazonFresh itself still looks like an imperfect experiment in e-commerce, and the jury is still out on whether online grocery shopping will ever become more than a niche activity.
In a Gallup poll this year, 84% of people said they never ordered groceries online, and among those who did, it was most common to only do so once or twice a month. "Most shoppers whose families purchase groceries online once or twice a month or more say they still visit a store to buy groceries at least once a week," Gallup wrote.
Barclays analysts said in a report earlier this year: "The 10-year history of testing and iterating with groceries at Amazon without meaningful progress suggests that 1) is a much tougher category to crack than other categories ... or 2) the consumer in certain markets just isn’t ready to purchase groceries online."
The analysts said they anticipated that Amazon's use of automation could eventually cut prices and make Fresh more appealing.
To use AmazonFresh, you have to be a Prime member and live in the cities where the service is offered; then you can sign up for $15 a month. Orders under $50 incur a $10 delivery fee.
The Fresh business is not yet profitable for Amazon, which recently ended AmazonFresh service in certain areas around the country — including parts of big states like New York, New Jersey, and California. The company emailed customers in those areas to say it would no longer serve them, but did not give a reason, simply citing "changes in our service area."