Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another first (for me)

Last week I was so busy that I didn’t have a chance to write about some of my recent adventures. But it was precisely because I was so busy that I experienced one of those: Last week I bought groceries online.

I logged on to foodtown.co.nz and registered, which was pretty straightforward. I also entered the number for my Onecard, that company’s loyalty card programme. Once you do that, you can use your purchase history to do a quick shop.

Let me back up a minute: All loyalty programmes like this record your purchase history, which is how they offer customised coupons and promotions. There’s nothing new about that: In Chicago in the early 1990s, I used my “Preferred Card” to get in-store discounts and custom coupons right at the till. The Onecard programme is similar in that it gives in-store discounts, but one accumulates points for money spent. Once a quarter they mail me a couple coupons along with a cash store voucher based on the number of “points” I’ve accumulated. Coupons, I should add, are rarely used in New Zealand.

This ability to select from your purchase history is really useful because most people buy certain products/brands all the time, so this is a really quick way to select your basics. It’s still possible to “shop the aisles” too, of course, for anything not on your list.

For those who don’t want to link their Onecard, it’s possible to set-up online shopping lists that work the same way, but you don’t get the discounts or rewards.

The prices online reflect specials and discounts, like in the store, and also items where you get “Bonus Points”. So, customers don’t miss out on specials or promotions by buying online. The fee varies and actually goes down the more you buy; in my case, it was $13 for the order to be pulled, packed and delivered. To be honest, I feel my time is worth more than that, so it struck me as a bargain.

I paid by credit card, but it’s possible to set-up a direct-credit payment. You can also use a Visa debit card instead of a credit card. They don’t have mobile EFTPOS, which is something they should offer.

After I placed my order, a woman phoned to confirm—basically, to make sure the order was legit; I don’t know if they always do that or if it was because it was my first order.

I was late ordering, so the scheduled delivery was between 6pm and 8pm that day. It actually arrived at 5:37pm. I ordered things from various departments, including some wine, and everything arrived intact; the frozen was still frozen, the chilled still chilled. A friendly, helpful (and very tall) young man carried the plastic crates into the house so I could unpack them (everything was in bags), but they take the crates away (unlike what the TV commercial implies).

In sum, it was a good experience. The website was reasonably fast, the process reasonably painless, the delivery on time (early, actually) and efficient. I’d definitely use the service again.

However, the website could be easier to navigate, they should offer mobile EFTPOS and they could have more and narrower delivery bands (mine was scheduled for nearly six hours or more after I placed the order). I also wouldn’t buy fresh fruits and vegetables or meat online because I like to evaluate the options before I selecting; others might not be so picky.

Still, I’ll be doing some grocery shopping the old fashioned way this evening: At the store.


Unknown said...

I would love to do my shop online, but the one time I tried they couldn't offer 70% of what I wanted, as I live in a rural area, and they don't have refridgerated trucks.

Back to going to Pak 'n' Saev onec a fortnight for me!

v. said...

Interesting! Did you get to choose your delivery time? Since I only get home around 6pm every day, that'd be perfect for me. Never tried online grocery shopping because I thought I'd have to be home during business hours to receive it! If that's not the case, might give it a go :)

Roger Owen Green said...

I have a question, maybe blog material. In the US, to quite overstate it, a fraudulent charge on your VISA/MasterCard is pretty much easily disputable, but with a debit card, you're pretty much SOL, for the amount of the theft. (Which is why I NEVER buy anything with my debit card, only do bank withdrawals.) Do NZ banks protect customers from credit card/debit card misuse?

Arthur Schenck said...

Louise: Personally, even living in a city, I find it useful mostly for the regular stuff—tinned food, cleaning products, paper products, that sort of thing. I'm a little old-fashioned in that I prefer to buy fruit and vege at the greengrocer and meat from the butcher, so I wouldn't use the service for that, anyway. But even so, limited as that may be, it's useful for me.

V: Yes, you CAN choose your delivery time (within blocks of a couple hours). If you don't choose a time, you'll get the next available time, which is what I had. You can leave instructions for the delivery people, and maybe you can even tell them to leave the stuff if you're not there (not that it would be a great idea…).

Roger: Actually, that WOULD be a good idea for a post, but for now I'll just say that what most Americans might call a debit card is different here than what I was referring to, and those DO have protections.

Juli said...

Yes, I love online delivery for groceries. It has really helped us out sometimes. Like at Christmas, or when we are sick, or don't have a car...