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The battle for local delivery

By December 17, 2013Uncategorized

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I am lucky enough to live in the dense urban environment that is San Francisco.  I’m sure not all would agree that they love this kind of closeness with their neighbors, but I have always loved cities.  I guess this has something to do with growing up on a chicken ranch with no neighbors…

One fun thing that has been happening lately in San Francisco is the onslaught of local delivery services.  Not only is San Francisco geographically (in size, not altitude) perfect to test out the idea of super fast delivery services, but we also happen to be in good old Silicon Valley where many a dream are borne.

Back in the day, think 98-99, we had a great service called Kozmo.com that would deliver ice cream and porn in an hour from online.  Our minds were blown.  It was fantastic.

And then they went bust.

Fast forward to 2013 and Kozmo.com is back, but in a bigger and more competitive way.

From the safety and comfort of my house I can order just about anything my heart desires and expect it to be delivered on my doorstep within an hour.

So what are the services that I use and how do they rate?

Postmates

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I have to admit that I am somewhat biased towards loving Postmates because I know and respect one of the founders (Basti) and I know how hard he has worked to make this come true.

With Postmates you pay a flat delivery fee of $7.99 + tip to the ‘driver’.  They have a list of local restaurants or other shops you may want something from and you can make your order there or simply make a request for what you want.  Your order has to be accepted by a delivery person and from there you can track their movements to fulfilling your delivery.  Everything shows up in an hour.

I typically use Postmates for food from good restaurants that don’t offer delivery service.  I have, in the past, used it for an Apple order, but then I accidentally tipped the dude 20% on something like $500.  Damn it for me, but he was probably super happy.

The only issue I’ve had with Postmates is having to resubmit my order a few times during peak hours so I can get a driver.  Also these are typically bike messenger type folks who range from completely crusty to very clean and nice.  Sort of bike messenger roulette.

Verdict: All in all I love Postmates and recommend them.

Link: http://www.postmates.com

Google Shopping Express

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Google is ‘testing’ its shopping service by giving away free memberships that entitles one to all the free deliveries they want.  I have kind of taken this and run with it, but in a way that is not terribly cost effective for Google (but I figure they can handle it).

They have a variety of stores to choose from and have been adding more and more.  Stores like Target, Whole Foods, Nob Hill Foods, Timbuk2, Office Depot….you get the idea.  They offer same day delivery where you can choose your delivery slot window.

Now because I am a mean person I tend to order really stupid cheap things from different stores.  This means that one morning I ordered a ukelele from Guitar Center and garlic salt from Whole Foods and index cards from Office Depot.  This also meant that there were three deliveries from three places.

Verdict: Yes because it is currently free, but not sure once they start charging how much I will use it.  Something about the experience feels very sterile compared to the other services.

Link: https://www.google.com/shopping/express/

Instacart

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Grocery deliveries from Whole Foods, Safeway and Costco in an hour.  I really like Instacart.  They have been super professional and reliable.  They basically have a site and app where the semi-catalogue of the stores reside.  You make your shopping list, reserve a time, figure out what replacements you might want if things are out of stock and you are done.  They are really good about calling to let you  know when things are out of stock and ask if you want this or that.  I appreciate that.

Deliveries range in price depending on a minimum cart spend and how fast you want it, but my average order is probably $100 so I usually end up getting it for free.  Then you tip the shopper / delivery person as well.

Another amazing thing about Instacart is that it delivers alcohol.  Yes.  no more lugging 4 bottles of wine upstairs.  Woot.

Downside of Instacart is that Trader Joe’s was removed from delivery which really bummed me out.  Another thing that has been mentioned to me by several people is that Instacart jacks their prices from what you would pay over the supermarket price.  I personally don’t mind this because I figure they have to make money somehow and the value add on my not going to Whole Foods makes nearly anything worth it.

They also now offer Instacart Express for an annual / monthly fee – it is basically like Amazon Prime – free deliveries for over $35.

Link: http://www.instacart.com

Verdict: Yes for groceries.   Great customer service.  Fast delivery.  Slightly more expensive then you would pay in the shop, but I don’t care.  Too bad about Trader Joe’s though.

Amazon Fresh Prime

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This just launched last week here in SF.  It is a next morning grocery and other Amazon stuff delivery service.  It costs a whopping $299 for an annual plan.  Of course, you can try it for free for month to decide if it is worth it or not.

I made my first order with them the other day.  The UI was shit.  I did like the fact that they have local restaurants and purveyors for meats, seafoods and produce.  I placed an order for about $100 and waited for delivery.

One weird thing to note is that while you are signing up it states that Amazon must be able to gain access to your house/apartment to make deliveries without you.  Huh?  Thankfully I have a lockbox so that works for me, but I don’t see that working for other people.

My delivery went smoothly with items on ice in the bags which was nice.  Only issue was that my produce box wasn’t with the order.  I called Amazon and in true Amazon fashion they promptly refunded me, apologised profusely and gave me a $30 credit.  God, I love Amazon.   However, I went downstairs a few hours later and found the produce box.  Oops.  I called them back to be an honest person and again in true Amazon fashion they told me to keep it and keep the credit because their policy if there is any issue with the order they refund it.  Love them.

Verdict:  Way too pricey for the annual service.  Great customer support and good selection of stuff.  They are going to have to try really hard to move me away from Instacart.

Link: http://www.amazonfresh.com/

Other notable mentions that I haven’t tried out yet:

Six Doors – I have had the pleasure to meet with Pascal the founder of Six Doors from when he was still in conceptual phase and I was super happy to see their launch and subsequent round of funding. Six Doors basically hits a market that the other services don’t.  That of more high-end boutique items and they have some really great SF shops signed up.   I plan on doing a little holiday shopping with the app.

Lasso – Wine, whiskey, cheese, liquor whatever delivery.  Haven’t tried this out yet, but seems like it would be handy for a little soiree where you don’t want to deal with a cheese platter and booze.

Conclusion

It is like the wild wild west of delivery services out here in SF with everyone jockeying for position.  Now the real question is that whilst this model works well in SF or NYC is that enough to be sustainable in the real world or will we have a bunch of companies that peter out when the funding runs dry and the margins don’t make sense.

I don’t have the answer, but for now I’m just going to enjoy being a lazy ass and getting everything delivered to me.

Have any other services that I have missed in this great city of SF?

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