First world gripes, this time about Peapod

Hull is not entirely convenient to the supermarket, so a couple nights ago I tried using Peapod again. The service lets you shop online and they deliver to your door, using an excessive number of plastic bags and, in my experience, always coming at least a half hour after their scheduled delivery window. Using Peapod isn’t really that much quicker than going to a store, but it allows one to avoid lines and reuse old shopping lists, so it does have some advantages.

In this particular instance I missed the early boat due to some work stuff being broken and got home 30 minutes into my two hour deliver window. The story ends as you might expect — while I fumed at them for being so late, in reality they had come right at the beginning of the window, I wasn’t home, and they drove off with my groceries. The consequences are no groceries and a hefty $50 restocking fee. And now I have to go to the grocery store anyway.

This seems like a common enough problem that there should be ways to mitigate it. When I was using the excellent Boston Organics while living in Cambridge, they made their deliveries in re-usable green plastic tubs and would place them at a location specified by the homeowner if no one was there to receive them. They also encouraged the use of supplementary coolers and/or ice packs. The delivery driver would redistribute the most perishable or fragile items to a cooler if one was provided. This approach is environmentally friendly, convenient, and much more forgiving in terms of time delays — on both sides.

Peapod’s method of leaving the customer in the dark with no email or web communication and their inability to deliver when someone is not home makes the service much less desirable than Boston Organics. Their use of copious numbers of plastic bags makes them much less environmentally friendly. It is exacerbated by the fact that the plastic bags are then placed into plastic bins, but the bins are not a part of the delivery.

I share some of the blame in this instance, for getting home late, but a good customer-focused company, especially a delivery company that traffics in perishable goods like Peapod, should have very robust exception handling to deal with such situations. I discovered this morning that they left one message on my home phone, whereas I was looking for a call on my cell or an email or text message. There is lots of room for improvement here.

And it may go without saying, but Peapod has proven to be less convenient to me than just going to the grocery store, so I do not plan to use their service in the future.