Although I don’t take advantage of this type of service every time I need to go food shopping, grocery delivery is one luxury I enjoy about once a month. I’ve been a customer of Peapod for about eighteen months. Peapod is a company associated with Stop & Shop, a supermarket in my area. The food they offer is the same as Stop & Shop’s items, including store brands. Throughout almost this entire period, living in a New Jersey suburb, Peapod has been my only choice for food delivery.
That changed a few weeks ago when FreshDirect expanded its delivery service to include my town. That news, accompanied by a $50 coupon, inspired me to try the service. After one delivery from FreshDirect, I think I’m ready to compare the food and experience with that from Peapod.
My grocery needs are simple. I am a single man living in a second-floor apartment. I have no pets. I try to eat healthy food but I mostly fail at that goal. I don’t particularly like cooking, but I have had some success with fajitas. As time permits, I’ll continue my cooking attempts, but I can’t say I enjoy it.
Generally, some items I buy from the grocery store go to waste because I can’t make use of an entire package before it goes bad. For example, even the smallest containers of fresh milk expire before I have a chance to use it all. Add some frequent traveling to my schedule, and the food doesn’t stand a chance of survival, left unconsumed.
I may not be the best shopper to fully compare every small aspect of an online grocery shopping experience, but there are things I see worth discussing, and each service has its own benefits.
Online ordering process.
The process for ordering groceries is the same regardless of which service you use. Both Peapod and FreshDirect ask you to create an account. With both, you can save your shopping list or items in your cart to return at a later time, making it easy to add items throughout the week as you think about them or as you discover you need more. That, in theory, replaces the notepad on the refrigerator, but I still have one there anyway.
Peapod’s website is a little nicer for displaying items up close, but keep in mind the photographs are generic; if you go to a store, you can pick a specific package of meat, for example, while ordering online, your selection is subject to the whim of someone in a warehouse. To the right, you can see the look of the Peapod website, and underneath that, FreshDirect.
During the checkout process, you can choose your delivery date and time. With Peapod, you can save some money on the delivery charge by choosing a wider time frame for delivery. If you need the groceries delivered during a specific two-hour window, the delivery fee is one dollar higher. With Peapod, if I order early in the day, which I almost never do, I can generally find time slots available the following day.
With FreshDirect, however, and probably because I live in one of the outermost counties in the company’s delivery area, I can rarely find delivery windows available for the following two days. As a result, if I plan to shop with FreshDirect, I have to plan more in advance than I usually do.
Delivery and reception.
With Peapod, I can leave a tip for the driver during the checkout process, and I usually leave $5. While you can leave a tip online, if you have coupons to apply to your order, you hand them to the delivery person. I occasionally have coupons to use — but not often since they’re usually not worth the hassle for me. If I have one, I use one.
FreshDirect has not provided me any coupons thus far, except for a online code for $50 off my first order, then another coupon in the mail for $50 off my first two orders. Each time, the discount only would apply to orders over $125. These are codes that you would use during the checkout process online, and it was a struggle to use them. I entered the code in the appropriate place, but FreshDirect responded with a message saying the coupon wouldn’t be applied until I selected a delivery date and time.
I continued with the process, selected an open delivery window, and no longer had an opportunity to enter a code. I had to complete the checkout process and edit my shopping cart later to use the coupon code. Both FreshDirect and Peapod allow customers to modify their orders until a cut-off time in advance of the delivery, so it’s easy to make last additions to your shopping list or cancel the entire order. The services won’t charge your credit or debit card until the order is finalized, and in Peapod’s case, they won’t charge until your food is packed (and weighed, if applicable) at the warehouse and placed on the truck.
With Peapod, the refrigerated delivery truck arrives, and the driver grabs the plastic bags that were organized for the delivery before they were placed on the truck. He — so far, every time I’ve ordered, the delivery person has been male — carries the bags up to my kitchen and presents me with the invoice, indicating if the store needed to make any substitutions or if any of the items weren’t available for any reason.
FreshDirect’s delivery arrives by refrigerated truck as well, but my items have been packed into cardboard boxes, with dividers if necessary. This makes it easy for the delivery person to place the boxes on a hand truck to wheel them to my door. I was much more impressed with FreshDirect’s packaging than with Peapod’s. I have no use for Peapod’s plastic bags. I have little use for cardboard boxes either, but at least they’re better for the environment.
Selection and quality.
I don’t have exquisite taste when it comes to groceries. I do, however, have some favorites, and in those instances, FreshDirect delivers. I don’t drink soda very often, but I like Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda and Black Cherry Soda. Peapod doesn’t carry these drinks, although I can get them in Stop & Shop. FreshDirect also has some prepared meals which are useful in situations where I don’t feel like cooking, although one such meal I received was recalled right after I purchased it. (The company automatically credited my account and encouraged me to discard the item.)
With the deli meats that I order — my typical lunch is a sandwich — FreshDirect seems to offer higher quality. Yet, the same size slices of the same meats seem to last longer when I order from Peapod. That is, even though I order a quarter of a pound, sliced medium, I can make more sandwiches from the result when I order from Peapod than I can when I order from FreshDirect. That may be all in my mind, and it may also be all in my mind that the meat from FreshDirect is tastier.
For fresh meat, FreshDirect customers can customize their cuts, from thickness to weight. Customers can even choose vacuum packaging for an extra fee of $0.50. With Peapod, customers are restricted to a default cut thickness, predefined approximate weights, and cheaper Ziploc-type plastic bags.
FreshDirect has more choices for people who prefer organic foods. I don’t have much experience with that.
Here are a few examples of the price differentiation between Peapod and FreshDirect.
|Arnold Whole Wheat Bread (each)||(sale) $2.25||$4.39|
|Tuscan Dairy Farms Whole Milk (gallon)||$4.69||$4.29|
|Boars Head Deluxe Roast Beef (pound)||$13.99||$12.99|
|Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter (16.8 ox jar)||$4.19||$3.69|
|Red Delicious Apples (bag of 4)||$2.76||$3.99|
|Store Brand Unbleaced Flour (5 lbs)||(sale) $2.00||$3.49|
It’s interesting to see that it’s impossible to say, overall, that one store is cheaper than the other. The prices do vary, and this is just a snapshot of items at a snapshot in time. Assuming the prices average out to be roughly equal, the points for consideration are FreshDirect’s slight edge in quality and availability of more of the items I like and Peapod’s flexibility in scheduling delivery. In this case, I think FreshDirect wins, but by a small margin. In a pinch, I can still run to the store to get some of the items I can’t get from Peapod, but that defeats the purpose of delivery.
Update: With a second $50 coupon, I placed my second FreshDirect grocery delivery order. The options for delivery were more varied, and I was able to choose a delivery time within the next twenty-four hours. If this is the likely situation for future orders, FreshDirect will most likely be my delivery option of choice.
Do you have your groceries delivered? What are your experiences?
Updated April 15, 2014 and originally published April 9, 2014. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.