Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods has allowed the company to roll out a two-hour grocery delivery service in select zip codes — known as Amazon Prime Now.
Free to Amazon Prime members who pay $99 a year for that service, this service is putting other grocery chains on notice.
To see how the delivery services differ, “Good Morning America” tried Amazon Prime Now and the same-day delivery from Walmart and another regional grocery chain, Safeway. The Enders family of Sunnyvale, California, helped us with our trial.
We ordered roughly the same items like cereal, olive oil and lots of produce from all three chains. We hit the order button at the exact same time: 7:45 a.m.
Here is how our experience with the services compared:
The available delivery windows from each service were wildly different.
Amazon: 10 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Walmart: 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Safeway: 5 p.m.- 7 p.m.
How arrival times compared:
Amazon delivered promptly at 10:30 a.m.
Almost eight hours later, but as promised in their window, Safeway came through at 6:25 p.m. Walmart missed its window and arrived at 6:47 p.m. Safeway customers can also choose rush delivery with Instacart so their order can arrive in two hours.
How produce quality compared:
“GMA” had University of California, Davis, food scientist Beth Mitcham inspect all the produce. On the whole, she said, “It’s pretty good.”
She noted some bananas arrived bruised, perhaps injured in transit, from Amazon and pointed out some squishy peppers and limp lettuce from Walmart. But overall, she gave Amazon and Safeway an A for their produce, while Walmart got a B+ from Mitcham.
Errors and omissions:
The Amazon order came through complete, with no missing items or substitutions.
Safeway was missing our asparagus and lettuce orders, but we had indicated “no substitutions” on the order and they informed us at delivery of the missing items providing us with a paper receipt showing we weren’t charged for those items. They also did not charge us for the grapes we ordered.
“Running high-quality fresh produce requires us to constantly refresh our shelves. This sometimes results in out of stocks for certain products on some days. Our personal shoppers are trained to find comparable, high-quality alternatives for out-of-stock items, but order #[redacted] chose ‘no substitutions’ upon checking out,” Safeway said in a statement. “Personal shoppers are trained to do a second shop for any out-of-stock item prior to closing out the order. Since we are always refreshing our shelves, sometimes an item becomes available before it is updated in the system. We err on the side of the customer, which is why order #[redacted] received the grapes for free.”
Walmart was missing our blueberries and tomatoes. The company neither informed us of the missing items or provided a paper receipt at delivery; the company said it does all that via email.
For the record, we received a larger box of cereal than we ordered at no extra charge. After calling two days later and speaking with their communications team, we did receive an email receipt and the missing items were not on the bill.
“We’re so sorry to hear you had a bad experience with our Online Grocery Delivery service,” Walmart told us in a statement. “Customers who use our Online Grocery service love it and the program consistently receives rave reviews. The service you received for this order isn’t one that we ever want someone to have, but it is also not indicative of the overall program. We appreciate your feedback, it’s going to help us make the service better overall.”
Amazon is free for members who subscribe to its Prime service, which costs $99 per year.
Safeway gave us a $6.95 introductory delivery rate plus 98 cents for fuel. On its website, the company said standard delivery is $9.95.
Walmart charged us $9 for delivery plus $1.50 for bags. Because the company was late on its promised delivery window, it removed the charge when we called to get an update on the delivery time.
It’s very difficult to get exactly the same item weights and sizes when ordering between chains and asking someone else to pick variably sized produce, so the totals below are just a rough comparison and do not include the delivery charges.
Walmart: $54.39 for 13 items. It had the lowest price on six out of our eight like items.
Amazon: $71.49 for 15 items. The Amazon order was right in the middle of the cost spectrum on almost all the items.
Safeway: $74.28 for 13 items. Our regional grocer came in with seven out of eight items being the most expensive when comparing like to like.
One of the big worries about grocery delivery is that the companies won’t pick the quality produce like you do when you shop.
Our expert, Mitcham, said she was pleasantly surprised by the quality of all three delivery services.
As for the family, Steve Enders said he was surprised at the quality of the Walmart items and thinks price is definitely an issue, but Jo Enders said based on the speed of delivery and the fact that they are already Amazon Prime members, they would probably use Amazon Prime Now in the future.