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You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

Posted December 07, 2016 11:11 AM by HUSH

I typically bring my own lunch to work, but today I must venture out in the masses to forage for nutrition. Yesterday’s bi-weekly, Monday-evening grocery trip was superseded by holiday shopping, of course.

Grocery shopping sucks and I hate it. I find few things as tedious as slow strolls through aisles of food, buying basically the same stuff week-after-week. And I don't live in one of the cool states that allows you to buy a 'walking around beer' as you shop.

Unlike most other forms of shopping, grocery shopping has been resistant to e-commerce, and for a variety of reasons. Traditional parcel carriers aren’t optimal because distribution centers aren’t close enough to get fresh food to customers quickly, and food might not survive the Tetris game of boxes in the back of a truck. Chilled goods also need insulated packaging, adding shipping expense.

With a few exceptions, grocery stores don’t typically deliver. This is because supermarket profit margins are extra-small (about 1%), and order picking by an employee and last-mile delivery add expenses that would make grocery delivery unacceptably expensive for the customer. As of yet, drones haven’t filled the delivery void, though they soon could.

What it takes to make e-grocery shopping a reality is a deep-pocketed, entrenched online retailer to provide a solution. Enter Amazon. Last summer, Amazon re-launched its Amazon Fresh service in eight U.S. markets, and continues to roll-it out in more areas as it invests in refrigerated warehousing and delivery trucks. There is a significant charge up-front, nearly $300, but after witnessing an Amazon Fresh delivery at my brother’s home last week, I say the convenience can’t be beat.

Users browse for their groceries on the Amazon Marketplace, and [reputedly] the prices are similar to or cheaper than a grocery store. Users pay online and select how they like their groceries delivered by dedicated Amazon trucks. Selecting a one-hour delivery window requires a person to be present to accept the delivery. Users who select three-hour delivery windows find insulated cooler totes on their porch awaiting them; the totes will be exchanged with full ones upon your next delivery.

Even under this current system, it’s hard to see Amazon Fresh profitable, at least to begin. But by starting Amazon Fresh now, they are the first to market as an online grocer, and are in an excellent position to move to a delivery chain of autonomous autos, drones, and robots once such a supply chain is possible.

Current competition to Amazon Fresh is meager. Safeway Inc., a regional, Midwest -based grocer, is the most established competitor and has offered online grocery ordering and delivery since 2002, but is a regional chain that only offers it on the west coast and in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. WalMart stores around the U.S. are beginning to offer online ordering, but customers need to pick up groceries themselves.

Amazon Fresh is just the tip of Amazon’s grocery initiatives. This week, the company also announced plans for 2,000 Amazon Go convenience stores around the U.S. These stores will feature Just-Walk-Out technology, which utilizes machine vision, sensors, and AI so customers never have to visit a point-of-sale. Instead, they sign in with their phones, select items, and then leave.

It definitely seems as though major changes to the grocery supply chain are impending, and if it can eliminate the regular grocery trips, or even just the order picking process, I will be forever grateful.

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#1

Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/07/2016 12:17 PM

With the exception of holidays or just prior to when the Green Bay Packers play, I rather enjoy grocery shopping, or at least its tolerable.

Anyways, I like picking out my bananas, apples, avocados and the like... As well as coming across something I realized I needed. And no, I try not to go grocery shopping when hungry.

btw, I shop at Festival Foods, another region grocery chain.

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#2

Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/07/2016 3:21 PM

A couple of decades ago, when I lived in Chicago, a startup created by Northwestern students set up a service called (as I recall) PeaPod. This was in the days when most people were using MS-DOS, not lovely GUIs. They were teaming up with Jewel, the big regional chain, as I recall. No idea what happened to them. So the idea isn't new, the method is.

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#3
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Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/07/2016 4:01 PM

I remember that,... PeaPod.com it was just beginning to ride the dot com tidal wave.... right before the dotcom bubble burst.

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#4

Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/07/2016 8:27 PM

Hateful grocery shopper here. Can't explain it any better.

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#5

Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/07/2016 10:40 PM

I already use my Amazon Echo and Dot to build and maintain my shopping lists and my smartphone or tablet to view it in the grocery store or elsewhere. It wouldn't take a big leap for me to use their delivery service if it was offered in my area.

However, I prefer to select my own fruit, veggies, meat and fish so I would probably still go for those. But at least my load would be considerably lighter.

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#6

Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/08/2016 12:54 AM

I don't see anybody buying perishable food items on line, unless they had the actual items scanned into the computer and you could view the stuff 3D 360° and pick out the actual items you wanted....but frozen goods and canned and others it seems doable....I had experience using a shopping service once and as I recall the problem was not getting the correct items, there are so many choices now that sometimes I pick up the wrong, but similar item, by mistake being right there....It's almost like they make them look alike to sell the less desirable type....It really pisses me off to get home and discover that I've been tricked into buying something I didn't want....

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#7

Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/08/2016 8:50 AM

What is old is new again. When I was a child, ALL the grocery stores would deliver to your house. I lived next to a grocery store and that owner spent everyday making multiple trips with boxes of groceries stuffed in the back of his '59 Chevy wagon. Only difference was it was not eshopping - it was phone shopping. No previews of the merchandise - you trusted your grocer would not bring you crap.

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#11
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Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/08/2016 4:58 PM

Like Phys, when I was a child in suburban RI, most of our groceries came from vending trucks. There was the milk man, and bakery man, and a butcher truck for meat, and a vegetable truck with fresh produce that came by every few days. The grocery store in town was for dry goods which my mother shopped at maybe once a month.

Fast forward, now I love grocery shopping. I am the cook in the house. For many years I loved my weekly trip to the supermarket, and bringing home the bags of food for my next weeks meals which I had planned in advance.

But now I am totally spoiled, I live directly across the street from our local "mega" supermarket and I treat it like my personal pantry. What do I want for supper tonight? I walk across the street an buy it.

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#12
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Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/08/2016 5:03 PM

When I went to college, in a city of 65,000 at the time, I was talking to some friends of mine about going to a place, (that's across town) about 10 minutes to get there. Their response was "Oh, that's way over on the other side of town, no we don't want to go over there."

i thought that was hilarious, coming from a farm where town was 20 miles away.

Having lived here for 25 years, a few years ago, I caught myself saying.... "Oh, that's way over on the other side of town, no we don't want to go over there."

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#13
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Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/09/2016 8:17 AM

Unfortunately I have a 13 mile trek to the local supermarket, either going north or south. We're stuck right in the middle between 2 major towns. I greatly dislike this weekly chore. I would welcome the return of the delivery to the house.

We missed mentioning the doctor. I remember many an early AM visits by Doc Sausser. You didn't call and wait 3 days to see him - he grabbed that black leather doctor's bag and came to you when you called him. Now can you imagine that ever happening again? That ended about the early 70's back home, when the local doctors all reached retirement age about the same time, and the new batch came in to replace them.

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#14
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Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/09/2016 8:46 AM

it funny that was mentioned earlier about home Deliveries.

We lived on a farm, milked cows, We even had an Ice Cream truck stop in, we normally would get a 2 gallon tub (from the eyes of a 8 year old it looked like a 2 gallon) of vanilla and a smaller box of chocolate ice cream, maybe as a treat mom would get ice cream bars.

Our only compliant was, he'd sometimes come at 5:00 AM - 7:00 AM, and we had to stop what were doing and pick up this ice cream so we could put it in the freezer right away.

Not to mentioned we'd have fisherman stopping in occasionally (this would be in the afternoon), selling their product. We loved smoked chubbs. thinking about it, we were pretty fortunate.

I did have a salesman stop in last year, where I bought a $1,000 worth of meat, steak, and sea food. for a price of $500.00. only because I kept saying no, I didn't have no room in my freezer, he kept dropping his price until room was available in my freezer for the price.

I was one of the last stops and he wanted to call it a day and couldn't until his unloaded his product.

It was from a reputable firm that I recognized. And most were delicious, there was a steak where I didn't care about because I didn't like the marinate it had and was slightly tough. And the Tuna I didn't care for at all. My girlfriend loved the crab cakes.

If I had the room in my freezer, I would have loved to get the porterhouse and Prime Rib steaks. but, I guess I found his bottom dollar was higher than I was willing to pay.

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#8

Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/08/2016 9:31 AM

This blog reminded me of when I was young and I would hear of the old days when the milkman, baker, butcher and grocer would all deliver. I guess what goes around comes around.

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#10
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Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/08/2016 10:11 AM

Arrgggg - you are making me feel like an antique - I didn't hear of those days - I lived in those days.

P.S. Frozen milk in the milk box on the front porch on cold winter days - a treat for kids without sugar in it.

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#9

Re: You May Never Go Grocery Shopping Ever Again

12/08/2016 10:04 AM

Sounds like a plot to start controlling the diets of unsuspecting people....Calorie taxes...You won't get what you want, you'll get what's good for you...haha...wait I didn't order broccoli, sorry you must have greens with this order to meet your fiber quota...

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