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Fresh Direct unreliable

Last week it was featured at the top of the web site, I tried to order it and got an out of stock notice.

This week it was at the top of the website again, I ordered it. No out of stock notice so I was looking forward to a taste of spring.

Then, this morning, just when I was expecting the delivery, an email: "Your order for Thursday, Mar 3 2011 is on its way" came and it read : Unfortunately the following items were not available.

1 Wild Shad Roe

Does Fresh Direct do this a lot?

I mean, advertise stuff, confirm an order, then at the last minute say:oops, sorry. no dinner tonight.

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  1. I've not had a problem with Fresh Direct (had been ordering from them in January due to the bad weather for my mother in Brooklyn). However, I didn't order Wild Shad Roe. All of the items I did order were delivered properly and unbroken. My mother said the delivery people were always very nice, and carried the boxes into the kitchen for her.

    1. i've used fresh direct for years. there is the occasional glitch in the system, and a few items i have not be thrilled with, but overall i think they're great. otherwise i would stop ordering from them

      1 Reply
      1. re: thew

        I used them when they were new, was disappointed in the vegetables and hadn't used them for a long while. I ordered last week and found the quality of the vegetables and range of items better now, then they canceled the shad roe at the last minute and I wondered.

      2. They can be unreliable, especially on sale items and specialty items, and especially around the holidays. In the seven or eight years I've been ordering from them, they've failed to order a Christmas lamb roast and lobster for Valentine's day, which left me scrambling at the last minute, as well as countless sale items like cheese, scallops and olive oil, most recently. I try not to rely on them for high-stakes meals, now, but still use them for heavy staple foods.

        1 Reply
        1. re: michelleats

          Interesting. I will in future use them that way. To deliver the regular stuff, or a weekday meal where I can handle last minute menu changes. But not trust them on high-stakes meals.

        2. I've had hits as well as misses with FreshDirect, but when there is any problem they are very accommodating. Just email or call and they will make it up to you, with a credit or a sale price on something you missed out on.

          6 Replies
          1. re: City Kid

            getting a credit is all well and good, unless you're relying on FD to deliver the lobster for an important meal and FD has stiffed you, leaving you scrambling. It has happened to me rarely, but enough that I will not rely on FD for a high-stakes meal. Also, when I need something specific, like mushrooms for stuffing, I can't rely on FD. I've also had problems where the website says that the fish (for example) they will be delivering will be 1.5 pounds, and then it ends up being under a pound, which screws up portions and plans, and can also leave me scrambling. Fine, so I get a credit....doesn't always make the problem right. Just saying.

            1. re: City Kid

              Calling in routinely to ask for credit gets tedious though, and they start to act as if you're running a scam. I found the veges weren't fresh, and the expiration dates on prepared were 2 days after delivery.

              If you do get a credit, be sure to use it right away, as they tend to vanish and when you request it back, they offer you a lesser amount.

              1. re: sugartoof

                There is no need to call, you can simply email them through the contact feature on the website. I have never had a problem with this and they are very apologetic nor have I had a problem with vanishing credits.

                Most of the time the produce is better than local supermarkets though I do prefer to pick it myself. Can't have it all. Since I can't choose I always ask for a credit for any defect.

                I wouldn't order lobster from them though, the one time I did it came in a plastic bag. It was still moving but that doesn't seem the best way to keep the bugger alive.

                1. re: MVNYC

                  It's great that you haven't had problems, but I'm reporting that I have.

                  Apologetic doesn't help when it's a constant every order experience, and they don't remedy the situation.

                2. re: sugartoof

                  How long do you expect prepared foods to last? Two days is plenty for fresh prepared items from a supermarket. Anything more seems a bit ridiculous.

                  I've never experienced "disappearing credits" or anything after having issues, and I've been using them for quite a while now.

                  1. re: irishnyc

                    I understand what sugar is saying. When they say good for 7 days or good for 5 days, it is often much less. It is a problem when you order salads for lunch on Sunday, like grilled chicken salad or asian salad and it is only good until Tuesday. You can't eat a weeks worth of salad in 2 days. I also agree that while they do credit back immediately (I always email) it does become a pain.
                    Good for cases of water, etc.

              2. I have never had this problem with them in the years I have been ordering from them. I have had problems with vegetable freshness in the past but not so much recently. Packaging can be an issue to such as the time a heavy cantaloupe was placed in with some delicate items which ended up being smashed. They are very accommodating though and will credit your account for any damaged or not fresh items.

                I did get the shad roe last week and it was really good lightly sauteed in butter and bacon fat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MVNYC

                  They delivered my shad roe to you? Not fair!

                2. I've been using FD since 2003. Yes, there are occasional issues with items being out of stock or with things missing from orders but on balance, I love them. C'mon people - so you have to actually go to a store every once in a while. I get that it's frustrating if you've built a plan around a particular ingredient but in the grand scheme of things this string is kind of silly.

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: MoxieMax

                    Ditto. This is a first world problem if I've ever heard of one.

                    So, how is this any different than my planning a dinner around lobster, going to Whole Foods and seeing that they're out of lobster?

                    (For what it's worth, FreshDirect is a lifesaver in my opinion. I really think the quality of their food is just as good as anywhere else in the city.)

                    1. re: loratliff

                      The problem is you never actually know what may show up, and they haven't corrected their system to make it any more reliable.

                      It's great that it exists, but if you take the time to come up with an order it shouldn't be a guessing game if that lobster will show...if the portion will be right, etc. As a service, it gets impractical and time consuming to take stock of what's arrived in the bag, contacting them about problems, having to double check that the free cookies or promo item didn't get charged, and so on.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        In my experience (and I've a had a lot) with Fresh Direct, if something is unavailable at the time they pack your order, you are not charged for it.

                        But if I want a limited or highly specialized item and I"m dependent on it for a meal, I buy it at a store.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          i agree - but in my experience it rarely happens. i would say that 99% of the time they have everything i want, and for 98% of the 1 remaining percent, they tell me @ checkout that they don't have an item. the for the remain 98% of the 2% of the 1%, they tell em in the email confirmation.

                          1. re: thew

                            Yes - the day of delivery you get an email telling you it's on the way - and if something isn't coming, you know then.

                            1. re: gutsofsteel

                              I have used FreshDirect many times over the course of years, and while I haven't found them perfect, I pretty much always get what I've ordered, in the right quantity, in good shape, and on time. The few problems, e.g., crushed tortilla chips, a broken egg or two or not great produce, have been cheerfully and quickly corrected after a quick email and I have never been made to feel I am running a scam. The credit goes on my next order but if pressed I suspect they would credit directly to my credit card.

                          2. re: sugartoof

                            Having ordered from them for years the problems are few and far between. They have always emailed when an item is not available and they always credited me for any damaged or incorrect items. The two times an item has been missing in an order for me they gave me a credit with no questions asked. The customer service is really good.

                            Fresh direct is not without flaws but they have always been fairly consistent for me.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              I worked for freshdirect for 5 years up until about a year ago. There have been numerous changes in the system to make it more reliable. When I left they were delivering an average of 7,000 orders a day and approximately 1-2% of orders had errors in them. So yeah, when those errors happen to you it seems that the system stinks. In reality, it's a very reliable system.

                              1. re: donovt

                                "approximately 1-2% of orders had errors in them."

                                That's a potential 140 customers per day, and that's just the ones catching the errors, or actually taking the time to follow up.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  A 1-2% error rate is pretty good, considering the volume.

                                  I've ordered many many times and when an item is out of stock, I'm notified by email and not charged for it, and it's rarely happened.

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    That's also 6,860 customers without errors.

                                    1. re: donovt

                                      Even the people defending Fresh Direct admit to experiencing problems.

                                      There's a potential 500+ customers who have the hassle of dealing with errors from Fresh Direct on any given week. That's unacceptable, and hearing how many people get perfect service doesn't lessen the blow of incompetent service for approximately 2,000 orders per month.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        Please provide a list of siimlarly sized internet-based service companies that have a better than 1-2% error rate.

                                        I have never experienced an "error" - something being out of stock occasionally, and me being notified about it and not charged for it, is not an "error."

                                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                                          Nor is it a sign of "incompetent service".

                                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                                            Spoiled, or quickly spoiling food
                                            damaged packaging
                                            unsealed packaging
                                            charges for items not delivered
                                            item arriving in a much smaller portion then requested
                                            frozen items arriving partially defrosted

                                            ....these are all problems i experienced, and have read reports of others experiencing first hand, and they are errors which represent an incompetent service.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              I can't figure out why you still use them if you feel they're so incompetent. There are plenty of other options. Clearly FD is not for you.

                                          2. re: sugartoof

                                            i never called it a hassle. it's never been a hassle. twice i had badly sliced pastrami. a very few times i hAd a wrong item or item missing. never had a hassle

                                            1. re: thew

                                              "i never called it a hassle. it's never been a hassle."

                                              Who ever said you did? I am saying it's a hassle. It was in my experience.

                                  2. re: loratliff

                                    To Lora-<So, how is this any different than my planning a dinner around lobster, going to Whole Foods and seeing that they're out of lobster? >
                                    It is very different. If you are in the store, you can choose something different and have time to prepare it. If you are counting on them to deliver supplies for a Saturday night dinner party, and Friday after work they arrive without the main dish, you have no time to run out and shop. So, instead of doing the cooking and table decor Saturday morning so you can relax an hour or two before guests arrive, you are out shopping Saturday morning and rushing to prepare all before guests arrive.

                                2. For something so seasonal and not all that abundant, if you're oounting on it for a meal, you should consider buying it and having it on hand....places run out of shad roe, not only Fresh Direct. I ate at Lyon a few days ago and shad roe was a special...at 7:30 they were already out of it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                                    I have used them since they started. I rely on them to deliver all my heavy staples, like detergent, water, milk, etc. I have found them good except for the fruit. It is often (NOT always) of a quality that I would not have chosen at the store. Sometimes it is fine. I have better luck with the vegetables which are usually fine. My one main problem is also with fish. If i order say 8 oz fillets, they often throw in a 1-oz tiny tail piece to bring the item up to 8 oz! What am i supposed to do with that 1 inch piece! so silly! And I have gotten the organic chicken at least 3 times that was smelly and unfresh. Yes, to their credit, they always credit back.
                                    When I know I am having a holiday meal, I make sure to get everything ahead of time so that I am not put in a bind if something does not arrive. I am not 100% sure the fish is the freshest-it always has a fishy smell and I have heard fish should not smell fishy.

                                  2. For those of us who have had primarily good experiences with FD, and like to use them for convenience, this kind of headline can kill a business. Other direct grocery services have tried and failed in NYC -- I understand the profit margins are quite low given the cost of running such a business -- and I would like them to stick around for a while! I do believe they go out of their way to listen to customer feedback and make improvements.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: City Kid

                                      I was disappointed because i had placed the order two days ahead for an 8 - 10 am window,, and the out of stock notice was sent after I last check email at about 11pm.

                                      I tried again, and they delivered lovely, fresh shad roe. Delicious.

                                      I have only been using them recently, after being disappointed and not using them for over a year. I find the range of products better and the vegetables better, although they did send wilted greenbeans. But going to Fairway is no picnic either. They sell lots of vegetables on the edge or over the edge of wilted. You really have to be ready to adjust your menu and carefully examine vegetables at Fairway. Which I hate. Reliable, reasonably priced greengrocers exist in America. Just not on the Upper West Side.

                                    2. I gave up on Fresh Direct after they failed to deliver my order during the two-hour window for the 8,000,000th time. By that point, waiving the delivery fee just doesn't cut it anymore, especially since it's a credit on the next order, which will also be late. The last straw was the day I called to complain - when the order was an hour late - and the customer service rep told me that the truck was parked outside my building, and the delivery would be right up. I can see the street from my window. The truck was not there. So because I was really at the end of my rope with these idiots, I asked the guy to stay on the phone 'til this phantom delivery man arrived - 'cause if he was "right outside," it should only be a moment, right? After 10ish minutes, he admitted he had lied. And offered to waive the delivery fee. Au revoir, Fresh Direct. (I'm sure they're pretty glad to be rid of me, too.)

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: small h

                                        Odd. It happened ot me once. Years ago. i complained. They put a note on my account "only deliver within window" and they have been absolutely on time ever since. Admittedly, they have trucks literally on my block several time a day, every day. I wonder if "small h" lives, perhaps, in a neighborhood where they do less business?

                                        1. re: AdinaA

                                          I ordered FreshDirect for my mom who lives in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn 4 weeks in a row in January, and each delivery was made within the scheduled window. I don't think Sheepshead Bay gets a lot of FD deliveries.

                                          1. re: AdinaA

                                            <I wonder if "small h" lives, perhaps, in a neighborhood where they do less business?

                                            Yep. The edge of the world, if the world is Manhattan (and isn't it?). But! A company whose business is delivery ought to be better at scheduling. If you don't wanna deliver to me, say so - many have. But don't promise what you can't, uh, deliver.

                                            1. re: small h

                                              Which neighborhood, though? It seems like maybe you were at the end of a driver's route and perhaps they already had one too many stops on that route to begin with.

                                              1. re: loratliff

                                                <It seems like maybe you were at the end of a driver's route and perhaps they already had one too many stops on that route to begin with.>

                                                It does seem that way, doesn't it? But that's not my problem, since I didn't write FD's business plan. Ok, it *became* my problem. And now it isn't.

                                          2. re: small h

                                            small h, where do you live? I'm not doubting your experience, just curious. It seems strange to regularly have deliveries be so late.

                                            I've had them delivery near the end of a delivery window, but never, ever have they exceeded it.

                                            1. re: loratliff

                                              The lower lower east east side (sic). I see the trucks around, and I see the empty boxes in the trash room, so FD is definitely a presence in these parts. Maybe they've gotten their act together since I banished them, or maybe my neighbors are more patient and forgiving.

                                              1. re: loratliff

                                                i've had them phone me to tell me they would be late twice, and also twice had them phone and ask if they could come early. once they were 15 mins late w no call. once a half hour. that is out of 5 or more years of use

                                              2. re: small h

                                                Considering Trader Joe's delivery gives a 4 hour window, I had forgot about this one. I experienced this too, but usually by the time I got frustrated enough to call, they were "just arriving". A half hour later, they would really arrive. There were other times when they would actually be outside, with the truck double parked, but no delivery. Also finding convenient delivery times was frustrating and sometimes meant 4-5 day delays when I needed groceries. They've improved on that from what I can tell.

                                                I'm not in a remote part of the city, so it was simply the way they dispatched, or possibly the team servicing my area weren't up to snuff.

                                                The credit for the next order instead of the refund was the most annoying part of it for me.

                                                Trader Joe's
                                                142 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

                                              3. It makes me feel a little better to find this thread, after being shorted on another order. What I don't like is being invoiced for something but it's just not there! You feel guilty emailing in and making the claim. (Did I put it somewhere strange and forget about it? What if they don't believe me?) I'm sure it'll be resolved again, but...I just don't like it.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: scooter

                                                  I don't think they ever intentionally short you.... Humans are packing your boxes, you know, and they make human mistakes. They've never denied me a claim.

                                                  (Haven't you ever forgotten something at the store? I've had orders from FreshDirect that have been missing items but it just seems strange get upset about it when it's a mistake that a person could just as easily make shopping on their own.)

                                                  1. re: loratliff

                                                    Sometimes I get additional items that were clearly mean for someone else -- sometimes even with their name marked on it. Just a simple human error....

                                                    1. re: loratliff

                                                      Actually, everything has a barcode on it, so I'm sure there's computerized inventory control involved as well. In what is presumably an assembly-line-like format there shouldn't be very much distance between the scan and the box.

                                                      It just seems odd that (in this case) I would be invoiced for a specific piece of cheese (that weighed .49 pounds, not .52 or .53) and it wouldn't make it into the box.

                                                      And, I've had particularly bad luck lately - two of my last three orders have been short in this way (with an item billed but not there.) 3 of my last 10 have had an error.

                                                      I'm not mad, just kind of frustrated and disappointed. It is actually reassuring, in a way, to read that it's a common problem (clearly more than the 1-2% error rate claimed above.) I just gotta lower my expectations in the very least and reassess whether I want to keep using them.

                                                      1. re: scooter

                                                        They're not perfect. I've had my share of screw ups, but when the alternative is taking an hour or more every week to go to the store and haul everything home, I will live with some of the missteps. They get it right far more often than they mess things up.

                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                          There's always the Peapod alternative!

                                                          Pros: Many / most items are less expensive, esp. if you shop the weekly specials. Meats are fairly high quality. Most delivery people are REALLY nice and friendly, unlike some of the FD delivery folks. They're always on time. The one time someone was 10 minutes late, they called ahead to let me know. Big plus.

                                                          Cons: Peapod doesn't have all the gourmet goodies (like medjool dates, nice cheeses, bakery quality rolls, fresh seafood, etc...) that FD has. Quality of fruit is also often WORSE than FD... and I'd thought FD was bad. They don't tell you in advance if an item you order is out of stock. If you allow substitutions, sometimes that item is substituted well, IMO (i.e. rather than two small, regular cucumbers, you get one larger hothouse cucumber). Other times, subs don't make sense to me (dijon salad dressing, which I like, subbed with ranch, which I hate).

                                                          My new strategy is to order milk and processed / packaged foods from Peapod every other week or so; order harder to find "gourmet" fare like quinoa, amaranth cereal, fresh lobster, duck breast, crab legs, nori, and the above mentioned cheeses+ from FD every few weeks; and buy most of my fruits and veggies from the farmer's market or produce stands, where it's of much higher quality than either FD or Peapod and/or much less expensive.

                                                          1. re: michelleats

                                                            I personally hate Peapod's user interface. Their website looks like it's circa 1997.

                                                            Yes, I have the occasional misstep with FD, but they've always gone above and beyond to make it right and their selection is pretty darn good.

                                                            1. re: loratliff

                                                              I love Peapod's interface in many ways! I like that when you click on a product, it automatically adds it to your cart. You don't have to go through the extra step of clicking another "add to cart" button and then clicking back two pages (or clicking a third button) to continue shopping.

                                                              I also love that you can compare a category of items by unit price. FD only allows you to compare by total price, without taking into account package size.

                                                              Peapod's page may not be as pretty as FD's page, but it's actually more user friendly in many ways.

                                                              What keeps me from ditching FD altogether is the better selection of higher end ("foodie") products. Peapod actually has a better selection of products overall in terms of packaged convenience foods like cereal, tortilla chips and salsa, ice cream, even types of quinoa. The choices just don't tend to be very "gourmet".

                                                              We both live in a great neighborhood for higher end products. We have several excellent and well priced butchers (Ottomanelli's, Florence, Faicco's), at least one good, not-too-badly-priced cheese monger (Murray's) and good farmer's markets. That's why Peapod is more valuable to me, personally. What we don't have are inexpensive sources for basic, proletariat food (milk, pasta, pasta sauce) and what one might call junk food. I see the value of buying everything from farmers market vendors, but my cheapskate side does feel that $7 for a dozen eggs that I have to lug a not-inconsiderable distance is sometimes more than I want to pay or deal with. Also, you can't buy Maui Onion Kettle Chips from the farmer's market. :) And it's about 2 or 3x more expensive at yucky, annoying Gourmet Garage or Gristedes.

                                                              Back to Scooter's point, though... I've had very good experiences with both FD's and Peapod's customer service when it comes to missing items or damaged items. Neither company questions your good word. (And I don't think any of us would think to take advantage of that.)

                                                  2. I've been ordering from them since they first launched. I've rarely had problems with something being out of stock, but I don't use them for ordering rare, specialty foods (with the exception of specialty cheese) or seasonal items. For those items I go to brick and mortar shops (Dean & Deluca, Whole Foods, Kalustyan's) or farmer's markets.

                                                    Fresh Direct is good for certain things, I buy their bulk meat packs to stock my freezer once a month and while I'm at it I get fruit, cheese, produce and deli meat. But I wouldn't base my dinner plans around a FD delivery just in case something goes wrong. That doesn't happen all the time- otherwise I'd stop ordering from them- but once in a while, yes.

                                                    Rarely but occasionally I have been delivered the wrong box or had an item missing upon delivery, and their customer service has been more than happy to credit my money back for things like this. They were late twice in 3 years, and only by a few minutes. So far I haven't experienced an item being out of stock after placing an order, but maybe it's because I don't usually order items that end to be in limited supply.

                                                    1. I have had mostly good experiences with FreshDirect, and their customer service has been great.

                                                      However, twice in the past few months I have ordered the 'Bread Alone Peasant Bread' and found mold deep within, after eating a slice or two. Total Bummer.

                                                      (full disclosure, this is going to montclair, NJ... not that that should make a difference.)