On-line Retail Fails to Launch


One segment of the economy that has profited from the on-going economic shutdown is e-commerce. As fortuitous as this has been for on-line retailers, it is turning out to be a public relations trainwreck.

It is easy to understand the inability of these companies to support an avalanche of new customers. Millions of Americans have been encouraged to stay home, and accordingly, if they want to eat or get medicine, they need to have it delivered or arrange a pickup.

Though I can understand the inability to meet consumer demands, I cannot fathom the total collapse in customer service. I will share my personal experience:

When attempting to order from the three major grocery services (Peapod, Fresh Direct, and Whole Foods), none of them was able to provide delivery times and days, and I mean not for weeks. If you do want to get a day and time, you have to (and I am not kidding) get up at midnight and hope a delivery slot has opened.

Now here comes the terrible customer service part: You do not know that they cannot provide you a delivery slot until after you have finished inputting your order. Try doing that three times in a row with each of the three companies only to be told there are no openings. You can imagine the frustration and sheer waste in time.

An additional order, placed with Walgreens.com, resulted in an email saying that they were processing my purchase (Yay!). It has now been ten days and I still have no delivery date. A message to Walgreens customer service indicated that they were sorry but they still didn’t know when my order would ship (Boo!)

I am sure you have your own stories. Yet, the bottom line is this: Why are these companies incapable of changing their processes so that they provide consumers with actionable information? This lack of reliable knowledge is leading people to leave their homes, no matter the warnings, and visit supermarkets and drug stores where products are in-stock (lots of toilet paper,  have you ever heard of Panda brand?) and the store staff are friendly and heroic (and this is New York).

E-commerce providers are frittering away their gains from the current shutdown by forcing consumers back to their local bricks and mortar retailers. Hang on retail stores, we need you.

Talk to you later. I have to go to the grocery store.

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