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Companies offering online grocery ordering and delivery are struggling with services’ logistics.
Amazon.com Inc. last year began offering some Prime members online grocery-shopping and delivery from Whole Foods, touting the service as another perk to customers after purchasing the organic grocery chain. Some early users say Amazon has work to do before it gets the offering right.
Kelly Hills ordered a sourdough loaf from Whole Foods recently but was offered a jalapeño cheese bread instead. Her so-called “shopper” — either a contract worker employed by Amazon or a Whole Foods staff member tasked with compiling delivery orders — had opted to put decaf coffee in her bag instead of whole roasted coffee beans, celery instead of celery root and a single seltzer flavor rather than a variety.
“The substitutions are downright bizarre,” said Hills, a 42-year-old bioethicist from Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley area. “It’s frustrating.”
After buying Whole Foods in 2017, Amazon expanded its Prime Now delivery service — already available to members of the $119-a-year subscription program from local grocers — to a swath of Whole Foods stores; grocery delivery is now available at more than 60 markets where the chain’s 477 U.S. locations are based.
Some of the problems customers like Hills have experienced are often amplified because daily operations at the two companies are still largely separate. Whole Foods employees said Amazon workers routinely ask for help finding items on shelves or elsewhere, distracting them from their own duties. Technology that tracks Whole Foods’s inventory is old, and officials have discussed updating it for years.
“All the stores need to get better at that,” one Whole Foods regional leader said about the ordering process during a recent staff meeting, a recording of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
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