Home Delivery, Take 2

Andy Abramson

Living in Los Angeles means home delivery is a staple for me. I use or have used a combination of Amazon Fresh, Amazon Prime Now, Google Express, FedEx, UPS, the USPS, UberEats, DoorDash, Caviar, GrubHub, Postmates, and of course, direct from the pizzeria, pasta shop, and other restaurants.

But home delivery is also about brand building, product or restaurant sampling too as it provides the experience of something new or the opportunity to continue to have something one likes without leaving the house. At the end of the day, if the experience isn’t great, the brand’s reputation suffers.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

UPS is perhaps the best of the bunch when it comes to delivery services. For example, I’m on a first-name basis with the route manager, Darren. We say hello, wave as we pass each other driving in and out of the parking area, ask how each other is doing, or simply chat about what’s happening. What makes him stand out is he’s also about as professional as one would expect. Even a semi misaddressed package finds its way to me, on time. He finds the time to chat with the staff here at the building, and most of all he makes friends out of customers. That speaks volumes to building trust in the UPS brand.

FedEx-epic failure at many turns. There’s a FedEx Office down the block, and sometimes packages end up there by driver delivery mistake. The staff is so unneighborly they won’t walk fifty feet to the building manager’s office to handle a misdirected package. The good news is the FedEx Overnight location which is around the corner has stated that FedEx Office is causing them problems too and is “again going to tell them how to do things.” So has the building manager. But that’s just the tip of the weakness of FedEx. Walking by other flats, I find more “left packages” sitting by doors from FedEx than taken to the manager’s office for safe keeping. As I walk to the garage, it’s almost always a Fed Ex package found on the floor by someone’s door vs. a sticker on being left for attempted delivery where signature is required or left with the office, as the delivery person doesn’t want to haul a box back to the truck or down to the lobby.

Part of the problem is how FedEx now tiers service. FedEx Overnight, FedEx Ground, FedEx Home Delivery. As the price drops, so does the service level. Overall FedEx Overnight is competitive with UPS on skill set and professionalism, and seems to strive to be the best, but after that, the drop off is staggering.

UPS vs. FedEx-the difference is UPS understands the risks associated these days with leaving a package unattended. I call that the “THREE T’s — TAKEN, TOUCHED OR TAMPERED.” And if you’re not able to understand the risks of each of those, well, you’re not living in the post 9–11 society.

Amazon is a conundrum. As a Prime Member I get free shipping, but what used to be FedEx or UPS, they now use a combination of services including the USPS, OnTrac, and others. The issue is you never know which service will be delivering which orders. For example, if you have a business address/mail drop, and it’s UPS Store or Postal Annex, it can be even more confusing. They pick up packages and mail once a day, but the delivery is reported as delivered if Amazon shipped the package to you via USPS when it hits the post office, not when you receive it…confused yet? Just wait.

Amazon Fresh delivers groceries. Amazon Now does too. Now delivers food from restaurants. Fresh doesn’t. Now means within two hours. Fresh is a scheduled delivery. Fresh uses the US Postal Service to deliver. Now uses drivers. Fresh deliveries can be attended or in some cases unattended.

In my case, due to building security, access, and hours, unattended isn’t an option. But don’t tell the USPS that. Schedule a delivery before 10 AM and they won’t call you as the mail carriers are not provided cell phones by the USPS. Forget the fact that instructions tell them how to use the call box to reach me, it’s easier for them to gain access to the building and dump the Fresh totes in the lobby as they can’t get upstairs without a key fob. Even during business hours, they still just leave them downstairs. Why? USPS mail carriers deliver, they don’t like to take things back, and in the case of Amazon, Fresh things may get spoiled. The problem with leaving packages in the lobby, which has now happened with every delivery, despite the time requested is the THREE T’s — TAKEN, TOUCHED or TAMPERED.

On the other hand, Amazon Now, like it’s “prime” competitor, Google Express, rocks. Every delivery has been by a friendly, happy delivery person. They arrive on time, come to my door, hand me the bags, with the orders filled correctly. The same with Google Express.

Restaurant Delivery Services. I’ve got mixed views. I’ve had some tasty meals. Usually, that’s been Asian food and pasta dishes which have been consistently properly delivered. That means hot and ready to eat.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Pizza, more times than I want to admit the pizza has been delivered cool or cold. Sandwiches, from the deli, are fine. But salads, just like pizza have been hit or miss depending on how they are packaged, if they are kept cool while in transit, or simply how they have been prepared for delivery versus being served at the restaurant.

What I’m finding is the best delivery service is from the restaurants’ directly where it is there own driver. Pizza comes hot. Salads come cool. The restaurant has taken the time to think through what they will deliver, how to pack it out. Heck, Domino’s does a better job with average pizza at delivering hot and tasty, than the higher end pizzeria that uses Caviar, Postmates, DoorDash or any of the “delivery services.”

The best food delivery has been with UberEats. They have convincingly figured out how to get the food to you, hot, cold, tasty, and on time. Usually, an Uber Eats order is in your hands 10–15 minutes from the time the order is placed. The efficiency is that you have to go to the driver who pulls up curbside. But, given the Uber App tells you where they are, you can pretty well time yourself to be ready to grab your food. Caviar, Amazon Now, and Postmates all source from many restaurants.

The experience has been mixed, with Amazon Now being the best and most consistent, but they only offer delivery from a small list of establishments. Caviar did very well for its first two deliveries, and then they failed to know the open hours of one restaurant, leaving me starving on a Sunday night after saying the order was in process when in reality, all they had done was sent the order to the restaurant. To their credit, their Customer Service managers worked hard to get me to try them again, with a much better result. Postmates is so inconsistent that it comes down to the driver/delivery person who is at the core, the most crucial aspect of the brand proposition being met. Some delivery team members invest in hot boxes, hot packs, cold coolers, and drive cars that can handle bumps, so the food doesn’t get jostled. Other’s simply don’t care.

If Postmates can get their act to the consistency level of Uber, they may have a business. On that same vein, if Caviar could match the Amazon Now professionalism, they would clean up as they have the interest from more of the better restaurants, but lack the ability to deliver consistently.

Here’s the net-net…Home delivery services are evolving. Someone will crack the code and do it right, every time. Restaurants and grocers need to understand that their brand is at risk by a bad delivery, and can’t hide behind the fact that they consider the sale to have been completed when the delivery person picks it up and shifts the blame to the delivery service. To understand this, all one needs to do is look at history.

Sears, Montgomery Wards, and JC Penney all built very successful catalog businesses that stood the test of time. You ordered from the catalog and days or weeks later what you ordered came to your door. Same with S&H Greenstamps. Granted those businesses are gone today, but when they were around, they stood behind what they shipped and made good on any damages. When it came to appliances, the package arrived and a day or so later, and so did their technician to do the installation if you ordered that.

Those companies understood the brand promise that what you purchased from them, was backed by them. Thus, if your business is relying on a delivery company, or makes money as a result of them, any issue a customer has, needs to be resolved by the store, shop or restaurant with the customer first, to build trust and a valued long-term relationship with them. Then the business and the delivery company or service can settle up amongst themselves. That way the brand equity of the seller is maintained or put at risk, and the delivery service that does the best job, with the least hassles, gets more business from both seller and buyer. Now that’s a great two sides model.

Andy Abramson

Written by

Follow me on Twitter @andyabramson or read my occasional blog post at andyabramson.com

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade