Sunday, January 14, 2018

Prime - not impressed

I'm a Whole Foods junkie. Or was, depending on if you still consider it Whole Foods or if you already call it Amazon Foods. It started before Whole Foods really with family and food allergies but as my allergies got worse it has become a life saver when traveling. I knew I had a place where the staff was trained to answer questions about the ingredients and most things are very well labeled. People have said to me, "Oh we have a Wegmans" or "we have a Trader Joes" and these chains are useful in frozen dinners or raw ingredients and they do have prepared food. I have check out other local recommendations too as I have traveled but so far no one has done as well as Whole Foods in having the labeling and variety for picky (choice or allergy) eaters like me.

Sure, they have specially items, many of which are expensive and only for the privileged. And prepared food is more expensive anywhere but even fancy organic Whole Foods hot bar is less than most room service when traveling. Also, when you eat all clean food, all the time, you actually can get a lot more nutrients and that full feeling with a lot less quantity. My family has tracked the budget.

We use a lot of the 365 Brand items but mostly we cook simple meals from scratch so we have a lot of fruit and veggies.  We have a garden, we shop at the farmers market, and we supplement from the local coop and from the Whole Foods.

All this is background leading to the my skepticism with the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods last year. While hoping that the larger buyer could make better deals in price and worrying about what it will mean for the employees (who appeared to be getting a fair wage and like working in the store so far) in the future, I also wondered (still wonder) what it will mean for me.  So far I have not been impressed. The items with lower prices have also been lower quality and the variety of products, especially in the category of more expensive but tastes great allergen friendly ones, is slowly dwindling.

Once Whole Foods + Amazon was up and running, I looked to see about getting some items delivered straight to the house. Most of the items I want are in Prime Pantry only so you have to have Prime which I didn't have it. Yet. Amazon is also beginning to offer some deals in the store too if you have Prime such as a substantial discount per pound on a Fresh Turkey at Thanksgiving.

So I was willing to check it out. I had three things to investigate with Prime - shipping in general, prime pantry, streaming videos. So I set up the free trial.

I knew that starting at the end of the holiday shopping season would have its own issues but I wanted to see how it worked in my area.  I live in a rural area with the mailbox almost a mile from house so I use a PO box in town for most mailings. I hoped that the Prime 2-day shipping would use carriers that delivered straight to the house. Unfortunately, Amazon uses a lot of USPS and if the package is small enough to fit in the box (and we have a package box out there too) it gets left way away from the house. I might as well continue with the shipping to the PO box so items are secure and dry. I rarely need something right away so waiting to order when I have enough for standard free shipping works for me.

So what about streaming videos? I found a few things not in Netflix that I might watch again but mostly they don't have anything better and I find myself back in Netflix most times. I'll take advantage of it if I have it, but I don't see any value in getting Prime solely for this feature.

Prime Pantry is interesting and if I did not live close enough for a weekly drive to an actual Whole Foods store, I might consider it. The first time I looked, they didn't have much. The next time I looked, there were enough items for me to fill a box if I needed them. I also checked and yes, the prices are exactly the same online as in the store. Then last week I decided to actually give it one try before my trial ends but 9/10 items I would get were out of stock and unknown availability.  That rules that out. I was already leaning to a no. It is $6 per box for delivery on top of the monthly (or yearly) fees for Prime. I can drive about 20 miles to either of the nearest Whole Foods for less and find more of the items on my list plus all my other groceries.

I do not live in an area of Prime same day shipping -  though I am only 25ish miles from a fulfillment center - so 2 hour or Prime Fresh deliveries are also completely out and not even on the list possibilities anytime soon. If I lived in one of those areas or had a larger family to order items for or just shopped online more, it might be worth it. But so far, for where I live and what I buy, I am not impressed.

The cancellation requires what seems like a gazillion times confirming you want to cancel as they remind you of all the benefits of staying but I finally got through it and have ended my Prime trial.


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