The Quick and the Late: Testing Same-Day Delivery

NEW YORK (AP) — It was a Friday and I was eagerly awaiting my vegetable spiralizer, red wine and Roku stick. They all arrived as promised.
But where was that book and makeup I ordered? And my pizza?

Same-day delivery offers the tantalizing convenience of online ordering with nearly the same immediacy of store buying. But how well are stores pulling it off? I settled in on my couch and spent a Friday trying several different services, from traditional retailers to online-only merchants.

Some stores did better than others. Amazon Prime Now, Instacart and FoodKick all delivered my items within a certain time frame. At the other end of the spectrum were some doozies. One delivery — Bobbi Brown eye shadow from online luxury purveyor Net-a-Porter — didn't arrive at all. Ordering from Barnes & Noble included glitches both on the website and on the app, and a book that didn't come until nearly 9 p.m.

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The pizza? That came later than I was told as well, and I was hungry.

Here's my take on what went well — and what didn't.

EASE OF ORDERING: Using the Amazon Prime app on my phone was probably the quickest experience of those I tried. I ordered four items — socks, a vegetable spiralizer, calcium pills and a case of bottled water — and it took just two minutes. The most cumbersome experience was with Barnes & Noble. I started on the app at 10 a.m. to order Kristin Hannah's novel "Winter Garden," but kept encountering a glitch when I tried to insert my address. After three tries, I switched to my computer, but I had a similar problem there too. I called customer service a little after 11 a.m., and 24 minutes later I placed the order. I could have walked to the local Barnes & Noble store and bought the book quicker than that!

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DELIVERY: Only four of the seven retailers including the pizza parlor offered a specific time frame for delivery. Knowing when something will arrive really helps. I didn't think I'd be waiting around in my apartment for 11 hours.

Amazon Prime, Instacart and FoodKick, owned by FreshDirect, all promised to deliver between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. All three came in that period. I had a nice experience at Best Buy, too, receiving the Roku stick a little after 2 p.m. when I was told it would arrive by 9 p.m.

Net-a-Porter said my eyeshadow would come by 7 p.m. At 6:52 p.m., I called for an update and was told there was a problem with the order, and I would get it tomorrow. I was told that the computer system was confused by the apostrophe in my last name, and so my order was put on hold, without my getting any updates. No thanks! I canceled the order. It would have been nice for them to alert me earlier that there was an issue.

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As for Barnes & Noble, the customer service representative on the phone couldn't give me a delivery time. At 7:05 p.m., I got a text saying the book was on a truck in New Jersey and heading toward me. It arrived around 9 p.m. — still the same day, after all.

The margherita pizza and the salad? Ordered at 12:10 p.m., they were supposed to arrive at around 12:45 p.m. but didn't arrive until about half an hour after that.

FEES: The highest was at Net-a-Porter, which charged $27.22 including the flat delivery charge of $25 and other fees. I guess if I were ordering a $500 dress, it wouldn't matter. But I was ordering eyeshadow that cost about $76. Instacart's delivery fee — $11.99 — was also high, bringing the total cost of my chips and guacamole to $26.16. The delivery charge is based on customer demand for the delivery window you request.

Barnes & Noble's delivery fee was just $3.99, while Best Buy's was $5.99. Amazon Prime waived the delivery fee because my order came to more than $35. FoodKick also didn't charge a fee because my red wine and pesto totaled $22.13, above the $20 minimum for free delivery.

So by 9 p.m., I had most of what I ordered, including a book, wine and pizza. Would I try these services again? Yes, but I definitely know which retailers come through.

– By AP reporter Anne D'Innocenzio 


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