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Battle of the Online Grocers: Peapod versus Safeway.com

November 2005

With the launch of Safeway's online-shopping and delivery service, Giant's Peapod.com is not the only game in town when you're too tired or too busy to push a cart up and down the aisles. Can you trust either to do the shopping for you?

We ordered the same 12 items from each—including eggs, steak, lettuce, fruit, milk, and ice cream—and had them delivered the same Saturday to see how the services compared in promptness, freshness, reliability, and quality. Prices were comparable.

PEAPOD.COM   

Ordering: Navigating via Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Apple's Safari browser was no problem. There's no personal-shopper feature to customize orders, although distinctions are occasionally made between "ripe" and "regular" fruits and veggies. Minimum order $50; delivery fee $9.95 or $6.95 for orders over $100.   

Delivery: Delivery window designated: 9 to 11 AM. Groceries showed up at 10:14. Delivery man courteous. Tips accepted.   

Food: Our "ripe" avocado wasn't; ditto the mango and peach. The tomato, at least, was ripe. "Thin-sliced" deli ham slices were thicker than we'd prefer, while the steak was thinner than we like. Nicest touch: a bubble-wrapped carton of eggs.   

Verdict: For most vegetables and most other nonperishables, sure. But we're dubious about ordering fruit, and we'd just as soon get our meats elsewhere.

SAFEWAY.COM   

Ordering: We had problems navigating Safeway.com with Safari. Internet Explorer and Firefox were fine. Delivery available only in select Zip codes. Minimum order $50; delivery fee $9.95 or $4.95 for orders over $150.   

Delivery: Delivery window designated: 10 to noon. Delivery man called at 11:54 to say groceries would arrive in 5 to 10 minutes. They arrived at 12:10. Delivery men were courteous. No tipping allowed.   

Food: The "request to your personal shopper" feature turned out to be a partial success: Though the meats arrived as ordered, the avocado was rock hard. Most other fruits were days from ripeness. Lettuce, meanwhile, was brown-edged, and the Italian parsley was so funky that most of it had to be thrown out.   

Verdict: Though we love the no-tipping policy and chance at customization, we wouldn't order fruits, vegetables, or herbs. But we might consider putting in an order of steaks and deli meats.

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