AmazonFresh Pickup is the tech giant’s new experiment in brick-and-mortar retail, but it’s also a new frontier for the rapid fulfillment of online orders.
The service is free for Prime members, letting them select from available two-hour windows to pick up orders at one of two Seattle sites. But as an extra bonus, Amazon promises that it will have orders ready in as little as 15 minutes for people who pay an extra $15/month for the “Fresh Add-on” on top of their $99/year Amazon Prime subscription.
And to think, not that long ago, delivery in an hour was considered state-of-the-art when it came to speed.
Of course, the big difference from Amazon’s Prime Now one-hour delivery service is that we, the customers, provide the last-mile transportation for AmazonFresh Pickup grocery service. And it turns out that I am the weakest link in the delivery chain. Or maybe I can just blame Seattle parking and traffic.
Bottom line, when I tested the 15-minute pickup option this morning, it turned out to be about 20 minutes from click to trunk, but that was in large part because I couldn’t get there in 15 minutes.
As a follow-up to our initial AmazonFresh Pickup test, this morning I repeated the experiment with two key changes: I signed up for a trial of the $15/month Fresh Add-on for my Prime membership. Also, because it was my second visit, Amazon’s sensor system would be able to recognize my license plate when I drove up, rather than requiring a worker to log me in manually. (This is an opt-out feature, as explained in our previous story.)
At 10:10 a.m., I selected the 15-minute pickup option, then picked out a bunch of items for the office, where I was headed. At precisely 10:15 a.m., I clicked the green button to place the order.
The race was on. I walked quickly to my car, which was parked a couple blocks away from my house — welcome to Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in 2017 — and ended up getting stuck in traffic on Market Street on the way to the AmazonFresh Pickup location across town. There was also police activity that stopped cars for a short time.
I rolled in at 10:32 a.m., and this was the cool part: One of the workers welcomed me, and asked if it was my first time. I explained that it was actually my second time, and asked if the system would recognize my license plate.
He said yes, and looked at the tablet he was holding. “Todd Bishop?” he asked. “You’re all set.”
Then I waited. At 10:34 a.m., the sign changed to say that my order was on the way. A few moments later, the carts emerged and the order was in my trunk. My clock in the car changed to 10:35 a.m. as I was driving away.
Maybe they could have had my order out the door a little faster, but it’s hard to quibble over a couple minutes, especially when I wasn’t able to get there in 15 minutes. I’ll be interested to see what happens if someone can pull in within 10 minutes, but in this day and age, in this city, that seems like an edge case.
In the meantime, I’m claiming a new world record for online order fulfillment, with a little help from Amazon.