Sometimes You Don’t Have to Break Any Eggs

I’m fairly new to FreshDirect, the fresh grocery delivery service here in New York which everyone raves about. They only recently started delivering to the Lower East Side and my kitchen’s been under renovation, etc.

If you’re not familiar with FreshDirect (e.g. living under a rock, residing outside of the NY area), it is a growing, profitable, Internet-based food delivery service. You may be thinking “Oh, like WebVan.” Quite understandable, but incorrect. FreshDirect’s mantra is that they’re not from the Internet world, they’re from the grocery world. They understand meat, fish, and produce and just happen to use an amazing website and a fleet of trucks to deliver the product.

I was a little skeptical about this hands-on grocer approach at first, but yesterday I became convinced. Here’s my story…

Order #1: The first time I placed an order everything was great. The produce was ripe, the meat fresh, the deli sliced thin. Everything except the eggs, one of which arrived broken. OK, I thought. Shit happens.

Order #2: A week later I placed another order, with another dozen eggs included (wife loves a good omelette). This time, two broken eggs. As I was cleaning up the goop-clotted styrofoam container I broke another one, leaving me with a pathetic 75% egg yield. I was pissed. I resolved to complain at my earliest convenience.

Order #3: Well, you know how things go. A week went by and I didn’t get around to complaining to anyone (except the wife). I just stewed in the injustice of it all. My family had been deprived of the equivalent of a single omelette and no justice had been served. Then I placed another order, including another dozen eggs. As I write this I am contemplating what sort of person I am to do this. Choose one: a) masochist; b) idiot; c) forgiving soul; d) geek who would prefer broken eggs ordered on the Internet to whole eggs carried from the store. So the eggs showed up, and low-and-behold there was a little slip of foam carefully placed underneath the package to absorb shocks. I examined the dozen and found no breakage.

So what does this story tell us, and why is it on this blog which is ostensibly about marketing and product development. Well, clearly FreshDirect had learned from its mistakes and improved their processes. Good for them. Many standard issue business maxims could now be applied — “easier to keep an existing customer than get a new one”; “happy customers tell 2 people, upset customers tell 10 people” etc. But the story doesn’t end there…

Epilogue: Being who I am, I still wanted to contact FreshDirect and tell them that my previous orders had broken eggs and they better watch it if they wanted to keep me as a customer. A day or two went by and, of course, I didn’t get around to it. So I was walking down the street yesterday when my cell rang. Here’s the conversation:

Me: Hello

FD: Mr. Paparo?

Me: Yeah.

FD: This is FreshDirect. How are you?

Me (suspiciously, given that I usually don’t get calls from grocers OR Internet services): OK, I guess.

FD: You received a delivery on this past Sunday, did you not?

Me: Um, yeah (I was convinced the next thing he was going to say was something like “Have you and your family been feeling well since then”).

FD: Did you receive a dozen eggs in that shipment?

Me (now, totally creeped out): Yeah.

FD: Well, we just wanted to make sure that none of those eggs were broken. It’s important to us that the groceries you ordered arrive properly.

Me: Uhhh. Yeah, they were great.

FD: OK, great. Is there anything else we can do for you?

[closing pleasantries]

I’m still a little freaked out that FreshDirect essentially called me to see if my complaint was fixed before I had complained. Of course this was probably a coincidence caused by many more vocal people who had actually complained, but still.

So what do they get out of this extra effort? Well, my undying loyalty. This posting telling everyone I know about how great they are. And me telling everyone at a cocktail party last night about this incredible customer service. And they tell two friends, and so on and so on.

So don’t be surprised when you get a call from your grocer, they have your best interests at heart.April 22, 2004 12:24 PMComments

There are some countries (not just businesses) that could learn from FreshDirect’s business attitude!

That aside… you sure consume a lot of eggs! Cholesterol! 😉 Oh, it’s the wife…