More than just groceries

Countless times I have wondered what on earth is going on in people’s minds – sometimes  because I am smiling, and sometimes because I am grimacing in a kind of shock. Now I’m all for sending the odd complaint when you feel that a company has taken the piss – and not just because you can’t think of anything better to do, but more often than not it seems that people just like to whinge about anything. After all, here I am whinging about other people’s whinging.. now that should instigate some real whinging eh!

With all toys back in the pram, the one thing that never fails to surprise me, is just how much people complain about Ocado. There is even a ‘boycott Ocado’ Twitter page – wtf? Now either we are just extremely lucky, too easy to please, or there is something else going on here, because we truly love Ocado and cannot quite see how others can find them *that* bad. The ‘complaints’ we have are mere inconveniences compared to our experiences with other online supermarkets. I’m not so in love with Ocado that I can’t see the faults (like a weird kind of grocery-groupie) but I do admit that when we bought our first house, one of the first things I had to check was that Ocado still delivered to our new address. (Luckily they do, but I should point out that we would have bought the house anyway).

To try and explain what I think is so good about Ocado, let me start with what I know.

  • When you are adding stuff to the basket, it shows you ‘live’ out-of-stock data based on the delivery date/time you have picked, and what the warehouse (computer) says they have.
  • There aren’t stores that ‘pickers’ go and select the items from – which would normally mean that if there is a sudden rush for frozen peas in your town, you’ll be out of luck. With Ocado, if something isn’t available, 9 times out of 10 it won’t let you order it to start with. (I’ll mention substitutions in a bit)
  • Delivery slots are an hour, not 2 or 3 (although other supermarkets now seem to be cutting down their slots too)

So there are the basics. It’s probably just as good a time as any to mention that I love food – but I mean good food. If I was trying to make cut-backs, you would not find me eating tinned vegetables so that I could still go to the cinema. I’ve grown up on healthy food, and I believe that we cannot expect to feel good in our mind and body if we fill up on ice cream and beer (although I do like ice-cream!) My point is, if you live for Asda-own-brand food, please step aside – you’re probably not going to like Ocado whatever I have to say.

We actually started doing our food shopping online because we noticed that whenever we went into a supermarket, we came out with far more than we needed, most of which was crap that had been on special offer. What suckers! We had a small, local Tesco in walking distance, and a bigger Sainsbury’s that was about 10 mins drive away, but that was it. M&S food opened up a little later, but although lovely, we could not do our weekly shop in there. Ocado appealed to me because of the Waitrose food, and because Waitrose themselves did not offer online shopping (although they do now).

The thing I really love about ordering groceries online is that it really is a fab distraction from depression. I would have days where I would start a basket in the morning, and add things to it slowly whenever I thought of them – not actually checking-out until the evening, or sometimes the next day. To me, it is like a relationship that you nurture and take your time with, not an experience where you dash-in and dash-out before the traffic gets bad. Obviously all online shops offer this slow-pace kind of shop, but there have been times when Ocado simply shines above the rest. Namely Sainsbury’s – where I’ll be logged out in the middle of choosing something. I’d add the item to the basket before it tells me to log-in again, when I’d then find loads of things missing that I know I’d added – huh?! I used online grocery shopping to distract myself from the pit of depression, I didn’t want to end up more frustrated by it.

Now I’m a technical person who pretty much does all shopping online, but even I can see that for less-technical people, Ocado’s website is far more simple to use than others. The search function works as expected and items are displayed in a logical fashion. I can sort by price, last bought (favourites) and ratings, and can narrow down by aisle, goods on offer, and brand. Although this sounds fairly obvious, it is not always something other supermarkets offer. Call me a creature of habit, but I expect to be able to filter search results easily like this, not have to browse pages and pages of tinned tomatoes to find the fresh ones. I love that you can very easily view just items in stock or on offer, especially when 90% of what we buy is because we can’t really justify paying full price.

Ah! Now I can hear you saying ‘so Ocado is more expensive then’, to which I have to reply ‘If you want to compare sirloin steak to stewing beef? – Well yes’. As always, you get what you pay for. Ocado is not mega-bucks, but if you want to dig through the bargain bin for dented cans and out-of-date cream cakes, then you will no doubt find yourself feeling disappointed, or maybe even outraged (going by some FaceBook comments). Why do it to yourself? If you think they are too expensive, don’t shop with Ocado. You wouldn’t stand outside Prada and shout through the windows about how overpriced their jumpers are, so what makes you feel it is OK to do the same in the virtual world?!

Anyway, I already admitted I love good food – even if I can’t always afford it. I shop with Ocado because they consistently provide me with yummy grub, and the convenience of not having to fight the outside world to get it. If I wanted a fillet of sea bass that looks as though it has been hacked with a spoon, I would shop elsewhere. (Thanks Asda – and no, I don’t want to keep the bones (even if your fishmonger took half the ‘meat’ with them!)

One of my other main reasons for choosing Ocado over the competitors (although I still do the odd Tesco and Sainsbury’s shop online for stuff Ocado don’t sell) is down to the substitutions (or lack of in our case). Out of years worth of weekly shops, I could probably count the number of substitutions we have had on one hand – Hmm.. maybe two. It certainly isn’t every week. But come on people, when you shop online you should expect the odd disappointment now and again. It’s just life. You have to be realistic. If I get cheese and onion crisps instead of bbq flavour, I shrug and say ‘oh well’. I don’t go onto social media sites and claim that they are the worst company ever, and how will I survive the night without the right crisps! I find it quite sad that Ocado have to deal with a barrage of petty complaints about missing items and late deliveries (again, we expect them once in a while, but are happy that 95% of the time we are not left waiting) On the contrary, we did a Tesco order for my mum who was too ill to go out and they delivered over 6 hours late! – the worst delay we’ve experienced.

And that’s the other thing – our deliveries have nearly always been on time, even in the middle of a snow storm. (The driver had about a foot of snow on his head just from walking from the van to our front door!) I’m still amazed that I can order late on a Friday and have my shopping arrive the next morning, although this does tend to be when more things are out of stock. As I said, maybe I am just easy to please, but I don’t understand what people expect. If your world collapses because the sausages didn’t turn up for tea that night, you need to learn to relax, adapt a little, and deal with it in the ‘normal’ way. (Imagine if everyone in Tesco shouted at the staff because something had sold out. It’d be a pretty noisy place to shop wouldn’t it!) Ocado always refund anything that is damaged, will always try their best to resolve complaints, and from what I’ve seen, take their customers seriously – without you having to phone India. What else can they honestly do? Slaughter a pig on your front door? No doubt if they tried to substitute for something else, then that item wouldn’t be good enough either. I would often rather have no substitutions than stupid ones (Tesco, I’m looking at you), although I do understand the frustrations of both – and this is half the battle. Dealing with frustrated people who didn’t want to have to nip to the shops. In my opinion, I think Ocado do brilliantly.

Now down to the real reason I started writing this.. Why I truly think Ocado stand out is because they engage their customers. They often do competitions and freebies that are mentioned on FaceBook, Twitter, and in emails, and some of us even get the odd unexpected product to try in amongst our groceries (although I think the loaf of bread, pink jelly and powdered mustard was a genuine mistake!) I was gobsmacked to see comments from people complaining about a competition to win free shopping for a year, because they didn’t like the terms, or because Ocado didn’t deliver in their area – Umm, why are you on Ocado’s FaceBook page then!?) If you chose to buy a T.V. from John Lewis, would you first phone all the other electronic shops just to tell them you aren’t going to buy from them? No, I didn’t think so. I cannot get my head around *why* people feel it is the norm to publicly announce they aren’t going to enter a competition ‘on principle?’ Or moan about how the competition doesn’t suit them for whatever reason. What happened to people just not entering – and doing it quietly? I guess this is the world we live in now. Even with nothing to say, people are all too quick to say it!

My hat goes off to Ocado. We have shopped with all the others, and none of them compare. I couldn’t imagine life without such easy groceries. I’d urge everyone to take what you read with a pinch of salt (even the positives) and try Ocado for yourself. We’ll keep going until they prove us wrong, but hopefully that day won’t come.

p.s. They haven’t paid me to write this.



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