Online Shopping – Amazon, Target, Alice, FreshDirect All Disappoint.

Female grey tabby and white cat resting

Female grey tabby and white cat resting on a box of cat litter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just finished one of the household tasks I loathe the most – emptying the cat litter boxes. I refilled each box and in the process used up the last of the cat litter. Charity (my wonderful wife) doesn’t mind going to the store and buying these things, but I find this almost as frustrating as scooping out litter boxes. It is the 21st century and I get just about everything else from online – why not my pet supplies (and food)?

The first site I check is Amazon. I pay $79/yr. or whatever the fee is now for no-cost 2 day shipping. Charity and I like Purina‘s Tidy Cat litter – but Amazon doesn’t carry most varieties of it. What?!? This isn’t like some no-name brand, its Purina for goodness sake!

Next, just b/c I feel warm fuzzies towards that aging startup Alice, with whom I’ve had an account from the beginning, I check their pricing. Again, Alice doesn’t carry the Purina brand litter, though they do carry some Fresh Step which is another acceptable litter brand and the prices seem reasonable ($3.89-$5.99 for 7 lbs.). But even if I wanted to buy from Alice, I’d need to spend $50 before I’d get free Shipping & Handling…and I just want to buy cat litter, not do a full groceries/household trip!

Both Amazon and Alice have let me down – so where do I go next? Target. Why? Because in “real life” that is where Charity and I buy most of our household goods and groceries. I quickly find the litter I’m looking for but in small font I see “prices vary by store.” Still, I’m optimistic and click through to the product page because it also says in small font, “Spend $75, get free shipping.” If I can get it shipped – I must be able to order it online? Nope.

That is an interface error on Target’s part. You shouldn’t be offered free shipping on products you can’t order…but things get worse.  I see the item isn’t sold online but it is sold in stores – well, maybe I can see the price at my store? I click on find in store but in the end have only a location and contact info. – no pricing for the product. Its too bad, b/c if Target had the product I’d buy it from them – I know from in-store what product I like (an advantage usually over Amazon) and since I have a Target credit card I get free shipping and handling on my order.

I’m puzzled why Target doesn’t make their local stores into shipping distribution centers. Why not allow me to find my local store, order the car litter, and someone throws it in a box and ships it off to me?

I’m not ready to give up just yet. I seem to remember there being some pet supply stores with a significant online presence – lets try those. Petco offers free shipping only on orders over $49, Petsmart on orders over $59, and PetSupplies on orders over $49.

It is time to give up. But wait! I just received a letter from FreshDirect (whom I’ve been waiting to move into the area FOREVER) informing me that I could use them and get delivery for $.02 for two months – though after that it would cost $69/6 mo. I figure I’ll give it a try – even though I can’t see paying for Amazon Prime and FreshDirect. I grab the litter, throw it in my cart, it is reasonably priced and attempt to check out – oooh, my bad, the minimum order must be $30.

I know, I know, I’m being a bit demanding of all these services. In general I really like each of them (well, haven’t really used the pet supply ones), but in this particular case each demonstrates the small yet significant gap between consumer desire and product delivered.

In my humble opinion, Target is really in the perfect space to take over this market. With their hybrid online/local presence they have distribution centers everywhere and I’ll certainly keep going to Target for larger shopping trips – but I’d love to get my cat litter, toilet paper, paper towels, condiments, and so on shot out automatically each month (though I also don’t want to sign away my life with a contract on them…You’ll just have to trust me that if you give good prices and free shipping, I’ll keep buying).

P.S. I know I’m not using FreshDirect as intended, but when you have a minimum order price I usually give up. I want to try something and then come back and try a few things more…blahh, blahh. As my wife would say, “You are having a first world problem.”

2 Responses

  1. Dave,

    In the time you did all of this (going through the websites and explaining the problem to us) you probably could’ve gone to a Target locally, got the kitty litter, came home and been reading one of your numerous books already. 🙂

    • davemackey says:

      This is true, but my hope is that by writing this one post someday soon I will never again have to get kitty litter…so eventually, things may balance out in my favor!

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