FreshDirect CEO Looks to Smooth Path, Post Blizzard

Discussion
Jan 04, 2011
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A letter from Rick Braddock, chairman and chief executive
of FreshDirect, offered an apology to customers of the online grocery service
for disruptions in service caused by the "sixth most severe snow storm
in the history of the New York area."

While Mr. Braddock’s letter started
out as pretty much your standard response to not being able to make deliveries,
it deviated somewhat by offering recommendations on ways shoppers could help
smooth deliveries as the company continues playing catch up from the storm.

Mr.
Braddock wrote, "We were overwhelmed by the impact of the storm itself,
and our ability to recover has been impeded by the slow snow removal in many
parts of New York City and the suburbs."

FreshDirect shoppers were advised
to take a number of steps including:


  1. Placing orders a few days in advance.
  2. Schedule deliveries Wednesday through Friday when fewer orders go out.
  3. Take advantage of discounts offered for deliveries made during less busy
    times.
  4. Signing up for FreshDirect’s Unlimited Delivery Pass, which enables customers
    to pay $59 for six months or $99 for a year to receive deliveries without
    any additional fees.

Discussion Questions: On balance, are blizzards and other extreme weather
conditions a bane or boon for online grocers? What do you think of FreshDirect’s
response in the aftermath of the large storm that hit its market area in the
New York City metro region?

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7 Comments on "FreshDirect CEO Looks to Smooth Path, Post Blizzard"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

The more technology is marketed as “easy, simple, relax and let us do the work” the more customers will believe never out, never a problem, never a wait. This flies in the face of reality. Retailers would do well to examine that the promises they are making must be 24/7, with every customer, in every situation – worst blizzard notwithstanding.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
10 years 4 months ago

If it weren’t so pitiful, this response would be LOL funny. Why do PR firms let their clients write these types of letters? What’s wrong? The “sixth most severe storm” – are you kidding me? And the suggestions for their customers revolve around scheduling deliveries on days/times when FreshDirect isn’t so busy, meaning that most customers don’t want their deliveries then; scheduling a few days in advance – which is exactly what most shoppers don’t want to do; and the ever timely “pay us more money and we’ll do better.”

Reminds me of the JetBlue response to a storm a few years back that cost a CEO his job. (He’s now running an airline in South America.)

Come on, man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Here’s one of my left-field responses–I’ve been thinking about this for the past few weeks in view of the bad weather across the UK. This affected deliveries of stock to online retailers and, therefore, their deliveries to customers. One of the gifts I ordered (and had to chase) was allegedly dispatched twice and still hasn’t arrived. When I got iced in the week before Christmas I tried to order my groceries online but was, of course, too late to get a delivery slot. Which has lead me to wonder whether anyone ordering online actually gives even a passing thought to the drivers who are trudging out and confronting all the consequential delays, accidents, perils etc. Is there an ethical issue here? Or does accepting the job mean accepting the responsibility and the (hopefully only occasional) risks?

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Have any of you ever tried to get into a Publix or other grocers here in the South Florida market a few days before an impending hurricane? Plan on spending extra time and finding the shelves emptier than normal. The cash registers continue to go “ka-ching.” A weather abnormality is a grocer’s dream.

George Anderson
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

While supermarkets always do a big business before a storm hits, it often is people running out the day before to stock up on staples and comfort food. Obviously this same timing doesn’t work in the case of online grocers where greater lead times and coordination are needed. Something that FreshDirect and others may consider before future storms: Send out weather alerts to remind shoppers not to wait or it could be too late.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 4 months ago

Actually I think this makes sense. The online grocery (like the retail entity) has traffic/delivery pattern that give them an idea of what product needed, when to replenish and when they need to ramp up delivery vehicles to meet the needs of their audience. This would make them very customer centric. The ability to scale up delivery drivers and add additional delivery vans would be challenging (especially during peak hours), so actually this attempt to engage their audience is actually quite effective. You are giving control to the members and they will actually respond in a proactive manner.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
10 years 4 months ago
As a postscript to my comment from yesterday, I realize it would have been next to impossible for FreshDirect to deliver orders in a timely fashion during and after the storm, just as it was impossible for the airlines to fly, subways to run, etc. My issue was not so much with the level of preparedness, although I do think they need to build in the ability to ramp up more quickly in times of over-peak demand, as it was with their “apology” afterward. Looking in on this from sunny Florida, it appeared to me that the company was trying to tell their customers what they, the customers, could do to make FreshDirect’s life easier, as opposed to the other way around. I think a straightforward “We’re sorry and will try to do better in the future” would have been better. The bottom line is folks didn’t receive their orders, so FD needs to take responsibility for that. A coupon for something off on a future order would have been nice too.
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