Six months after our last online shop and Asda, the worst performer last time, still failed to deliver the goods.
Yet it all started so well. Our shopper, a novice to Asda@home but a seasoned online purchaser, was able to breeze through the site. Unlike last time the log on process took only five minutes, navigating the system was easy and our shopper had completed his order within an hour. All products were in stock and the total bill was a reasonable Â£38.73, plus Â£3.50 delivery charge Â the cheapest of all our retailers.
Then the problems began. While our other shoppers were able to receive goods within 24 hours, the first available slot with Asda was 52 hours later, Saturday between 6pm-8pm.
However, at 4.30pm on Saturday a message was left to say the order had been cancelled. When our shopper called to find out the reason, he was told all orders had been cancelled that day owing to staff and delivery problems. Apparently there were no staff members to pick goods and no one to deliver them. And there was no point asking for the order to be delivered the following day as it was unlikely Asda would be able to fulfill it owing to the backlog from Saturday. "We have agency staff in at the moment," the operator said. When told our shopper was a first-timer with Asda and was used to shopping online with Tesco and Sainsbury, the operator made little attempt to appease him.
Over at Iceland it appears the problems that dogged last year's Christmas shop had reappeared, following a slight improvement in the Easter online shop. After three attempts to register and a call to Iceland's friendly helpline, our shopper began his purchasing 25 minutes later.
The problem was the Iceland system did not recognise underscores of hyphens in e-mail addresses and so the registering process could not be completed. The help desk gave our shopper a temporary address to let him shop straight away.
The site was informative yet simple to use. Browsing down the aisles threw up further categories and each type of product was easy to find. Seven items on The Grocer 33 list were not in stock.
As no substitutions were offered along the way our shopper clicked to go to the checkout with a depleted basket costing Â£35.77. But, having shopped for 42 minutes, a message came up saying: Sorry the minimum order is Â£40 Â but don't forget delivery is free!' There was no indication of this at the outset and had substitutions been offered the amount would have exceeded this.
Delivery problems still seem to be hampering online shopping but our remaining retailers performed better this time. Sainsbury was on time and the driver was polite. Tesco was 10 minutes late but had rung 20 minutes before to warn the driver was running half an hour late and to apologise and ask whether the delivery was still convenient.
Ocado, the best performer in this its first appearance in The Grocer 33 online, was half an hour early (see right).
Our Waitrosedeliver shopper admits to be a fan of choosing goods at the supermarket so began by being dismissive of online shopping. Her fears were allayed somewhat by the ease of registration and navigation but she was frustrated by the time it took to update the shopping basket.
The only unavailable item was Tetley tea bags. However, when the goods arrived two pink grapefruits had appeared out of nowhere.
Overall, after delivery the greatest problems were communication and, like our store shop, out of stocks. Our Tesco shopper found it hard to find a box of 24 tablets, not realising those flagged up at 12 meant 12 washes so 24 tablets.
He also found the ordering of free weight produce confusing. Attempts to order 454g of best buy apples led to two Braeburn apples being ordered, but this was translated at the picking end as 2kg of apples. And although our shopper ordered mature Cheddar at Â£1.36 he received a huge 456g slab at Â£2.73.
Our Sainsbury shopper was impressed with the added value elements of the website. Bananas and tomatoes were specified as ripe or unripe, with bananas also available in small, medium and large, while Stella Artois could be delivered chilled or unchilled. But wine is listed by country therefore confusing to those unsure of a wine's origin.
At Tesco, Value mince was substituted for fresh beef mince, loose apples became a 1kg bag of the same, and loose new potatoes because a 750g pack of baby new potatoes. But our shopper was impressed with the explanation about substitutions and the fact you could put in notes for the instore picker.
At Iceland the nearest quantity of potatoes was a 750g bag; Penguin came only in 12s; there was no Hovis listed; only drawstring Tetley tea bags; Corn flakes were 750g; there was only super lean mince beef in 500g packs; Persil tablets in 18s and no Kleenex for men.