Waitrose's online joint venture Ocado was launched with promises of better customer service. Our fifth online shop, and the first to feature the service, shows that so far it is living up to its claims. Our shopper, new to the service, described the evidence as "a dream". Registering was a cinch and the experience from beginning to payment took 45 minutes.
The site was divided into five product tabs like Food & Drink and Household & Petcare, each containing generic groups of items. According to our shopper, there was a bit of guesswork to locate product as a first-timer, but he felt that with time it would be easy. However, with much of the fruit and vegetables you had to order by number rather than weight.
Each time you accessed a product listing you had to wait for it to download. Our shopper pointed out this would be slow if you were using a conventional PC and modem, but in his case he was running a fast G4 iMac on broadband ADSL so it was quick.
The order was scheduled for delivery between 12-1pm the following day. In fact the delivery man called at 11am to see if it were convenient to deliver earlier.
The shopping arrived in coded bags to differentiate between the product types. At £51.58 it was the most expensive basket ­ nearly £13 more than the Asda equivalent. A £5 delivery charge was added, but this would have been waived had the order been over £75.
Our shopper concluded that overall the Ocado experience was very efficient, if a little soulless. "I like to browse my shop and, in the case of fresh fruit, veg, meat and fish, to see what I'm getting. But for cat food, for example, it would be handy to order online."