The price of convenience is a premium some Australians are willing to fork out for, but what happens when there are no rules around what people are getting for a fixed price.
John, from Sydney’s Inner West, found it laughable when he placed a MilkRun order ahead of a weekend dinner party to grab a few extra supplies and received two zucchinis that varied considerably in size, but both cost $1.25.
“I thought, ‘this is stupid’, and had a laugh at first but, really, it should be measured in grams, not by quantity,” he told Yahoo Finance.
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“In some situations they might be able to get away with it, but not when there’s a sizeable difference between big and small.”
But what if you weren’t given a comparison, another shopper received an 89 gram zucchini for the set price.
Milkrun is owned by Woolies and gets stock from Metro stores around Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canberra and Newcastle, delivering in an average of 33 minutes - unlike the major supermarkets’ online-ordering services.
At Surry Hills Metro, where the vegetable was sourced, zucchinis were $5.90 per kilo. So, the same legume would’ve cost about 52c in store. That’s more than double the price for convenience, which doesn’t include the $5 delivery fee.
“I understand there’s a convenience factor, and I will pay the delivery fee, but at least give me the correct quantity of products I am asking for,” John said.
“It’s not like I am going to order a box of cereal and they’re going to give me half a box.”
The price of convenience also comes at a cost when you don’t get to select your products, Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder said.
“These services are aimed at last-minute needs, but they can underperform. I ordered four avocados for a dinner party and, when they arrived, I could have used them to smash windows,” Cooke told Yahoo Finance.
He warned those leaning toward the quick and easy delivery route weren’t just being slugged with an extra “convenience cost”. He said they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of deals only found while wandering the aisles of the supermarket, or when comparing sales between the major stores.
“It’s great for shoppers who can afford it, don’t have time on their side, need a quick top up on their groceries or are doing some last-minute entertaining,” Cooke said.
“But if you’re getting into the habit of doing this weekly, you’re missing out on tons of deals and discounts to be had in store.”
Earlier this month, Woolworths came under fire when a shopper realised products being offered in the Milkrun app on special were still more expensive than in store.
A laundry product available on the app at the “special” price of $7.40, was available in store for just $4.50 - a 64 per cent increase.
There was also a difference between the original prices for the fabric conditioner, with customers on the app paying 70 cents more if the discounted rate was not available.
‘We don't always get it right’: Ask for a refund
John complained via the app and was given a timely $5 credit. The other shopper was refunded for the 89 gram zucchini and given a $5 credit - a good reminder to speak up when you’re unsatisfied.
John said the issue became a laugh with friends, but was something companies should “nip in the bud” now the market was evolving and online orders were becoming more popular.
Milkrun said it used the same tactics to select produce as it did through its online-delivery service.
"Our pickers are encouraged to select produce for our customers as if they were shopping for themselves, however, we don't always get it right,” a spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
"Just like regular Woolworths customers, if MilkRun customers are ever dissatisfied with the quality of produce they receive, they are welcome to contact us for a refund, under our Fresh or Free policy."
Competitor Coles uses the same approach for some items, and charges by weight on others.
“As costs rise, bill stress caused by grocery shopping has more than doubled,” Cooke added.
“Shopping around has never been more important – you also pay a premium for the convenience of sticking to one supermarket.”