Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fresh Direct Now Drives Through the Bronx to Deliver to Westchester

We recently received this infuriating email from a BD reader...Grrrr, so frustrating!
I just read that FreshDirect is expanding their delivery coverage into
Westchester County.

Up until now, I had been giving FreshDirect the benefit of the doubt
as to their reasons they don't serve the Bronx. After all, I thought
their business model of allowing people to order groceries on the web
for home delivery depended not on population density alone, but on
density of population with internet access, bank accounts, and credit

But now they're driving through the Bronx to get to a county where
they most certainly have to drive considerable distances from location
to location to make deliveries? In Manhattan, they usually park the
truck once and deliver to several households at once with a hand
truck, and that made sense to me. But now they're demonstrating that
they're willing to drive to make a delivery, just not within the
Bronx. That infuriates me. People in the Bronx need access to fresh
groceries, and I have a hard time believing they'd get fewer customers
per square mile here than they do in Westchester.

Currently, FreshDirect seems to only deliver to Riverdale in the
Bronx. I entered several Bronx zip codes into their lookup widget:
For those of you who don't know, the Fresh Direct warehouse is located in Long Island City, Queens. So yep, they'll be cutting through the BoogieDown in order to bring a convenient grocery shopping option to our neighbors up in Westchester, and even some in Connecticut!



Jack said...

Their policy is absurd. A few years ago, when I first saw one of their trucks in Riverdale, in a neighborhood with my same zip code, I got excited, thinking they started delivering to the Bronx. I used the widget back then -- and they asked for my address after entering the zip code. It told me I am not in a delivery area. I live Van Cortlandt Village -- not the Riverdale Section of the zip code. I called years ago to complain and they could offer no rationale.

Anonymous said...

BD, if you genuinely believed that offering a living wage would have made the Armory a financial non-starter for businesses, surely you can see the logic behind Fresh Direct's decision to bypass low-income neighborhoods where they are not likely to generate a lot of sales, no?

Fresh Direct has most of its capital tied up in its workforce and trucks. They are carrying around frozen/perishable foods that has to be delivered quickly and within a two-hour window. They can only service a neighborhood once they've achieved some critical volume -- it's not a matter of "hey, drop off this single order in West Farms on your way out to Tuckahoe, okay?"

btw, Fresh Direct offers an excellent, quick pick-up service in LIC. No delivery fee (obv), and you can pick up at 7 o'clock sharp on a Sat morning, which is awesome.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why they didn't give you their rationale, Jack, because it's simple and straightforward -- they do not believe that people in your immediate neighborhood will order enough groceries for them to generate a profit vs. the extra staff and trucks they need to invest in in order to provide service there.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, FreshDirect would do just fine delivering to the Bronx. There are enough people living in the Bronx who would love to use their services. But I realize I do not have numbers to support this. I only have the idea that most of my neighbors would happily order at least $60 bucks of groceries every other week... but I highly doubt FreshDirect has the numbers to support their BX drive-through without offering service.

BTW, thanks BX for killing the Armory project and disallowing people to work and even more people to get fresh groceries. Oh well, we can hand out tax subsidies for those special BX groceries to expand while leaving some areas stuck shopping at corner stores.


A BX resident who is sick of the BX stereotype and sick of having to drive to Westchester to buy competitively groceries at a store who does not employ immigrants off the books to avoid paying a living wage.

Anonymous said...

Opps... that was suppose to be competively-prices groceries.

Jack said...

Anonymous at 11:10am -- you sure sound like someone who works for Fresh Direct. Well -- if that is Fresh Direct's rationale -- it is ill-informed. My neighborhood, a mix of private houses and stable multi-family housing (co-op and rental) is a stable middle class neighborhood, with more than enough income and a high concentration of under-served grocery buyers. Buyers who, given our location, have spent a lot of dough in Westchester grocery stores. I should point out that my attempt to get Fresh Direct delivery was years ago -- before my neighborhood added an excellent, expanded specialty grocery store at Broadway and 233rd Street-- Garden Gourmet. Also the Stop and Shop at 234th has since renovated and greatly improved its service. Even the C-Town on VanCortlandt Ave has gotten new owners and improved a great deal. Given these options, my desire for Fresh Direct's services are much lower. Fresh Direct could have done quite the business before these options -- and maybe still could. Given how Fresh Direct has dissed and continues to diss the Bronx - they've lost me as a potential customer even if they added my neighborhood. If you saw John Stewart's Daily Show last night -- he sang a song for Bernie Goldberg and FOX News -- that song is in my mind when I think of Fresh Direct.

Link to Daily Show if you curious about the lyrics:

Anonymous said...

Not a Fresh Direct employee, Jack, just a long-time customer (I think we received our first order during their first week of existence) and someone who waited patiently for years for them to deliver to Riverdale.

We were thrilled when Fresh Direct started up -- iwe lived in Yorkville, where our choices were a horrible Gristedes or an overpriced Food Emporium or a long walk to Citarella or Gourmet Garage, where you couldn't really do a comprehensive shop. Fresh Direct was a huge improvement and they instantly became our go-to weekly grocer.

But then we moved to Riverdale, outside the zone. I wrote them a letter about it saying that they were passing up a potential gold mine -- great demographics with laughably poor local groceries. Eventually enough other people wrote letters, too, or (more likely) they were doing well enough to free up some expansion capital.

They're in the business to make money. I think the neighborhood where you live is wonderful and maybe their cost-benefit analysis is all wrong. But that's a little bit different from what BD was implying in his/her analysis.

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guywithacause said...

Yup..that's what happens when you live in the Bronx. It is always an uphill battle to get anything. Can you believe that my area of the Bronx (Mott Haven) did not even have the option of getting cable until 1994? Nevermind that the North Bronx had been served for decades before, and Manhattan and Queens just over the border as well.

Fresh Direct won't be serving the Bronx anytime soon. Why? Not because it would not be profitable, but because it will be MORE profitable elsewhere. There is more money and influence concentrated elsewhere and in neighboring communities. Once those areas are saturated, then they will CONSIDER the Bronx...always the way it has been.

Jack said...

My gripe with Fresh Direct is that they are unwilling to look at the Bronx beyond Riverdale. Of course there are going to be parts of the Bronx that may not get served. I understand there needs to be a minimum number of customers. Fine. That is not all Fresh Direct is doing, however -- they are dealing in old, worn-out stereotypes of the Bronx. My word, they went out of their way to lop off part of a zip code to avoid delivering to any other part of the Bronx! Look at the chart of home delivery fees on their website -- they can't even allow themselves to use the word "Bronx" -- every freaking other borough is named. Not the Bronx. They deliver to only to "Riverdale". I'm singing Stewart's song even louder in my head!

Boogiedowner said...

What were we implying, anon?

Lis said...

To anon at 12:29 -- great idea! I, for one, am willing to write the letter and start a conversation with Fresh Direct as to how we can get them to offer their services in the BX. Anyone with me!??!

Anonymous said...

BD, you (and the letter you cited) implied that FD has some sort of moral obligation to serve all of the Bronx regardless of whether it would be profitable for them to do so.

A major sticking point with the Armory negotiation was the business community's contention that providing a minimum "living wage" $2-3 above Federal minimum wage would make investment in the project unprofitable. If I recall correctly, you felt the business community had a legitimate complaint. If I'm wrong, please correct me, but I think your stance on that and your stance on FD are somewhat incompatible.

For the record, given the borough's wretched general state of health, I would happily support giving Fresh Direct some sort of subsidy or tax break to deliver to neighborhoods they otherwise wouldn't touch.

Boogiedowner said...

I think you missed the implication, anon. There is no posturing about "moral obligations." I can't speak for the intention of the email sent to us, but I feel that FD is ignoring a segment of the Bronx in which it would make a lot of money.

The issue isn't moral at all. I simply think that FD should reevaluate it's delivery regions based on real demand, rather than perceived demand.

I know that we and MANY of our neighbors and readers in the Northwest Bronx would gladly use FD as opposed to shopping in Westchester or at the horrific options most of us have in the Bronx.

I with Lis; let's start a letter writing campaign and ask FD to reconsider its policies.

I'm pretty sure FD has never done a market analysis of the NW Bronx. If it did and there aren't enough costumers, so bit it.

I do wonder, where anonymous' indignation and reference to moral obligations came from.

In terms of the Armory, the old BD stands by its opinion: it was dumb and shortsighted to kill the Armory and the jobs it would bring. KARA can't dictate wages to potential tenants in the Armory.

To be honest, I don't entirely see your connection bewteen FD and the Armory.

Boogiedowner said...

And I meant "customers" or "paying clients" rather than what I typed: "costumers" or those who dress others in disguises or other finery.

My fat fingers be damned! I don't type as much as mash the keyboard.

Anonymous said...

The connection is pretty simple, BD. In the case of the armory, you believed it was okay for the corporations to act in their own interest and defended their (ridiculous) claim that the living wage provision would make investment unprofitable. Literally.

Here? You are actually claiming that FD hasn't done any market research on the NW Bronx ex-Riverdale-Fieldston. Come on.

They want to make money. They probably have a fairly decent way of knowing how much they need to sell to make it worth their while. It's a really, really poor borough.

I think the letters are a good idea, and I am willing to bet it wouldn't be that hard to contact a community rep at the company who could give you an idea what their expectations are for expansion into a new neighborhood/block/whatever.

Boogiedowner said...

I am saying that FD probably hasn't done its due diligence. It's most likely operating on an outdated stereotype of the NW Bronx as incapable of producing enough paying customers.

To be honest, it kind of sounds like you, as an Riverdale resident, may also be operating on an outdated stereotype of the NW Bronx.

Your gripe about the Armory, is a different issue. I do not think you can conflate the two. The fact of the matter is, that the Armory is still vacant and will be vacant for many years. There was a possibility of having a company invest $300 million into the economy of the Bronx and the City and to create 2,2000 jobs (most of which would have been "living wage").

If you would like to debate the Armory that's okay. I stand by my position based in reality and pragmatism rather than ideological delusion. To lump the FD thing into the Armory debate is just not responsible.

Anonymous said...

No need to worry about my delicate sensibilities and hilltop misapprehensions influencing the discussion, BD. There is plenty of easily accessed demographic data out there -- community board, Census tract, school catchment zone, etc.

Show me the data for the area you propose to have FD expand to, and then we can compare it to a sample of the areas they already serve.

Do you honestly think there won't be an absolutely enormous and stark difference in the data, whether it's household income or likelihood of a given household to use FD?

If you don't, we'll have to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

This argument is not unlike the one about the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in Bronx supermarkets. Both FD and the supermarkets are in business to make money. If Bronx shoppers bought produce, markets would stock more. If they requested produce and got their friends to request it, store managers would accommodate them to increase profit. Maybe the majority of residents need to want something, then voice their wants, then pay for what they want. A few speaking for the many will not accomplish anything. The armory is proof of that. The people need to speak out.

Boogiedowner said...

This post is the beginning of people asking for what they want.

Of course, Riverdale has a higher per capita income than, say, Bedford Park or Van Cortlandt Village- we're not arguing against data.

Isn't there a base line of groceries that everyone needs to buy - even if they don't live in Riverdale or Yorkville?

I certainly see the Pioneer van (with its sub-par prices and quality) delivering food to many buildings in my neighborhood all the time.

Hopefully we and our readers can persuade FD to begin deliveries to certain neighborhoods close to where they already deliver.

Frankly, your incredulity and generalizations are a little misplaced. I am still wondering why this post got you so riled up. And let me add that it's pretty hard to stomach someone in Riverdale within the delivery zone criticizing others for desiring service from FD.

We'll have to agree to disagree on this.

Anonymous said...

Anon: You are attacking the wrong people; go elsewhere. Call FD and tell them you agree with them not servicing the Bronx (other than Riverdale). I, along with BD, are going to call FD and write letters asking them to service our areas or offer us a solution as to if we can pick up our groceries in Riverdale (rather than driving to Westchester).

Also, I do not see how supporting a grocery store in the Armory and wanting FD to deliver groceries here is incompatible. I wish FD could get subsidies to deliver food to the rest of the Bronx. Even more, I have a student who works for FD and he is in unionized. As for a living wage, unions don't guarantee a living wage but at least unions are pretty good with protecting worker's rights. So, there problem solved. You can keep your Armory vacant and I can get fresh, competively-priced groceries from FD without driving to Westchester.

Jay Shuffield said...

Just a few quick thoughts:

- There is nothing inconsistent between supporting a supermarket at the Armory and suggesting Fresh Direct could make money in other parts of The Bronx. Support for a supermarket at the Armory required a belief that there was enough demand here to be served. Since that demand won't be met at the Armory, it seems entirely compatible to suggest it could be met by Fresh Direct.

- I suspect Morton Williams knows more about the demand in the local market than just about anybody else. They were obviously concerned enough that competition providing higher quality fresh food would cut into their profits that they spent a substantial amount of their own money to fight that possibility.

(Important note: as long as a retailer has a captive market, it might be able to maximize its own profits without providing everything that would be provided in a competitive marketplace.)

(Further note, no supermarket would have received any subsidy at the Armory. The developer would have charged market rents, and any surplus from the "subsidy" that wasn't actually necessary for the extra construction costs inside the deteriorated, landmarked City property would have become extra profit for the developer. The developer would have zero motive to share that profit with his tenants.)

Anonymous said...

Come on. I didn't "attack people" nor am I criticizing anyone for wanting FD to come to their neighborhood. I *am* criticizing the basis of the complaints against FD, however.

You are asking them to make a pretty big departure from their business model -- a far bigger departure, imo, than the businesses at the Armory would have had to make in relation to the living wage provision. That's been my point all along.

one other thing: the notion that I'm playing some sort of neighborhood superiority card is laughable. My neighborhood is too lame to have its own blog.

Unknown said...

Being opposed to a mandatory living wage at the armory is both like and unlike thinking Fresh Direct is lame for not delivering to the entire Bronx.

The positions are similar in that they are both rooted in desiring better access to quality, affordable groceries for Bronx residents.

They are dissimilar in that the former position is somewhat "free market" based, while the latter appears to be a criticism of a market-based policy (although there is also an overlapping criticism stating that the decision is based on erroneous assumption rather than real data.)

Unknown said...

"Both FD and the supermarkets are in business to make money. If Bronx shoppers bought produce, markets would stock more."

This assumes that business people always know their potential markets, which is not always so. See Magic Johnson opening multiplex cinemas in black neighborhoods, a successful move which many "expert" businesspeople had simply assumed was a bad idea prior to its implementation.

"If they requested produce and got their friends to request it, store managers would accommodate them to increase profit. Maybe the majority of residents need to want something, then voice their wants, then pay for what they want."

Yes, this is a possible solution, but one which is only necessary when businesspeople fail to see their potential markets; a failure which is a loss to both the businesses in question and their potential customers. I would be shocked if Van Cortlandt Village did not offer enough customers to justify Fresh Direct deliveries, and I would be very curious to see what data, if any, Fresh Direct relied on in deciding not to deliver there.

Anonymous said...

Please Fresh Direct come to NW Bronx!