Amazon enters the restaurant-delivery game.
  • Amazon enters the restaurant-delivery game.
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A sure sign a new market has become saturated is when the big, established companies come along and want a piece. That’s the case with web-based restaurant delivery services these days. Once the domain of a couple of plucky tech startups, the latest business to invest in the concept is the granddaddy of online shopping itself, Amazon.

Ordering Rubicon Deli sandwiches via Amazon Restaurants

A sub-brand of its Prime Now concept, Amazon Restaurants caught my attention with a $20 first-timer credit. Truth is, most of the sites and apps currently bringing dinner to your house offer similar first-time customer deals. At this point, if you’re smart about it you could probably try them all one after another and get free delivered meals for a week. Except I couldn’t get Amazon Restaurants to bring dinner to my house.

The site works fine, of course, and while it doesn’t yet have a huge list of restaurants serving my area, a lot of my favorite budget options were there. I never thought I would be able to get delivery from a nearby taco shop, for example, or from Mama’s Bakery in University Heights.

The problem, according to the site, was that when I tried to order dinner, service was “unavailable because of high order volume.” This happened on both a Saturday and Sunday night. I suppose it’s good news for Amazon that it has enough orders on deck to send customers away, but being unreliable during the dinner hour is a distinct flaw in the delivery-business model.

A pork belly sandwich from Rubicon Deli, delivered by Amazon.

I settled for a rare lunchtime delivery during the week, ordering 20 dollars of sandwiches from Rubicon Deli in Mission Hills. On a Wednesday afternoon, the Amazon ordering system worked and within half an hour a couple of Rubicon’s very bready subs arrived without hassle.

I thought maybe one of Amazon’s Prime Now vans would bring the meal. I see them cruising around town, after all. But like most of the delivery and ride-sharing services about these days, the service seems to be hiring from what now must be a massive portion of our work force — contract employees competing to make money driving their cars around.

On the plus side, while Amazon requires a 20 dollar minimum order, delivery is free. And the ordering system defaults to add a 5 dollar tip to the driver. You can edit this, of course, but seeing as UberEATS encourages no tip, I’m glad to see Amazon has its drivers covered.

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Comments

Ian Pike Aug. 9, 2016 @ 6:47 p.m.

Headline wise, this seems a little click-baitey...just sayin'

Maybe do a bit more thorough of an exploration and try to find a story beyond, "I tried it once and it didn't work."

Bummer for the delivery guy...gig economy within a gig economy...double loss of workers' rights. Saying they have their delivery guys "covered" is a wee bit myopic, Ian A. I'd be interested to find out who is footing the bill. "free" delivery just means you don't have to pay cash for it. If the rewards are pure data for amazon, you pay death by a thousand advertising papercuts down the line. If the cost of this service is deferred to the restaurants, then they can either dedicate a chunk of their much needed revenue to Amazon, or miss out on a section of consumers that's likely to grow rapidly in coming years. Yet another stroke against small-business in the US...the most small-business unfriendly (and big corporation loving) country in the developed world.

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Ian Anderson Aug. 10, 2016 @ 4:33 p.m.

I haven't investigated the restaurants' end, but there are like 8 of these services running locally, so it's tough to believe any restaurant has to choke on the terms of one over any other to offer delivery.

I have looked into contract driving services a little bit, and obviously they're not pullin down that sweet Feast writer dough. But UberEATS literally instructs customers not to tip, so Amazon encouraging $5 a pop is downright pro labor by comparison. I definitely advocate tipping in cash.

As for clickbaity, I guess that's in the eye of the screen addict. I wanted to go with Amazon Restaurants has zero f**ks left to give, but most of our commenters seem to get upset about profane headlines.

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