A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My review of Urban Organic

What level of vexation are you willing to endure in the pursuit of good ingredients?  Recently, I've come up against my limits.  Here's the story.

Urban Organic is a delivery service which, at a very reasonable price, brings a box of organic produce to your door every week.  Great concept, huh?  Without having to leave your home, you get an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables — organic, for personal as well as planetary health — as well as a Christmas-like excitement upon opening the box each week.  You can find out more about them at their website, urbanorganic.com.

As I stated in my very first post on this blog, I am ambivalent about the Urban Organic experience.

Food — exceedingly good.  Two (green) thumbs up!

Service — friendly and well-meaning, but incompetent.  I sadly bring my thumbs back down.

I went to their website to find out how to contact them with my grievances, and found that the website is as un-user-friendly as I should have perhaps expected.  When I clicked on the link "How Are We Doing? Help Us Help You!" I was confronted with a complicated registration and sign-in process.  Apparently, to let them know how they're doing, you have to leave a message on their public bulletin board.  Are they sure they want my comments out there for everyone to see?

When I submitted my comments, I got a message saying that they would have to be reviewed by staff before posting.  Well, that was several weeks ago, and I have yet to hear from them or to see my comments on the site (no surprise there).

I am feeling a great urge to have my comments heard, so I am going to re-post them here.

Here's what I wrote: 

My family has been getting Urban Organic deliveries for about a month and a half now.  We absolutely love the food.  It's fresh and more delicious than any organic produce we can buy in our local stores.  Despite our satisfaction with the food, we are thinking of terminating our membership because the experience around the deliveries has brought about more stress than fun.  The problems fall into two categories — poor communication and excessive errors.

Communication: This week's delivery provides a perfect example of the poor communication in Urban Organic.  Our Wednesday delivery never came, so I called on Thursday morning to report this and was told that many of the deliveries would be delayed until today because of the snow.  This is perfectly acceptable, but why couldn't a mass email have been sent out, or a message displayed on the website, or even a recording made to play when people called in with questions?

In general, we have felt as though we never quite know what is going on with our delivery.  It should be mentioned to new members that they will be charged beforehand for grocery items that may or may not be available and that refunds will come the following week.  It should be mentioned that unavailable items will be circled on the delivery sheet.  And there needs to be a more informative way of identifying what is not available from the box goods and what has been substituted.  As it stands now, if an item is missing, I have no way of knowing if that is a mistake or if something else was doubled up to compensate.

Mistakes: So far, there has been at least one major or minor error or discrepancy on EVERY order we have received.  The first week, the delivery was several hours late.  (Van problems — an email would have been nice, especially since this was our introduction to the company.) The second week our box was misdelivered to someone else in my building — several floors away.  (At least this person was nice enough to bring me my box!)  The following week, we were billed two delivery charges.  Today, we have been given bananas, which are on our permanent deletions list.  Etc. etc.  Every error requires a phone call to resolve and then I have to keep monitoring the situation to ensure that the promised refunds actually go through.  This has been taking up a lot of time that I do not have.

I would like to say that everyone in the company I have dealt with has been friendly and polite and that all problems have been resolved to my satisfaction.  But the unreliability and confusing/absent communication may cause me to return to Whole Foods for produce until my CSA kicks in again in the summer.  I am hoping that some of the UO procedures can be improved so that I feel comfortable staying with the company.  After all, the people and the produce are great!

---------- (end of review) ----------

Note to my readers: I canceled this week's delivery to give me a little more time to decide whether or not to stay with UO.  Besides, we are getting backlogged on certain items such as carrots and potatoes.  I'll let you know how the situation progresses. . . .

If any of you have had similar or contrasting experiences with Urban Organic, I'd love to hear from you.

Or, if you've never availed yourself of the Urban Organic experience, do you have another modern hunter-gatherer nightmare to share with us?


  1. Goodness, you are up bright and early! I wish I could share with you some of the excess from our summer garden. We don't have anything like UO here, but I do have the space for a garden. It's a lot of work to keep it going, and then harvest and put up what it produces, but it is worth it. Nothing is nicer than tasting a little bit of summer when there's two feet of snow on the ground!

  2. A summer garden! That produces an excess to store away for winter, no less! I'm completely jealous....sometime I will tell the story of the year I tried to grow crops on my NYC balcony. The entire season's harvest could be held in my hands. Send me a pic of your garden sometime.

  3. Seeing as you're in for another snow day, it looks like canceling was a smart move. Stay warm!

    Since you have Whole Foods so close, I'm wondering if that's your best option for winter. It seems as if you would come out ahead in the stress/time factor areas, and you wouldn't have the backlog of carrots and potatoes. Plus, you'd get to visit the cheese basket more often. ;-)

  4. Hi, Debbie! I was just at said cheese basket today. There was a particularly rich assortment available -- a lot of varieties I'd never seen before, including a particularly intriguing one with a layer of mold or ash or perhaps some sort of exotic French dirt in the middle.

    I think you might be right that a weekly trip to WF, which I'll be making anyway, might keep my stress levels down. I'll put together my own box and deliver it myself to my doorstep!

  5. I have a milkman, and he has produce, but most of the year it's tiny quantities and huge prices! If I had the patience, I'd have a greenhouse (but then I'd have to pay to heat it...not good, either...), so I settle for the summer garden. And dream of great produce all winter.

  6. A milkman -- how quaint! That's even better than having a cow. All we have is a pizza delivery guy, but I have to say, on a cold winter night, I love the heck out of my pizza delivery guy!