a comparison in customer service

Dinner in prep... food from Relay...
Dinner in prep… food from Relay…

It’s no big secret – I tried Relay Foods (https://www.relayfoods.com) a while back and was just flat out wowed! Are they perfect? Nope. There have been mistakes, and they were quickly, cheerfully, and completely handled by their customer service crew.

While they’re great on food stuffs and some household items, there are a few things they don’t carry that we like. Which puts us back to the “where do we go for…” question.

Lo and behold! Harris Teeter has a cool service where you shop online, then schedule the pickup. They bag up everything and when you arrive, you push the call button, and a cheery HT employee comes out with your purchases and loads them in your trunk tout de suite.

Sounds right up my alley! That’s on the way home! I can do that! It will save me time! Yes!

Sadly… no… but wait… there’s more to the story…

What happened:

I pulled up at my appointed time. I pressed the call button. It rang, and rang, and rang, and rang… 20 or more times, I don’t know exactly because I didn’t start counting until after several rings with no answer. Eventually someone picked up, and I had a flashback to ordering at a fast food drive through.

“Garbledy-ssshhhckckshhhhhssshsshhhkkkkk-help you?”

Were they speaking Martian?

After a few repeats, I gave the person my name and was assured someone would be out in just a minute or two.

Tick tock… tick tock… After 10 minutes I tried calling again, but got no answer. I tried again after 15. This time I got an answer on the 30th ring – I counted. She at least sounded less like a drive through, but did have to put me on hold several times while she… what… I don’t know… checked on my order? Took care of someone else? Asked for help? When she finally came back she assured me it would be just another minute.

True enough, just a minute later out came two (apparently it takes two to handle a small order) young men, who were either inexperienced at this game, or playing a game with me. They stood around looking expectantly at me to do something.

I got out of my car and opened the rear hatch for them (despite the fact that I had already unlatched the thing). Then I waited while Guy1 tried multiple times to swipe my card through the reader, while Guy2 stood around wondering what to do. Eventually he decided that maybe he should put the bags in my car, since, y’know, I wasn’t doing it or anything.

The whole experience? Just over 20 minutes. The feeling? Mild frustration that I could have gotten out and shopped in that amount of time. Ditto at the umm… “helpful” staff.

When I got home, I got to experience a study in contrasts.

My Relay Foods order had arrived. The driver was already upstairs with the boxes. My son had let him in and he was in the kitchen, getting ready to unload everything onto the counter as usual.

Pleasant hellos, he and I unloaded the groceries, some polite conversation, and he was gone in less than 10 minutes – after delivering literally four times the amount of things I picked up at Harris Teeter.

This is the service I get each and every week from Relay. I place my order, it comes on time. If I’m not home, it’s delivered to my front door. If I am home, they bring it in, unload the boxes and take them away so I don’t have to store them for the next week.


I sent an email to HT, the manager called me back, profusely apologizing for the experience. Not just in words – he refunded the entire purchase because, as he said, “20 minutes is far too long for the express lane pickup service!”

Final score?

Harris Teeter: Amended grade is a B-, they get major points for calling back quickly, the manager not offering lame excuses, but instead taking responsibility, and not only apologizing but offering some tangible expression as well. (original grade: D- they were saved from an F only by having my order correct.)

Well done, HT, I’ll give it another shot.

Relay Foods: A+ everything was perfect!

This is what those groceries up there became... and yes, the tomatoes really were that red...
This is what those groceries up there became… and yes, the tomatoes really were that red…