BuzzFeed has a story about how “complaints about AmazonFresh, the internet retailer's grocery delivery and pickup service, have been flowing freely, proving to those who fear Amazon that the company doesn't do everything perfectly. While AmazonFresh aspires to be the the future of grocery shopping — if online ordering proves convenient enough to replace weekend supermarket trips — it doesn't seem to be quite there yet.”

The evidence comes from Amazon’s own customer review system, and the story notes that “AmazonFresh scored an average 3.3 stars out of 5 … The largest category of reviewers (29%) give it five stars, but the second-largest (28%) gave it one star.”

The story goes on: “With its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods this year, Amazon has shown it is serious about groceries. Yet, despite its fans, AmazonFresh itself still looks like an imperfect experiment in e-commerce, and the jury is still out on whether online grocery shopping will ever become more than a niche activity.”

KC's View: I’ve wondered for a long time if the changes made over time in the Amazon Fresh offering will serve the company well. In order to scale the business up, Amazon has eliminated some of the more personalized, expertise-driven parts of the model - like having in-house experts doing the produce picking and communicating recommendations to shoppers - in favor of a more commoditized approach. I can understand why this seemed more expandable, but Amazon Fresh has not been profitable to this point, and they’ve even had to scale back the markets in which it is offered because of lack of penetration.

That said, Amazon always has known that the Fresh business might take the longest of all its businesses to be profitable, and that its Fresh customers spend an enormous amount more on Amazon than non-Fresh customers, and so it is worth doing it just to keep its ecosystem intact. So there are a lot of moving parts here.

But … the BuzzFeed survey of Amazon user reviews shows us that at least in some cases, deliveries are late or damaged … the products is seen as unacceptably expensive … and that there are even food safety issues related to things like mold or fruit flies on bananas or almost-expired beef.

This is like bringing your “B” game to a market that requires an “A” game. The problems aren’t universal, but they’re not acceptable at any level, and certainly inhibit the model’s ability to scale up to the point of being profitable. Worse, it leaves open a window for a competitor that can do it better. You can’t do that.