The first company permitted no compromise on the contents of the box. It was a surprise when it arrived at my door, and there was no room for customizing my order. I liked the idea of a box full of things I wouldn't usually choose to buy. It intrigued my sense of culinary adventure, piqued my imagination, and tickled my curiosity. In theory, that is. In practice, it just gave me a box full of stuff I didn't really like or want, and nothing in the fridge that my boys would eat. Sad, sad, sad. The produce was generally pretty nice, with some of it achieving 'beautiful' status. But over all, the constraints made it feel ... like a waste.
The second company permitted limited substitutions, which allowed me to get some stuff I wanted, but still forced me to get some stuff I wouldn't normally choose. Instead of encouraging culinary adventure, this brought on culinary frustration as I tried to figure out interesting ways of preparing things that nobody but I would eat. Additionally, they consistently managed to have trouble weighing their produce. With them, a pound was never a pound. Sometimes a pound of carrots would be about 2/3 of a pound, and a pound of beets would be 3/4 of a pound. I started weighing the produce when it arrived, like some kind of rigid, controlling oligarchical kitchen dictator. I didn't like feeling like some freaking control freak checking up on people because I couldn't trust them to do their job correctly. But when it all looks skimpy, what's a gal to do? In addition to being short, it was often mushy, bruised, rotty, or in some way past its prime. They managed to forget part of my order, and then replaced it later on with the wrong thing. Not a lot of attention to detail, and not beautiful produce. On the plus side, they were unerringly cheerful, and seemed determined to 'fix' the problem. Unfortunately, they just seemed like they were in over their heads.
Finally, Goldilocks, it was just right. The third and final company we tried allowed unlimited substitutions for their organic produce bin. They assigned a dollar value for each item, and you could just make up your box to total the amount allotted for it. I got to try things I've never tried but was very excited about, such as wild leeks and fresh fava beans. Both were fabulous. And when it galled me to be offered fruit I didn't want at a high price, I simply swapped it for something I really really needed, like black radishes or extra collard greens. It was fabulous to get a huge box packed full of stuff I wanted! I don't want lettuce, and instead got only greens for cooking. Hurrah! A big box full of stuff I wanted! (I had to say it again, because it's so simple, really, yet so wonderful. ) Additionally, I have to tell you that the produce was all beautiful. All fresh, all delicious, no mushy, rotty, best-before-date-gone-by items in the batch. Broccoli so fresh it tasted almost like raw sweet summer peas. Black radishes with nary a soft spot on them. Greens so fresh I had to slap 'em to keep their hands to themselves. Joke.
Maybe I am a picky produce purchaser. I don't expect organic produce to be blemish free and perfect looking. A nibbled leaf here or there is part of the package. However, wilty food that is already on the verge of rotting when it arrives at my door, so that if I don't use it all within 2 days it's good only for the garbage bin, just doesn't seem right to me.
Finally, I found the customer service for this last company to be friendly and efficient, and they do offer a satisfaction guarantee for any item in your box. If it doesn't live up to your expectations, they will either offer a replacement or a refund on that item. However, everything exceeded my expectations. So, I guess that means my expectations, while high, were not unrealistic, and definitely not unreachable.
And the winner of this organic delivery wrestling match?
Front Door Organics
They also offer a reasonably well stocked organic grocery store to shop from online to be included with your order. The box and the additional items are helpful for people who are too busy to go to the grocery store and still want healthy organic food and produce, or who are so sick of going shopping that they want to gouge their own eyes out.
I'm not going to post the names of the other two companies because I don't want this to be a wall of shame. Additionally, they were pretty nice and meant well, and I would feel rather libelous (even writing the truth) if I were to name them in this blog. It's enough to say that Front Door Organics stepped up to the plate, hit it out of the park, scored a touch down, and various other positive-sounding sports analogies. Third time is a charm. I won't be looking any further for organic home delivery produce.