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Shoppers' Report : Good News for Armchair Shoppers : Shopping: For a fee, Lucky will bring groceries to your door.

November 01, 1990|RUTH REICHL | TIMES FOOD EDITOR

If you are a person who hates to go to the grocery store, Oct. 11 was a day to remember. That is the day that Lucky Stores Inc. started delivering food to your door.

Home delivery, of course, is not new: Wealthy people have always had their groceries come to them. All they had to do was pay the price. Even today, chichi shops with high prices and home delivery are not hard to find (see list below). But what Lucky has done is democratize the process: If you live in Los Angeles, San Diego or Orange counties, you no longer need to be rich to have your groceries delivered.

The service isn't free, though. It costs $12.50 for same-day delivery. Is it worth it? To find out, four people on the Food staff ordered groceries last week. None of us identified ourselves as being from The Times, and all of us ordered a wide selection of groceries, including produce, meat, frozen foods and items that are not listed in the catalogue. This is what we found:

Ordering: You must order from a catalogue (available at all Lucky stores), and order items by number. This means that the first order involves a time-consuming process of searching through the catalogue to find what you want and a long time on the telephone to order it. However, placing a second order is much faster; groceries arrive with a meticulous print-out, and on subsequent orders you can simply say, "Send me everything you sent last time except . . . ."

The people who answer the 800 number are courteous and quick; they give no indication that they are actually in Nashville, Tenn. (Shopper's Express, which runs the service, takes the order in Nashville and then faxes it to the nearest Lucky.) In every case they were aware of the details: how many, what color, what flavor, which grade? And they were very willing to take orders for items not listed in the catalogue.

Two people here at The Times placed their orders by fax. If you have easy access to a fax machine, this is undoubtedly the easiest option.

The phone number is (800) 284-SHOP. The fax number is (800) 333-LIST. Orders may be placed 24 hours a day.

Delivery: You can ask that the order arrive between noon and 4 p.m or between 6:30 and 9:30 in the evening. There is no weekend delivery.

Two of us had the delivery man at the door promptly at 6:30, and one of us had him arrive in the middle of the evening. The fourth person waited all evening for her groceries and then telephoned the store at 9:30 to cancel the order. Shopper's Express telephoned the next day to apologize and explain that a driver had been ill.

Those of us who did get groceries found that the delivery men were polite and helpful (and in at least one case very handsome). The delivery men all gladly carried the groceries right into the kitchen. This makes the service especially attractive for times when you are ordering large quantities of heavy items.

In all cases the groceries were beautifully packed. In one case the ice cream was a little soft, and in another the bananas were green, but for the most part the produce was as perfect as if we had picked it ourselves.

Cost: Lucky's Shopper's Express costs $11.95 for next-day delivery, $12.50 for same-day delivery (orders must be placed before 10 a.m.). For senior citizens, next-day delivery is $9.95. You pay by check or credit card; coupons are not accepted. Another downside: the catlogue has no prices, so you can't comparison shop. But this group of working people thought that it was not too much to pay to avoid standing in line at the checkout counter and lugging groceries in and out of the car. In fact, Lucky vice president Jim Clark says that the actual expenses of the service are not covered by these fees; the store sells ads in the catalogue. In fact, Clark says that the items listed in red in the catalogue are actually paid ads.

Want faster service? Don't mind paying the price? All of the following stores offer armchair shopping.

Balboa Market--608 E. Balboa Blvd., Balboa, (714) 673-8310. Orders of any size and amount will be delivered without a service charge. Call from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and delivery can usually be made within two hours to anywhere in the harbor area.

Chalet Gourmet--7880 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (213) 874-6301. A minimum $35 order is required for delivery. There's no charge for local service, but one may be added as distance from the store increases. Orders may be placed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Delivery time depends on the size of the order and distance from the store, but most orders are delivered in 1 1/2 hours.

Fireside Markets--1425 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (213) 451-5743. There's no minimum amount on delivered orders, but all have a $3 service charge. Call from 9 to 11 a.m. for afternoon delivery anywhere in Santa Monica.

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