All About Efficiency: Laundry Service and AmazonFresh

20170920_170054Living in a city makes certain things more difficult. Laundry and grocery shopping are two of them. I recently started bringing my laundry (clothes only) to the laundromat to be washed, dried, and folded every Wednesday for their $1/pound special. The first week I had 18lbs. This week it was only 14lbs. Sure, laundry is $4/load in my apartment’s basement, but there are some issues I run into almost every time I use them:

  • There are only 2 washers and 2 dryers for 13 apartments and about 30 tenants.
  • They are in the basement, 4 flights of narrow stairs below my apartment.
  • Often, the machines are in use when I want to do laundry. Many times, both washers are being occupied by the same person. Welcome to living with rude a-holes.
  • The machines only take quarters, and only American quarters, and only certain American quarters. I usually bring an extra dollar’s worth with me just in case.
  • Sometimes the coin bin is full, and you are sh** out of luck.
  • Because of the aforementioned quarters only rule, I have to go to the bank on a Saturday between 9am and 12pm to get quarters (all the branches around here are only open 9-4 on weekdays). The line is never shorter than 10 minutes.
  • For the first 5 minutes of a wash cycle, the machine remains unlocked. If you leave before it locks, sometimes it mysteriously stops. So when you go back downstairs 45 minutes later, your laundry might not have really started yet.
  • Because the washer locks, if you start the washer and realize something fell out of your basket on the way down the 4 flights of stairs, you are sh** out of luck.
  • Both washers start counting down from 38 minutes. One washer finishes after about 40 minutes, the other washer is closer to 50.
  • Socks, panties, and other little items often fall into the door of the washer and don’t get washed and definitely don’t get spun, so they are both dirty and soaking wet at the end of a cycle.
  • They are crappy a** washers, so my clothes often come out the washer twisted, stretched, or tied in knots.
  • You can add laundry detergent from the top of the machine, but someone removed the bleach and fabric softener dispensers years ago, and the basins are caked with black mold anyway. So if you want to add bleach or fabric softener, you have to watch the washer for 40+ minutes or go back 4 flights of stairs at precisely the right point in the cycle.
  • There are 2 dryers and the same rules about certain American quarters and full bins apply.
  • One of the dryers will allow you to add a quarter on top of the $2. Each additional quarter adds 15 minutes on top of the $2/60-minute fee.
  • The other dryer has no such feature. If your clothes aren’t dry after an hour, you’re sh** out of luck.
  • Your clothes will come out of the dryer, even on “low heat,” with burn marks.
  • Or your clothes won’t be dry at all.
  • Or, you’ll come down 4 flights of stairs after an hour to find some a-hole in the building opened the dryer mid-cycle, and your clothes are soaking wet and you’re out $2. If those were the last of your quarters, you’re sh** out of luck.

So, do I think $14 or even $18 is worth it? Abso-effing-lutely. I may even start bringing my sheets and towels to the be washed & folded, but for now I can deal with one easy load of linens I don’t care about being burned or air-dried.

Grocery shopping is a whole other beast. You know, I actually enjoy the act of walking around the aisles with a cart, buying things off my list and also being inspired to Google recipes based on an ingredient I want to try or didn’t realize I hadn’t had in a while. But the whole getting there and getting said groceries into my kitchen is not enjoyable at all.

If I am going to Trader Joe’s, which is cheaper than anywhere else around here, I run into the following:

  • Driving into Brookline is downright maddening for people like me with road rage.
  • But the closest Trader Joe’s (for now – Allston coming soon!) is in Coolidge Corner. God help me if I forget to turn at the right time, because half the roads in that area are one-way AND no left turn.
  • Once I get to the Trader Joe’s parking lot, is absolute madness. It’s so bad they have a parking lot attendant AND a police office most days. The parking lot has about 20 spots and is one-way only, so I’ve sat in line waiting to park for – no joke – 10+ minutes before. On weekends, Sundays especially, you can park in the nearby bank parking lot by you are likely to get parked in (a car illegally parks behind you, blocking you in).
  • I usually opt to park on a side street, but this can mean carrying my heavy groceries 10+ minutes back to my car.
  • They don’t carry a lot of “normal” things like Crispix , RXBARs, and Skinny Cow ice cream – all of which are almost always on my weekly grocery list.
  • When I get home, I rarely find a parking spot in front of apartment, so I am now lugging several bags of very heavy groceries back to my apartment from up to a block away and then up 4 flights of stairs.

Shopping at Stop & Shop is a much more pleasant experience, but prices are more than Trader Joe’s, especially when it comes to buying organic.

At work a few weeks ago, we got talking about AmazonFresh. I was the only one who had maybe possibly heard of it, but had no idea what it was (which is shocking, because I’m on Amazon several times a day). Turns out, it’s only in select cities right now, but Boston is one of them.

After doing some research and adding a bunch of items to my cart that I would normally buy, and realizing the prices were pretty comparable to Stop & Shop, I decided to give a try. Sure, it’s more expensive than Trader Joe’s, but until they open the Allston store, going to the one in Brookline isn’t even worth the discount.

A few cons about AmazonFresh:

  • They still seem pretty limited in their selections. For example: you can’t buy any clementines this time of year, or certain brands of foods.
  • Your options are based on your delivery window, or vice versa. For example: you can pick your items or your delivery window first. If you pick Saturday 8-10am, then some items will show as “not available” during that window. If you pick all your items then go to checkout, you will see any number of your items are not available during certain windows.
  • Your options also seem to change daily. On Wednesday and Thursday, there was basically NO ice cream available for Sunday delivery. By Friday, there were dozens of ice cream choices available for Sunday delivery.
  • On my first order, I was notified the night before my Saturday 6-8am delivery that Argo cornstarch wasn’t available, so they substituted a different brand but refunded me for that item and didn’t change me for the substitute. That worked out fine, but what would they have done for my Skinny Cow ice cream bars or Fishpeople frozen fish kit (comes with seasoning and a cheese topping)? No idea.
  • The whole delivery system is great, but SUPER wasteful (just as I found Blue Apron, Plated, and Peapod back when I used them). My groceries came in three giant plastic bags, which are then inside their own “cooler” tote to stay cold/frozen. There were lots of ice packs and even some dry ice keeping everything cold. Is this being reused/recycled? Not by me. I left everything but the giant plastic bags in the totes, and then returned the plastic bags to the totes after I had put away my groceries.
  • These totes remained in my apartment lobby for days. Apparently Amazon will pick them up when they drop off your next delivery. But what if you don’t have another delivery coming up? Or what if your landlord and neighbors don’t want to stare at these giant totes for a week? Do you suck it up and keep them in the corner of your own apartment (remember all those ice packs I mentioned? yeah, not lugging those upstairs)? Turns out you can request a special pickup – just leave them outside your front door and someone will come by in 1-3 days to get them. The good news is they were picked up (or stolen, it’s anyone’s guess) the same day I requested the pickup.
  • The spinach I received – a bunch of fresh spinach because no bags of baby spinach were available that week – had been packed up against an ice pack, so it had frozen, then thawed, essentially spoiling it. It was dark and slimy and went straight into my trash can. Amazon refunded me for the item, but the problem was I needed spinach. They also credited me $15 as an apology, which is super generous and much appreciated, but it still meant I had to make a special trip to the grocery store for spinach the next day, and had to go without it in my smoothie that morning.
Gross spinach – the only issue with my first AmazonFresh order.

All-in-all, the pros outweigh the cons and I already added nearly $100 worth of groceries to my cart for delivery on Sunday between 4 and 6pm, which is going to be great. I’ll be at my mom’s all weekend, and usually leave around noon to drive the 2.5-3 hours back home.


The last thing I want to do when I get home from sitting in traffic where 84 meets the Pike is deal with laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning and meal-prepping, so between the laundry service and AmazonFresh, I only have to deal with the latter 2, both of which I actually enjoy doing.

OK, I don’t actually like cleaning but I like having a clean apartment and I like having it done my way, so it’s worth the hour or so of sweating and bending over and sneezing and washing my hands 17 times because I do not like germs/dirt.


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