Amazon Toys With New Grocery Service

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Consumers already rely on Amazon.com for buying everything from used books to electronics, but soon they may come to lean one the site for their grocery needs as well.

Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) has been testing a new service for several months called Amazon Tote, which allows shoppers to sign up for free weekly deliveries of food products and other items sold on the site. As of now, Amazon says millions of products are eligible to be shipped free of charge through this program.

Those interested in taking advantage of this option can simply browse the site for products they need that week, and if the item is eligible, users can add it to their virtual tote bag, and choose a day in the coming week when they’d like all their goods to be shipped. Users can continue adding items to this list until two days before the delivery date.

In this way, consumers would be able to handle all their basic shopping needs online and have the necessities delivered to their homes free of charge so they never have to contend with crowded supermarkets again. Unfortunately, there is one big downside to this program: As of now, it is still only available in Seattle, where Amazon is based. But according to one report, Amazon posted a message on the site Tuesday saying the program “will be expanding soon,” before removing that message shortly after.

While this is still a matter of speculation, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if Amazon made a big push for this service. In recent weeks, the company has been ambitious in launching new features, including a online tool for lending e-books free of charge and a new bulk e-mail service.

In essence, the Amazon Tote service seems to be a rebranded version of Amazon Fresh, which also allows customers to shop for groceries to be delivered by the next day. This program is also only available in Seattle. But the big difference seems to be that Amazon Tote will let customers take care of all their essential shopping needs for the week, rather than focusing on last-minute grocery orders.

However, even if this program expands beyond the Seattle area into other markets across the country, it still may not be the most cost-efficient option. Sure, you’ll save money on shipping – not to mention time and gas– but this may not offset the fact that food products are often pricier on Amazon than in supermarkets and big box stores.

Our friends at BargainBabe.com recently did some comparison shopping for groceries including meats, treats and produce sold at Amazon, Stop & Shop and BJ’s Warehouse and found that of the three, Amazon fared the worst, charging more than twice as much for the same goods.

While this new grocery service may be convenient, it could still end up costing more money in the long run.

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