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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Engagement Ring Still Fits!

Which is good news since I haven't tried it on in almost 5 months.  That's one of the many perks of vacationing in the US, I get to wear my ring!  That and seeing family, friends, speaking to people who can understand us, and all of that other good stuff. 

So we're headed to the US for a little while and while we're there we are also going to add another stamp to the old passport by visiting Jon's family in Toronto and attending his cousin's wedding.  Aside from the fact that Canada is going to be cold and rainy while we're there, we're really looking forward to this trip too.  Weddings are always fun, seeing extended family is great and there is an amazing Canadian store called Roots that Jon and I would own if we had enough money.  We love everything they sell.  Canada, not just America's hat anymore.  

Wish us good travels, light luggage and on-time arrivals...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Basil: FAIL

It's been four weeks since I planted this year's herb crop and I'm not surprised to report that the basil has died an untimely death.  If you remember from my Herb Garden - Take 4 post, basil is my nemesis.  I planted a few different herbs, including basil, as seeds and bought some healthy looking basil plants to try a double barreled approach to keeping basil alive.  Here are my existing plants a few days after I replanted them:
Healthy basil
And here are my basil plants today:
Basil after the Dawn kiss-of-death
I'm not sure what exactly happened to my crop, but between the week of constant clouds, cold weather and rain immediately after planting and the inevitable hand of death that I bring to the table, these guys were against the odds.  There are two lone soldiers that have made it through the basil apocalypse, and they are my last little stalks of hope.  

There is good news.  The last of the basil plants are actually growing.  The seeds that I planted are also growing - and I've got my fingers crossed that some of them are actually basil plants.  They seem to be getting a slow start, they've been growing for a month and only a few of them have developed a second set of leaves, but here's hoping that they keep on growing! 


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quinta Fresca

So the last grocery delivery site in my little experiment is Quinta Fresca, which in contrast, is not a stand alone store but a delivery-only shop.  This little operation is by far the most advanced website of the three that I tried.  Some of the features include:
  • Shopping guides.  Input the number of people you are shopping for and the website generates approximately how much of each item needed for a week.  You can then alter the items recommended before adding to your cart.
  • Information regarding the products.  When you mouse over each item a window pops up with information such as where the item originates, the current quality, how to store it, how long it will keep after delivery, etc.  
  • Price information.  Each product lists if the current price is above or below average for the item.
  • Quality.  The site lists outright if the product is not recommended due to low quality.  This is much better than receiving crappy veggies!
They are a small shop, but offer fruits, vegetables, meats. wines, pastas, fresh flowers and fresh herbs.  This isn't the place where you'll do all of your shopping, but it's like having a farmer's market that delivers.

Overall 5 out of 5 stars.
It's not fair to compare Quinta Fresca to the rest of the stores that I ordered from, they aren't of the same weight-class.  For what it is, Quinta Fresca does a bang up job.  Great customer service, prompt delivery times, and really quality products.  They are close to being a once a week order for us, but they're quality is unparalleled.  Jon noticed that this was the first time since we moved that we had vegetables as clean as we did in the US, normally we have to take the scrubber to them for at least a minute or two.  That's worth it, if nothing else. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jumbo Online Delivery

After my experience with Disco's Online Delivery I decided to try my luck with Jumbo, my other grocery shopping go-to.  My hope was that I could use Disco and Jumbo delivery the same way I use them for "live" shopping, Disco for once-a-week stuff and Jumbo for the big monthly shop.  This turned out to be possible, but not quite as perfect as I had imagined.

To start off, the main Jumbo website has a link to register for their home delivery - every time I attempted to sign up using this link I would end up on a "site maintenance, try again later" style screen.  I tried a number of times over the course of 2 weeks before I stumbled upon the other Jumbo site, Jumbo a Casa, which was where I successfully signed up for their delivery service. 

After sign up, the Jumbo site was almost identical to the Disco site, they seem to be owned/operated by the same company.  Jumbo offers the same delivery windows, the same user functionality and the same features such as "compras express" which will save your previous orders for easy retrieval.  Jumbo has a much larger selection of items like cleaning products, imported items and paper products making the online delivery option even more appealing.

Overall 3 out of 5 stars.
Everything I liked about the Disco ordering system applies for Jumbo, as the websites are virtually identical.  In addition, the Jumbo selection makes it slightly more appealing - they have just about double the items that Disco offers.
Here are the reasons the Jumbo rates lower than Disco on my highly technical star rating system:
  1. Jumbo was out of at least 10 of the items that I ordered - granted they called to inform me of this, but some of their substitute items were really different than what I had originally requested.  For example, I ordered some filet mignon and they substituted something they called "roast beef' that was fatty, thin and nothing at all like filet. 
  2. When I ordered 100 count tissues, they gave me 60 count mini-tissue travel packs.  I'm sorry, what?!  Why can I not order normal tissues online??  After my Disco tissue issues, this might be an in-store only item for me, I can't give Jon more reasons to mock my tissue ordering skills.  Good thing it's allergy season and we actually might go through a zillion mini tissue packs in a reasonable amount of time.  
  3. My expectations were higher.  Due to store size and number of items available I thought Jumbo would surpass Disco in the delivery department.  This really wasn't the case.  Out of the three stores I have ordered from, Jumbo was the least impressive. 
The other thing to consider when ordering from Jumbo is that they may not deliver to your door.  I've heard that they have some sort of store policy that prohibits them from entering any sort of multi-apartment communities, which a lot of people live in here in the city.  We have not had this issue, but certainly something to keep in mind.  In general, I will probably stick with Disco when ordering large amounts online, but it is nice to have a backup plan in Jumbo.  

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Disco Online Delivery

    My first soiree into online grocery ordering was with my most frequented supermercado, Disco. They have a pretty advanced website, Discovirtual, although the site is in Spanish so it took me a little longer to navigate. Here are some bullet points on how to order:
    • Before your first online order, you need to register as a user either with your DNI (Argentine national identity number that we haven't received yet) or your passport number and a password. This is when you store personal information such as your address, phone number and any sort of additional information that helps with the delivery.
    • After registry is complete, click on "Ingresar a Comprar" to begin shopping.
    • Start by choosing a delivery date and time, the time slots are available in 3 hour windows.
    • Proceed to the "store" part of the site. Items are divided into categories like cleaning, beverages or meats.
    • Once you find an item to purchase, indicate the number of items you want and click on the cart. **I like that your cart is always visible on the right-hand side of the screen. You can see all of the items you have added and the total cost of your order at all times.
    • If you click on an item, a pop-up window appears with additional product information. This includes the option of choosing a back-up item in case the product you choose is out of stock.
    • After the order is complete, click on "ir a la caja". This will direct you to a payment screen - you can choose credit, debit or cash.
    Overall, four out of five stars.
    The Disco ordering system was quite good. I really like the automatic substitution option and the website is clear and easy to use. The best feature is the "Compras Express" which saves items purchased in previous orders in an easily accessed list, thus saving you the time of searching for some of your regular items each time you buy. There were a couple of improvements that would give it that additional star:
    1. Some products are missing photographs, and this really dampens my day. I somehow bought 6 packs of "Disney's Cars" themed tiny tissue boxes in place of the normal adult Kleenex tissues that I was expecting. Jon ridiculed me for at least a few days. They were pretty funny to have around the house.
    2. Disco is a bit smaller than some of the other supermercados so not all items are available in their stores, and even fewer items are available through their website. Using their delivery option almost guarantees that I need to make a small store run the following day for random items.
    3. It would be nice to offer a guide to purchasing items online, products purchased in weight are difficult to estimate. For example, I have no idea how many kilos of eggplant I need. My guess of .5 kilos landed me with 7 eggplant, and Jon doesn't even really like them.
    These are all minor points in an overall great experience. I plan on using this service often, especially for the major shopping that I do about once a month.

      Monday, September 13, 2010

      Online Grocery Shopping

      The grocery stores in Bs.As. and I have a true love/hate relationship. On one hand, I love that I can find most everything I need at the larger grocery stores - but I hate just about everything else about the store itself. I guess I'm not really sure how they feel about me.

      In our first 6 months living here I spend an embarrassing amount of time at the store. After my first attempt at grocery delivery was a complete disaster I was nervous to try it again, so I would buy only what I could carry and then laboriously lug my purchases the 4 blocks home in the summer heat. Not a good plan.
      I graduated to using what I lovingly call my granny-cart. This incredible little device used to be the butt of my jokes, but now I have eaten my words and it has become my BFF. This cart, combined with Envirosax, great reusable bags given to me by my mother-in-law, made my life much easier.

      Even armed with my trusty granny-cart I have to make multiple trips to the store when I do our "big" grocery shopping of the month, which brings another issue to light. The stores themselves take FOREVER to get through. Things that are different in Argentina that cause some of the delays:
      • Everyone has to weigh their produce at a specified produce weigh station. This station generally has a long line, a slow worker and, at times, no worker at all - leaving you to search for someone who has the qualifications to weigh your fruit. This also creates a second line-waiting situation in the store, which is never good for the quick in-and-out.
      • There are quite a few checkout lanes, but they are very rarely fully staffed. Even when the checkout lanes are staffed, there are not enough packers for the "delivery" lanes so the lanes wait for the packers to become available.
      • The cashiers keep a ridiculously small amount of change in their till, (see The Need for Change for more of my issues with small bills in Bs.As.) so when they are given a bill or coin that they can't break, they yell "cambio!" and wait for a manager to come by and give them change. This results in 6 or 7 cashiers yelling "cambio!" with one manager on call to dole out the money.
      • The culture is extremely friendly and everyone kisses hello and goodbye when they arrive/leave places. This includes coming and going from work. Heaven forbid you happen to be in line during a shift change and you may see, no exaggeration, 10 people walk around to kiss hello or goodbye to literally every person working at the store. This actually causes a significant amount of delay.
      All of these factors combined have given me reason to venture into the world of delivery again. I started out shopping in the stores and having the items delivered at the checkout line. This is a good option, however delivery can take anywhere from 1 - 5 hours after checking out, so my entire day would be spent shopping, waiting and receiving groceries.

      Then I heard about online grocery delivery.

      You can shop, purchase, arrange for delivery and pay all without leaving home. It's been the best time saver! I'll write future posts about specific stores, websites and options that are most useful - but in general, this is my greatest discovery yet. There are items that I have not been able to find online, but that's where my granny cart and Envirosax come back into play, and I only have to visit the store for small items in between larger delivery orders. Which is great, I hate waiting in the checkout disaster pictured on the left every other day.

      Thursday, September 2, 2010

      Tintoreria

      Bad news, our washing machine broke. 

      Not really bad broken, but tiny-plastic-piece-that-is-really-important-to-the-functioning-of-the-machine broken.  The piece that broke keeps the door latch in place, and the fact that we have a front-load machine, latching the door is really important to the functioning of the machine. 

      Even worse news, according to our building manager this teeny-tiny repair may take up to 4 months to complete.  That's right, apparently the Whirpool representative is swimming the new part here to fix the machine.  Let's all hope he swims quickly.

      In the meantime, we get to explore the option of a tinoreria, Spanish for laundromat.  I had my first outsourcing laundry experience this week and it was pretty painless.
      Our closest laundromat is only a block away, so that was nice and easy.  We were hoping for the best when the washer first broke so we waited a little too long before taking our clothes in, three enormous bags of clothes are heavy.  Our three bags translated into 4 "loads", each load costing $17pesos (~US$4.25).  The wash was done in less than 24 hours and it came bagged and folded - so all in all an OK deal.  The worst part of the whole experience was that today was the rainiest day EVER so I had to carry four bags of laundry across a flooded street while balancing an umbrella in the wind.  Not Fun.  The good news for next time, when I picked our clothes up today the nice laundromat woman mentioned their delivery service.  I wish I knew how to say "information more useful to me yesterday" in Spanish. 

      Pros of Not Doing Laundry:
      • Not doing laundry
      • Our clothes came back folded and clean
      • I don't know what they use, but the clothes smell really good
      Cons of Not Having a Washing Machine:
      • Unnecessary extra spending
      • It's weird toting dirty laundry down a busy city street
      • Now we have to plan in advance if we want to wear something, instead of throwing a load in when I needed some clean jeans
      We're hoping for the best when it comes to fixing our washer, I imagine that the novelty of not doing laundry at home will quickly wear off.