Tuesday, February 12, 2008

BuyKind experience

I learned a few things by buying food through buykind.com. In a nutshell:

* Buykind is a fledgling vegan food delivery service. Buykind contracts with vegan restaurants that have won awards for their food, and arranges for items from their menus to be made available for shipping all over the country. So far there are only six restaurants in the group, but obviously this kind of business should be able to expand fairly easily. The kind of attention that the owner gives to the business just might translate into success. Read her story on the website.

* Vegan foods are making their way into the wider marketplace. All of the wraps I purchased actually came from Nature's Express, based in Yuma, Arizona. These amazing plant-based deli foods, including many raw foods, are infiltrating their way into Whole Foods markets and other locations, including the restaurant from which I placed my order.

My experience.

I decided that I wanted to order completely online, through the order form, rather than by email or by telephone. I also decided to save shipping costs by choosing a restaurant on the west coast. Only two restaurants on the list are on the west coast, and one doesn't yet offer online orders (but you can place your order by email or phone). So I chose the other, Good Karma in Venice Beach, California.

And that's why I ended up ordering wraps and spreads. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to order this kind of deli food by mail, but I wanted to try out the service. Fresh vegetable wraps, particularly featuring raw foods, don't tend to freeze well, so they need to be eaten soon after delivery. The other items on Good Karma's menu don't travel well and so are not offered, but believe me, the next time I am in Venice I'm hunting this place down (sweet potato fries!).

I placed my order Saturday night. I took a chance on the shipping costs because they are not included in the initial order but added later. I hope that it will be possible to spell out shipping costs more specifically on the website soon.

Jody, the buykind proprieter, called me almost immediately. She told me I could add additional items for the same shipping cost and told me what that cost would be. She said the order would be shipped out on Monday for delivery Tuesday, by ground. The order would be packed with ice packs and insulated materials so should be cold when I got it. I decided, then, to add to the order and chose additional wraps and spreads. I sent this information to Jody by email, who recalculated the total and sent me the paypal invoice.

On Tuesday Jody called me again. Somewhere along the way my order did not get processed. Good Karma had not packed it up and sent it along its way. Jody was tracking orders through her delivery service, KHL, and found that somehow my order was not on the truck. She asked if it would be okay to ship it Wednesday for delivery Thursday. I said sure. It's all a part of the experience. She said she would send me a gift certificate for $10 for my inconvenience, to be used on my next order.

The order arrived late in the day Thursday, as promised. Individual plastic containers held the wraps and the usual plastic bowls with lids contained the spreads. These were packed with ice packs and surrounded by strips of insulating material, which Jody notes is biodegradable. I am not sure about this part or I may have misunderstood her. The strips are like padded envelope material, except that they have a shiny (aluminum?) sheet on one side.

This is what the items looked like. This is where I saw Nature's Express and got curious, given that the address on the label is in San Diego, not Venice Beach. If you look closely at the label you can see that the ingredients are excellent. So too was this interesting Kale wrap:

Everything was fresh and inviting to look at. I will admit that I am not a big fan of the sliced meat substitutes, so the wrap I ate that had a kind of sliced chicken in it didn't overwhelm me. I was more impressed by the hummus in the kale wrap (not to mention the kale itself). The hummus is raw, made from cashews and something else I have forgotten, and it is creamy and delicious. I also had a barbecue tempeh, tofu pesto, and veg "chicken" tequila lime wraps. I haven't yet tried the spreads, which are made by Good Karma.

Overall, the experience and the food was good. I will use the $10 certificate to try something from another restaurant, something not a wrap. Although these wraps were good I really didn't want to work my way through five of them in a couple of days (although they make fine breakfasts).


the vegan blog tracker said...

This is such an interesting service, though I'm not sure what to think... On one hand, this isn't exactly environmentally friendly. On the other hand, it's pretty damn cool to be able to try out different vegan restaurants from around the country.

I'm be more inclined to try them out and tell my friends if their web site inspired more confidence. Reading your review does help - thanks!

Judith said...

I hear that! The website does need a wee bit of an overhaul. And I agree, not particularly environmentally friendly. I struggle with that myself .

jody said...

Thanks much Judith for checking out buykind!! I appreciate so much your business (our customers, those who go out of there way to choose kindness, are the best!) and thank you for your sharing your experience! I am excited for you to try the restaurants! The other restaurants are quite a different experience than the wraps - as you indicated, the wraps are more of a vegan deli experience.

We've had such amazing and positive responses from our customers about how much they've enjoyed the food and buykind experience, many of whom have indicated that they LOVE the website! ... And I LOVE the website.

… So I am a bit confused by the comment from 'vegan blog tracker'. I'm trying to decipher if there are just simply different tastes in what a person prefers a website to look like. I don’t understand what the meaning and purpose of the comment is and would like to understand in case this leads to us improving the site. Frankly, I am confused and disappointed by a fellow veg friendly person, spreading the idea (which will sadly I fear keep people away from buykind) that the website does not ‘inspire confidence’.

From the feedback I’ve been getting from our visitors and customers, people are enjoying the unique look of buykind, and it is rather easy to follow and if one would like to purchase, they click to secured webpages. So as I consider ‘veg blogs’ comment, I become more baffled. Veg Blog, what on buykind does not ‘inspire confidence’ that keeps you from supporting us with the business we need to help us succeed?

Of course there is much in the works towards improving and fine-tuning the site but this takes time and money, however overall, so many of our customers have complemented us on the site. I personally, find the ubiquitous templated websites I see too much of ugly, boring and uninspiring. I do not want to replicate that mainstream look. Is it possibly just a personal preference for a different type of webpage? color scheme or motif? I am hoping that sites will start moving towards a much more aesthetically pleasing look - like the page of a gorgeous magazine. This is what we are striving towards with buykind. And so... we chose to go the more original, organic route with the design of the site - working of course with our current limitations web tools and dollars available. I, and others find the site beautiful and original, fun to experience and impactful. Hence the confusion.

Of course, BuyKind is a work in progress with much room to improve, but if we waited until we had the dollars to hire the very expensive web designers we'd like and until the site was absolutely perfect we would maybe never had opened. I hope people will bear with us as we work towards the website of our dreams and find the ‘confidence’ to try us out, to help us succeed.

The reason I want us to succeed - buykind exists to help make a kinder more beautiful world for ALL - to help end the insane, brutal cruelty animals endure, especially farmed animals. A large percentage of dollars from buykind, basically all that can be spared, are dedicated to ending the insane cruelty animals endure, especially farmed animals. It is a worthwhile endeavor to support.

I feel this is the most worthwhile of endeavors, and trumps all others. (On the plus side for the environment, the more people encouraged to choose veg, the better for the environment.)

I want as many people as possible to be able to experience the best food in the world and realize it is CRUELTY-FREE. The food on buykind is the best I have ever had, the chefs and restaurants we’ve chosen, the best of the best . Many many parts of the country do not have access to great vegan food. (Judith, you are fortunate to be able to pick up vegan wraps at a deli as for much of the country this option does not exist within driving distance.) Another amazing and wonderful aspect of buykind, is that the non-veg world is being introduced to this best food in the world, through guests who are ordering and sharing throwing dinner parties for their non-veg friends. YAY! I love this!!!!!

I am also passionate about the environment, however I have my priorities straight. For me there is no better use of my energies than to ‘eliminate suffering, illuminate joy’ (buykind’s motto) - to help end the torture and suffering of millions of innocent animals. Buykind strives to be as environmentally responsible as possible. Among other things, we have chosen to stop using Styrofoam and though more expensive, have switched to a shipping box and ice which is non toxic and almost 100% biodegradable (within I believe approximately 90 days).

I guess you can tell from the length of my response, that I felt some things needed clarification. I was disappointed and concerned that the comment of ‘veg blogger’ may keep people from buying from us and hurt buykinds chances for success. I had to try to clear up any misunderstandings and miscommunications and I encourage all of you to check us out!! I would love to hear from you and just let me know if it is from this blog and I am happy to pass on a gift certificate for you to try buykind!! Treat yourselves (and especially your non veg friends and family) to some of the very best food in the world - CRUELTY-FREE of course!! Thanks so much Judith, for letting me vent!

"... working hard to 'eliminate suffering and ILLUMINATE JOY' for all creatures great and small."

Judith said...

Hi Jody!

I am so glad you wrote a comment here, expanding the story of your business. I didn't feel I could go into great detail in one post without losing 90% of the few readers we have.

I suspect that the reason the person from vgt said that about "inspiring confidence" is that your website does say "amateur". I can believe that many people find it refreshing to find a home-made website when faced with so many corporate sites. However, when it comes to paying money and expecting efficient service, it's likely many people will steer clear of the ones that look a little funky. I, however, was happy to take a closer look.

Personally, I had some trouble with the navigation because not all links are on all pages, and the yellow doesn't read well, particularly when it is used for text.

None of this means that you don't run a top-flight business, and the fact that you contract with various restaurants and other businesses means that you are mainly providing the connection between them and us. You'll notice that more than once in this blog, when the subject of vegan food deliveries comes up, people tend to say "it's all good".

I look forward to placing another order through you. I'm looking forward to trying more entree-type dishes or even desserts.

Vegan Mama said...

i just had to chime in, i have been "lurking" on this blog for only a little while now. First becoming intrigued by the Hungry Vegan test run, and now by the buykind test. . .

I have not tried Hungry Vegan.
BUT, i have tried Buykind.com. . .a couple of times actually.
I think the website is fun, and definitely unique! It's like the seasons, ever changing.
Anyhow, i have had very good experiences with buykind overall, and have been able to enjoy food from restaurants that i would have only dreamed about otherwise. Vegetable Garden in Rockville MD, Lovin Spoonfuls in Tuscon AZ, Tipu's Tiger, Missoula MT, Millennium in San Fran CA, Red Avocado in Iowa City, IA. . .i mean, i don't get out much- so to have this available makes me feel like a well traveled queen!

and yes, to be able to help animals while stuffing my face. . .what more could you ask for?

so, that is more than my 2 cents!

eat well!

Judith said...

Hi Vegan Mama,

I'm happy that you added your two cents. And I look forward to ordering from some of those restaurants as well. I am always on the lookout for outstanding vegan food.

jody said...

Judith, Thank you. You are such a sweetheart and your review and suggestion make sense, ahhhh - the challenge of creating a great website. It is a work in progress and I truly appreciate your input.
OH, and I wanted to mention that for your location, you can get the much better ground shipping rate for Lovin' Spoonfuls as well. It's pretty amazing, how far the ground ship rate can stretch from some locations. Anyway, thanks again for having such an interesting blog and getting the word out there.

And so cool, thanks Vegan Mama - a new slogan - someone should make a bumper sticker - "Go vegan. Help animals while stuffing your face... what more could you ask for!?!?"

jody said...

… and one more quick note - just to clarify for Good Karma/Nature’s Express. They prepared the first order and delivered on time to DHL and it was from there that somehow the pickup was missed, so not at all the fault of Good Karma. They were happy to freshly re-make your order to reship. Oh, and woops, I guess two things - new idea for the spreads (which I am trying to freeze as I had a lot left which I was not going to get to; I’ll keep you posted) - I added the curry spread to a garlic, olive oil, tomato pasta dish I was making - yumyumyum!!

Judith said...

Great suggestion, Jody, for the spread. I will try that. And I know I want to try the Lovin' Spoonful. My daughter went there not long ago and said it was fantastic.