January 28, 2016
On-demand delivery services are popping up and expanding all over Boston in what some economists call “the Uber economy.” Need an extra case of beer for the game? Touch your smart-phone screen on the Drizly app and it’ll be at your door in under an hour. Forget to stop at CVS for the diapers and baby wipes? No problem! Instacart, Favor, or Postmates will be there before that last Huggies becomes a hazmat situation.
Babysitter canceled on date night? Just hit-up Caviar or Dining-In and they’ll bring that gourmet meal to you!
Unless, that is, you live in Dorchester or Mattapan.
A review by the Reporter of the most popular delivery apps that claim to serve “Boston” found that many leading brands do not serve customers in Dorchester or Mattapan, even as some of their rivals are making inroads into the neighborhoods. While some claim they will get here eventually, they are hard pressed to explain why the city’s largest neighborhood— with an increasingly diverse mix of people and incomes— is getting shut out.
“It just sort of reinforces that idea that people who are in Boston, or downtown Boston, they don’t seem to consider us as the city. And I think that’s unfair,” said Alex Jafarzahed, a resident of Jones Hill. A native of the UK, he moved to Dorchester last year and quickly learned that many of the on-demand services would not deliver to his home. “It’s almost become comical now to hear someone say they service Boston and you pretty much expect them not to include Dorchester in that at this point,” Jafaradeh told the Reporter. “I think it’s a combination of shortsightedness and also just assuming that a market isn’t there.”
Joel Richards, a 32-year-old school teacher who moved to Ashmont from Somerville two years ago, agrees. He has been pushing companies like Instacart — which does deliver to 02125 and 02122, but not 02124 or Mattapan’s 02126— for an explanation.
“It’s always the same thing: ‘We’re expanding as fast as we can,’” said Richards. “What’s delaying the expansion into Dorchester, especially when this is a need-based business? You’ll go as far as Arlington or Somerville, but you won’t come to Dorchester? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
It’s not just newcomers who’ve taken notice of the digital delivery diss. One high profile OFD resident who’s peeved by the slight is Mayor Marty Walsh, whose Lower Mills home is also not serviced by some of the most well-known outfits.
“Any time when I hear about businesses doing deliveries and excluding certain parts of the city it bothers me,” Walsh told the Reporter. “There’s no difference between people in those neighborhoods. This isn’t new, it’s happened for a while and sometimes these companies will say it’s out of range. But most times that’s not the case. It’s their perception and it’s wrong.”
Some companies polled by the Reporter insist they plan to expand into the neighborhood, but most remain vague on the timeframe.
“We definitely have plans to expand soon!” said Tina Heilman, a spokesperson for Favor, a company that bills itself as “the easiest way to get anything you want in your city delivered to your door in under an hour.”
Postmates, another “we’ll bring you anything” start-up, claims Boston as its turf, but doesn’t do Dorchester “yet.” April Conyers, a company spokesperson said Dorchester “is on the list for when we expand in Boston,” but she could not offer a specific time-frame.
Catherine Ferdon from Caviar, which fetches food orders from “your favorite restaurants,” told us: “We hope to add new neighborhoods soon and Dorchester is definitely a consideration.”
Instacart, which brings “groceries to your door in one hour,” is making inroads into Dorchester, although they do not yet offer service to the 02124 zip code or Mattapan. Sophie Kleinert of Instacart explained that the company uses data from user requests at its website to help navigate their expansion plan. “When customers sign up online, we’re able to measure interest in a specific market and take that into account when we’re thinking about new areas to cover,” Kleinert said.
When Push for Pizza originally launched in Boston, it marketed aggressively to college students. Despite the substantial number of college students in the Dorchester area, especially around UMass Boston, Cyrus Summerlin from Push for Pizza said, “Orders from Dorchester and Mattapan are pretty minimal at the moment, mainly because we haven’t directly marketed to those areas.”
Drizly, the company that promises to bring beer, wine and spirits to your home, has one of the largest advertising campaigns right now in the Boston market. Red Line passengers commuting to and from Dorchester and Mattapan see the advertisements, but they can’t get the service yet.
Alex Jafaradeh is one of the potential customers who’s puzzled by the oversight. “And you’re sitting there looking at these Drizly ads and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s nice but I can’t use you, and you’re [advertising] in my own neighborhood.’”
Drizly works by partnering with brick-and-mortar retailers to serve customers through their easy to use app. In responding to an inquiry from the Reporter last week, the company said that it is in talks with the Dorchester-based Supreme Liquors to be its Dorchester distributor. A deal might be in place before the end of the first quarter.
“Supreme Liquors fits the Drizly retail partner mold very well,” said Drizly spokesperson Kerin Hogan. “At Drizly we do not mark up any product prices, so when we launch live with Supreme you’ll find the pricing in the store the same as on the Drizly app (or desktop site). That all being said, we’ve been working to make sure we can offer the residents of Dorchester and the surrounding areas the best possible Drizly experience.”
There are a few on-demand companies that are serving Dorchester and Mattapan. Delivery.com, Seamless, GrubHub and Doordash offer deliveries to those neighborhoods, and it’s likely that more will eventually beat a path to our doors. This past week MealPass (like ClassPass but for lunch) launched in downtown Boston. And still others, such as UberEats and Munchery, which are currently doing well in other cities across the country, are on the verge of expanding to Boston.
The companies that make the effort to make Dorchester and Mattapan part of their territory are making a smart business move, said Mayor Walsh. “If they’re not delivering here, they’re doing a disservice to the people in those neighborhoods and to their company as well,” Walsh said. “I encourage them to come to our neighborhood. I wouldn’t use these services if they’re not coming to our parts of the city.”