The Quays News team ordered a tonne of sweets to test out the new Amazon Prime Now service – just brought to Manchester – so you don’t have to.

Perhaps it’s a product of our increasingly demanding need to have things as soon as possible; maybe it’s the looming shadow of an online company dominating every aspect of our lives. More likely, it’s just a really, really fast delivery service.

People in Manhattan (NY) have been enjoying paying extortionate prices to have things delivered to their door within an hour since this time last year. This summer, the service extended to London, then Birmingham, and now it’s making its debut up in’t north to sunny old Manchester (Salford incluAmazon ded, folks!) Is Amazon Now the saviour of our own procrastinated Christmas shopping, or is it just an expensive gimmick? We took a hefty delivery this morning to find out.

If you want to take a one-hour Journey with Amazon, you’ve got to do it using the app – there’s no website available to use the service from your work computer – smartphones only, we’re afraid! This is the first of many hurdles you will face in using the service, but it’s an understandable one. Smartphones are the technological expression of our own desire to do things as quickly as possible, so making the app exclusively for phones makes a lot of sense. It won’t work with any smartphone, however; those of you using Windows Phone or Blackberry are out of luck.

Phone app

There’s a few reasons why you have to use a phone for the service. For one, the Now store is limited in its items, so tying it in with the actual Amazon website wouldn’t make much sense. At the moment, the store is populated by seasonal gifts (expensive Christmas jumpers, galore!) and food/drinks items – making it distinctively different from the main website’s shop-window into a world of practically anything. The food and drink section makes it distinctly more grocery-shop-like, but even then you’re not exactly getting fresh fruit and vegetables; the front of the store is dominated by bottles of champagne and chocolates – there’s a reason we ordered so many sweets!

So you’ve got a smartphone, it runs the correct operating system, and you live in Manchester; what’s next? First, check your postcode – the warehouse we got our delivery from was based in Swinton, but we’ve checked postcodes for Bolton, Salford and Manchester, all of which can receive a delivery within one hour. You can get a delivery to Wigan, Denton and some other areas of the greater Manchester region, but you’re limited to at least two-hours. Shock horror!

Next up, you need an Amazon Prime account, which is an extra £79 a year. Prime is a pretty big thing in the US, but it’s never been quite as prevalent over here in the UK. I can’t help but feel that Amazon is missing out by only offering the service to people subscribed to their Prime service, especially considering the minimum order charge of £20, followed by the extra £6.99 you have to lay down for the one-hour service charge.

So to get a delivery within one hour, you need to follow these criteria.

  • Have an iPhone or an Android phone
  • Live within a few miles of Swinton
  • Be subscribed to Amazon Prime
  • Spend at least £20
  • Pay an extra £6.99 for delivery

That’s a pretty long list of ifs… but if you have all of these already via circumstance, or you’re willing to get them (who’ll be moving house for Amazon Now, eh?) then you’ll have a pretty bizarre experience.

Food

Using the app is a pretty surreal experience. The service is heavily tied to your phone – when you place an order, you’re given a delivery window up to the hour after you placed the order, then a little blue dot appears on a map wherever your items are getting delivered from. Once your order is packed and ready, you’re given a name for your delivery man (hello, Fabiano!) and the little blue dot proceeds to get closer and closer to your red one, until the two of you meet, ready to exchange big brown bags for excitement and wonderment.

Amazon delivery

We prepped our front desk that we’d be getting a delivery, but even they were shocked by the sheer speed of it. We timed it to the second (43 minutes and 12 of them to be exact), and although we knew we’d be getting the package within an hour, it was bewildering to see the items I’d been jabbing my fingers at on a screen only minutes before had materialised in front of us.

The big brown bags full of treats were very reminiscent of an American grocery shop. That’s sort of what this whole thing is, really, a grocery shop for groceries that aren’t really necessary, but are a lot of fun to get anyway. Either that, or a service for people totally paranoid about not getting their Christmas presents on time; if you forgot your work-induced secret Santa present, Prime Now seems like a pretty good way to get it!

Beyond that, the idea has a lot of potential to it – we can’t wait for the day that we can get anything delivered to our door from the Amazon site, with a nominal fee. That way we never have to pop downstairs to visit Booths again, and can just tap away at our smartphones and have Fabiano bring it directly to us. It’s a scary thought, but with Amazon Prime Now, it looks like we’ll be there soon!

By Jake Overend
@inserthosehere

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