With South Africa in lockdown for 21 days we’ve been staying at home and trying to go out as little as possible for essential goods.

When Takealot announced that it would remain open and offer South Africans the opportunity to shop online and have essential goods delivered to their homes, we breathed a sigh of relief.

Naturally, we wanted to report the experience to you and let you know if it’s worth ordering online from Takealot.

Before we dive into the experience of ordering through Takealot, we need to clarify a few things. Takealot has no idea that we are writing this piece and had no idea we intended on doing so. As such we’re confident that our experience will mirror that of many others.

Secondly, we created a fresh account using a new email address to ensure that our identity remained anonymous throughout the process.

Ahead of Takealot’s essential goods going live we added a few items to our basket that we considered essential. These items were largely vegetable seeds and pantry staples, such as pasta and pasta sauce. The reason for this will be detailed a bit later in this piece.

Finally, I live on the far West Rand, which often sees deliveries taking longer than estimated.

With those points in mind, here is our experience.

Shopping

Compared to a grocery store, Takealot’s offering is incredibly limited. In terms of food there are a lot of sweets and a lot of ramen. The big issue we foresee is that the products available are all bulk items and the pricing is just bizarre.

For instance, we wanted to get some Coca-Cola and we could purchase 24 300ml cans for R229 or 12 one litre Coke bottles for R189. Obviously we went with the 12 one litre option because it’s A) less waste and B) more affordable.

There is a lot of coffee on offer as well.

Overall, the offerings from Takealot is not going to have you clambering to place an order, but if you need one or two things that you can wait for, it’s a decent option.

Since we placed our order on 30th March Takealot has expanded it’s offering to include boardgames, puzzles and certain tech items, such as printer ink, SSDs and thumb drives.

We are left scratching our heads at whether Magic: The Gathering cards are really essential though. Depends on who you are we suppose.

After filling our cart we proceeded to checkout. It was at this point that we were alerted to various items not being considered essential. As we mentioned earlier these items were pasta, pasta sauce and vegetable seeds.

While we were able to purchase the pasta and sauce the vegetable seeds were curiously not considered an essential product. We’re chalking this up to the fact that the seeds were being supplied by a third party and that third party not operating during lockdown.

Aside from that, checkout and payment were a breeze, and then the wait began.

“Your order is scheduled for delivery on 17th April”

Yes, that sub-heading is correct, my order was expected to take close on three weeks to arrive at my residence.

While usually I would immediately move to cancel the order, the current situation reminded me that deliveries are especially difficult during lockdown.

So I waited.

On Friday 3rd April I received an SMS from Takealot informing me that my delivery was scheduled for 7th April.

Joy! My delivery that was meant to take over three weeks was coming early.

Unfortunately due to a courier issue, the delivery only took place on 8th April, but it wasn’t like I had anywhere to go, so I waited.

Having not heard anything regarding my delivery on the 7th April I contacted Takealot support via the online ticketing portal.

The agent on the other end answered promptly despite the warning that replies could take up to 72 hours and kept me updated throughout the process regarding my delivery. Crystal and Fundiswa in the Takealot support team, you are stars.

The delivery eventually arrived on the afternoon of 8th April.

And then it fell apart

The delivery was not handled by Takealot’s couriers, but by a third party known as Fast and Furious.

The driver was not wearing a mask or gloves, nor was there any indication that the vehicle had been sanitised or indeed that the items were sanitised.

Despite Takealot stating that “we will continue to enforce the preventative hygiene safety measures, guided by international best practice and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for all deliveries,” these measures weren’t apparent at all.

I was asked to sign for the package on a grubby looking smartphone caked in what looked like months of grime, and the entire time social distancing was the last thing on the courier’s mind.

It’s unclear whether Takealot briefed its third-party delivery providers about the measures they needed to take regarding safety but it sure didn’t look like it from where I was standing.

What followed was a frantic dance of rubbing all the items down with bleach diluted in water and then showering in piping hot water.

Needless to say, the delivery portion of the process was a very negative experience.

All my items were present but there was no indication from Takealot that items had been sanitised or an assurance that measures had been taken at the depot to sanitise items.

We understand that this is outlined online but a note popped into the box or an email/SMS would have been fantastic.

Would I do it again?

The short answer is no.

Aside from the delivery of the items, waiting as long as I did, is not really an option for some folks.

Since Takealot’s announcement, Uber Eats, Bottles, 4 A Steal, and Mr D Food have announced they will facilitate deliveries to customers from grocery stores.

Having browsed through the Bottles app (delivery is sadly not available in my area), the prices are more affordable and you aren’t forced to buy items in bulk. You can also purchase fresh produce through the likes of NetFlorist.

In comparison, Takealot’s offering while appreciated, does feel undercooked and it might have benefited from a day or two more in the oven.