[Updated below with Amazon comment.] After more than five years of testing in the Seattle region, Amazon introduced Amazon Fresh in Los Angeles this morning — the long-awaited first step in a broader national rollout of its grocery delivery service.

amazonfreshThe launch in L.A. comes with a big twist that reveals more about how the company will try to make the economics of grocery delivery work: After a 90-day trial, customers in L.A. will need to pay for a $299/year “Prime Fresh” membership to use the service. However, the company says all Prime Fresh orders will come with no delivery charges on orders of at least $35.

That’s different from the company’s approach in Seattle, where Amazon Fresh is open to anyone and includes delivery charges of $8 to $10 unless the customer achieves “Big Radish” status based on volume of orders over time.

Amazon’s new $299/year Prime Fresh program in L.A. also comes with the benefits of the regular Amazon Prime membership, including free two-day shipping, video streaming and Kindle book rentals. The program is launching via a 90-day no-extra-charge trial for existing Amazon Prime members.

In the Seattle region, GeekWire has found that Amazon Fresh prices are consistently higher than those at traditional grocery stores. Our price comparison of selected items at Amazon Fresh and a Seattle Fred Meyer showed prices about 14 percent higher on average at Amazon Fresh, before delivery fees.

We’ve asked Amazon if the Prime Fresh program will be expanded to existing customers in the Seattle region, as well, and we’ll update this post depending on what we hear back.

Amazon has also reportedly been eying a launch of Fresh in the San Francisco area.

Update: An Amazon spokesperson tells GeekWire: “While we can’t comment on our future roadmap, we are excited to try a new approach in Los Angeles. We know customers value this service, but the economics remain challenging. We will continue experimenting and innovating on behalf of our customers to find a model that works.”

Comments

  • B.E. Ward

    So you get to pay more for the convenience, then you get to pay more for the convenience.

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      True, but it will be interesting to see how the Amazon Fresh prices compare to traditional grocery stores in LA. (Our sample was just in Seattle.) Anybody down there want to do a comparison for us? :)

      • http://www.nosnivelling.com/ daveschappell

        What’s the going rate for doing research for you?

        • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

          Meet me on Mechanical Turk, Dave! ;)

  • Ken Levy

    I’ve been using Amazon Fresh in Seattle for a few years. Here’s a tip. If you find a product on amazon.com that shows “Local delivery” available for Amazon Prime customers, you may try searching it on Amazon Fresh and find it’s available there too. I’ve purchased USB cables, computer memory, an iPod, blender, all kinds of products like that and had them delivered the same day via Amazon Fresh. Plus, more expensive products like that help get you to Big Radish status for free deliveries the following month. Try searching USB on fresh.amazon.com (801 results), and you realize Amazon Fresh is far more than grocery deliver – it’s a new vehicle for same day delivery of select amazon.com products as well – I assume those products stored at local Amazon warehouses.

    • Mike Christensen

      Yea I second this. I had a hard drive in my NAS go out, and ordered a new 1TB HDD from Amazon Fresh and got it by sunrise. Wanna take a guess how much Hitachi wanted to overnight ship me a replacement hard drive?

  • zandra

    can anyone explain why it’s $299/yr?? In addition to the $79/yr prime membership then of course the grocery expenses, what is the $299/yr? shipping? isn’t this too expensive!

    • christina thomas

      yeah that’s pretty crazy. However, for high-volume AmazonFresh users, it could easily be worth it. Think neighbors who are very good friends; they could split the AmazonFresh trial cost and have all groceries delivered to a single house, where they can take the short walk to pick them up when they get home.

  • Blabla

    Forward a year later – you still need a membership, and the prices are still high at Amazon Fresh. No thanks.

  • Rusty

    Worst Company Ever.

    I have called the so called AmazonFresh.com people several times to complaint about their drivers blocking our driveway every time they deliver in our neighborhood and they dismissed our complaints. We even asked the driver nicely not to block our driveway and his response was: “what are you gonna do about it?” and totally ignored us.

    BULLIES WHO BLOCK YOUR DRIVEWAY

    They usually sit in their truck in front, before or after their delivery, and play on their phones. Their average stay is between 20-30 minutes. Their managers are obnoxious too. When you call them to complaint, they are out of control and yell.

    I have already canceled my Amazon account.

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