Breakfast Order

Can't cook for Mom this Mother's Day? Online retailers can deliver pancakes, bacon and coffee to her door, but there might be some glitches.

April 28, 2004|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Remember when you were a kid and you made your mom breakfast for Mother's Day?

The toast may have been burnt and the flower you put on the tray may have been a dandelion you plucked from the yard, but Mom said she loved it all anyway.

If these days you don't live near enough to Mom to make her breakfast, you can do the next best thing: have it delivered to her door.

We did just that. We ordered food gift packages from five online retailers, looking for the perfect breakfast for Mother's Day.

In our search, we came upon food gifts for every taste. Online retailers have packages for tea lovers and chocolate lovers. There are baskets for vegetarians and diabetics. But we wanted baskets that would give Mom as complete a breakfast as possible for less than $100.

We chose packages from the online behemoth Amazon.com, mail-order company Harry and David, and three unknowns: TastyGram, Jackie's Baskets and Gift Basket Connection Network. We asked that all include a gift card with the message: Mom, We Love You. From: Elaine, Thom & Andryusha.

About 100 million Americans shop online, and customer satisfaction hovers around 90 percent, said Patti Freeman Evans, an analyst with Jupiter Research, a company that follows the Internet industry. "That's actually been going up in the past few years," she said "Retailers have gotten better."

Maybe we're picky, or just unlucky, but we encountered glitches with every one of the gift packages we ordered. Problems ranged from getting a blank gift card in an otherwise lovely breakfast tray from Gift Basket Connection Network to receiving baskets entirely different from those advertised by Amazon and Jackie's Baskets.

And price didn't always ensure quality. The most expensive basket, which cost $77.95, contained fudge the consistency of potting soil and plastic packets of Smucker's jam. Meanwhile, the least expensive package was loaded with two kinds of bacon, maple link sausages, pancake mix and maple syrup -- although the items were packaged in a plain cardboard box.

With the exception of Amazon, we found all of the retailers by using traditional Internet search engines. And we encountered Web pages that ran the gamut from sophisticated to primitive. Amazon, which recently added gourmet food to its varied offerings, had a Web site that was easy to navigate and included the added bonus of customer ratings for its basket. But the site didn't allow customers to specify a delivery date.

TastyGram's package, which included bacon and sausage, required overnight shipping, but the Web site allowed customers to specify the delivery date, including Saturdays. Jackie's Baskets asked for a preferred shipping date, but the Web site wouldn't accept any instruction except "ASAP."

Gift Basket Connection Network had the most basic Web site. Although it allowed customers to request a delivery date, it didn't calculate shipping cost, and a company representative had to call back to inform us of the $12 charge.

Truth in advertising

One thing we learned: Don't believe everything you see on the Web sites.

The Mother's Day brunch basket listed on Amazon was to come from a company called All About Gifts & Baskets. The photo showed mini cakes, a waffle mix, chardonnay breakfast syrup, lemon-orange cookies, wine biscuits, crackers and an Italian cappuccino drink. The same gift was featured by Jackie's Baskets.

But the baskets the companies sent were nothing like the ones pictured. Instead, the contents included a scented candle in a teacup, a box of hard candies, a chocolate butterfly, a box of crumbling fudge, raspberry shortbread cookies, English breakfast tea, two 3-ounce pound cakes and two plastic packets of Smucker's jam and jelly (grape and strawberry).

It turns out that both companies use another outfit to make the baskets. Representatives from All About Gifts & Baskets and Jackie's Baskets didn't know that the baskets being sent weren't the ones they showed on their Web sites until we called to find out why we didn't get what we ordered. Customer service representatives promised to find out what happened and called back with the explanation. It seems the photo on the Web sites showed last year's model.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Of course, Mom's present should show how much you love her. A nice bow, a tasteful decoration. Something that when she opens the box will make her say "Ahh, how lovely!"

The packages we received would probably elicit a range of responses from joy to confusion. Gift Basket Connection Network's overflowing breakfast tray made the biggest impression. In addition to coffee, tea, cocoa, pancake mix, biscotti and other goodies, the wooden tray included cloth napkins and mugs. The gift card was blank, however.

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