First Experience Buying Food Online

One of the things I was most curious about before moving to Newhalen was how easy it would be to get fresh food. I read the shipping tips from the Alaska Teacher Placement website beforehand, but I wanted to talk to bush teachers before ordering anything on my own.

After talking to some teachers in Newhalen, I’d gotten several recommendations to shop at Span Alaska and Amazon Grocery. In the end, I decided to place an order with Air Supply Alaska along with another teacher who previously had a positive experience. She told me that ASA didn’t deliver often, but that their food was fresh and prices were fair. Below is a snapshot of our first order invoice. Yes, we love our fresh fruits and veggies!

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About a week after I placed my order, I received a call from ASA saying that the plane would be coming into the airport and that we needed to be there to pick up our groceries. When planes come in with frozen goods, you pretty much need to be there right away to get frozen foods into the freezer. Another teacher and I went to the airport to pick up the boxes then came back home to unpack.

At first, I was a little confused because all of our food came in clothing boxes and shoeboxes! When I opened them up, I was relieved to find food inside. I opened 5 boxes and found everything I had ordered in good condition. However, I also found that all of my produce excluding bananas had not come. Confused, I called the other teacher who had placed an order to see if our boxes had gotten mixed up. She told me no, all of her boxes had arrived.

I emailed ASA and asked about the missing box. ASA was very apologetic and told me that they would figure out the problem as soon as possible. They contacted me the next day and told me that they didn’t know what happened to the box of produce but would send a replacement box the next week.

Early the next week, Tyler found a wet-bottomed box on our doorstep. A custodian at our school later told us, “I found this at the airport with your name on it. I’m not sure how long it was sitting there.” We took the box inside and found all of our produce. Most of it was salvageable, but we could tell that it had been sitting out for days. Coincidentally, I received a call from the manager of ASA that day. He told me that there had been a miscommunication with the delivery pilot. The pilot had apparently forgotten our box the first time around and then tried to correct his error by dropping it here a couple of days later. His mistake was that he never called us or ASA to let us know. The manager was, again, very apologetic and told me that a box of fresh goods was on its way. In the end, we wound up with two boxes of produce and about $100 in our pocket!

There are two morals to this story. First, mix-ups are common in the bush and it’s not worth it to get hot and bothered. Second, people here are very honest and will try their best to make things right. We will definitely be shopping with ASA again and, despite the miscommunication, are very pleased with our first experience ordering food online.

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