Google's same-day NYC deliveries hit the brakes

Updated at 8:31 p.m. ET

In its quest to expand beyond ad sales and compete with the likes of Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY), Google (GOOG) has been testing a same-day delivery service. Monday marked the service's expansion to Los Angeles and New York City, CBS News reported yesterday.

But as Google quickly learned, too much of a good thing can stop you in your tracks. By noon Monday, shoppers learned that the system couldn't handle any more same-day orders, as the New York Post wrote. Deliveries are offered in three windows -- 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. -- with last orders for the day placed by 4:30 p.m..

Things only got worse today. By 10:15 on Tuesday morning, shoppers learned that "delivery windows are fully booked." And then people were told to "become a member for six months for free deliveries," but there's no indication on the site of how much the service will cost after the free period. CBS's Monday report said that it seemed to be $4.99 per retail store included in one delivery, but Google hadn't confirmed that.

CBS MoneyWatch again tried to contact Google on Tuesday but has not received a response.

[Update: A Google spokesperson emailed a statement Tuesday evening: "We're thrilled with the demand for the service in Manhattan and we're working quickly to add even more capacity, while making sure we provide reliable on-time delivery. The best tip for shoppers is to order as early as possible in the day to get the largest selection of delivery windows."]

The Google Shopping Express site indicates that people can -- or, should be able to -- order from such companies as Walgreen (WAG), Costco (COST), Staples (SPLS) and Target (TGT). Consumers can order ground coffee, snacks, household goods, office supplies and even toys and sporting goods.

According to the New York Post, consumers pay for online orders with the company's Google Wallet system. Then Google workers go to the various stores where items are kept, fill the orders and deliver them to consumers.

But as Manhattanites have learned over the years, getting around the city can be daunting when you're running errands. Maybe Google was overwhelmed with customer demand, or perhaps employees ran into bigger-than-expected delays moving throughout the city on time.

The new Los Angeles service seems to work, with an offer of $10 off a first purchase, although there was no mention of six months of free delivery service. And LA traffic presents plenty of its own challenges.

According to Amazon's Local Express delivery site, its same-day shipping can run from $3.99 to $8.99 per shipment, or $9.98 for the first item and 99 cents for each additional one. Amazon Prime subscribers are charged $5.99 per shipment. And eBay offers a $5 delivery charge with a minimum order of $25 and a delivery window of one to two hours.

Image courtesy of Google


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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.