(NEXSTAR) – It started with a targeted ad on Instagram – as many of my online shopping adventures do these days. There was a new app that extended the service to the area where I live in Los Angeles, which would allow me to pick up leftovers from restaurants, grocery stores, cafes, and bakeries for a fraction of the price.
The company has been active in European cities for some time and has recently started expanding to cities around the United States. From the release, Too Good To Go was in Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, DC area, New York, parts of New York. Jersey, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Portland, Philadelphia, Providence, Seattle and a few more parts of the country. The company says on its website that it plans to expand more in the coming months, but does not specify where or when. (Too Good To Go did not respond to Nexstar’s requests for comment.)
The app is right to easy to use. When you open it, there are offers from restaurants in your area with different pickup times and prices. Most of the options I have seen in my area are so-called “surprise bags”, a mix of items that will remain a mystery to you until you pick up.
Still, the prices were appealing – especially in expensive Los Angeles. In addition, I am not a picky eater.
Too Good To Go sounded too good to be true. So I decided to give it a try.
Experiment No. 1: Epic Failure
My first attempt at trying Too Good To Go – to put it simply – did not work at all. I spotted a deal from a Santa Monica smoothie place for $ 3.99. I paid via the app and got a pickup window early in the evening, just before the store closes.
This was one of those “surprise bags”, so I had no idea what it would be, but I was curious to see what kind of goodies a high-end smoothie shop had left over at the end of the day. The answer, it turns out, was nothing.
The employee in the store seemed genuinely confused when I showed up for my pickup. “Nah, I’m good,” he said to me, as if I were selling him something, not the other way around. I explained how the app (supposedly) worked and he still did not quite understand it. I walked empty-handed.
If there is one golden edge in this failure, it is that Too Good To Go seems very prepared to deal with this situation. It took a push of a button in the app to get me a refund.
Experiment No. 2: Things look up
Undeterred in my search for cheap food, I decided to give Too Good To Go another chance. I was not ready to risk heartache in the smoothie shop (which made me wrong once when I first moved to LA and accidentally bought a smoothie for $ 16, but that’s a different story). I decided to try my luck at a pizza joint, also in Santa Monica, and planned a pickup window from 8pm to 9pm
When I arrived at the empty pizza restaurant, I was once again greeted with a bit of confusion. But there was a happy ending this time. A little bit of explanation, and they started packing my order: four massive slices of pizza – the kind where a slice counts as a meal – each with different toppings like mushrooms, garlic and ricotta.
I ended up with four meals for $ 4.99. Not too shabby.
Experiment No. 3: Get a handle on it
On my third attempt, I walked into the French bakery in Marina Del Rey with confidence and my redemption code ready. The employee who greeted me also knew what she was doing this time. She wrote down my code from the app, ran to the back of the store for a quick minute, and then came back and filled me with a bag of cakes.
I got all this for $ 4.99 – not bad in a city where you can easily pay that much for a single croissant.
This was the bag of food that won me over. If this would otherwise be thrown out at the end of the day – as Too Good To Go announces – it would seem like a win-win: cheap food for me, less waste for the company.
But in my experience so far, it is important to be flexible. You need to be OK with fixed pickup times, a mysterious assortment of items and the chance that you might end up with nothing once in a while. I would not rely on it for my weekly meal planning, but I am not one to say no to a discount. Or a pastry.
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