When Kwese closed their satellite TV we took a look at the products that Econet had launched and closed over the years. One of the services that we could not definitively place on the dead pile was EcoShopper. If you had forgotten or don’t know what EcoShopper is then you are not alone.
EcoShopper, the middle child with many siblings
EcoShopper was one of Econet’s many ill-fated attempts to conquer the local e-commerce scene. The other efforts being the many versions of Tengai and of late Ownai. Except of course EcoShopper wasn’t your typical e-commerce offering. The idea was that you could send groceries to your rural granny instead of sending her money.
Launched bank in 2015 EcoShopper was a partnership between Econet and National Foods. Instead of sending money which could be misappropriated or in the event of some areas could not be collected due to the absence of agents the sender would:
- Visit the Ecoshopper website
- Select one of five baskets that ranged in cost from $20-$150
- Select the nearest National Foods depot closest to the recipient
- Enter the recipient’s details
- Enter their Ecocash number
- A prompt would be sent to their phone asking them for a pin
- Once payment was made Econet would do a little behind the scenes magic and get in touch with National Foods
- The recipient is notified and goes to collect their goods
Suffice to say EcoShopper never really went anywhere thanks in part to the fact that it seems some National Foods depots were really not aware of the service. We tried the service and never received the goods. In the process, we also came face to face with the herculean task of recovering our Ecocash money.
Why EcoShopper never became a thing
There are several reasons for this:
- The aforementioned poor implementation. Big companies do this a lot they announce something with much pomp and fanfare. You immediately visit one of their branches and suddenly realise you know more about the product than the guy behind the customer services desk.
- The basket idea- now there is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever seen. Some shops still persist with this sort of thing. That takes away flexibility in an unforgivable way. If I were to dare send my grandmother baked beans she would slap the silliness out of me. She has tons of beans her granary why would she want baked beans? And in God’s name why would I send her mealie-meal. Basket’s and similar product groups are dumb-stop pushing them.
- Expensive baskets- say what you will those baskets were expensive. You could receive cash and get all those goods plus more at close to 75% of the cost. I did the math.
- Ecocash was just still a wallet, not a payment method back then.
- They did not offer delivery: the customer had to pick up the goods and most National Food depots are in towns or growth points there are plenty of agents making cash outs possible.
The site is abandoned but still functional
EcoShopper was not shut down, it was just abandoned. To this day their website is still up and pretty much functional. If you go through the motions of placing an order you will even receive an Ecocash pin prompt on your phone! If you enter your pin your money will disappear into the belly of the beast. Getting a refund with Ecocash is not easy business so do not try this at home.
It’s not clear why Econet has not at least taken the site down since clearly, the service has not worked for a while.