Spices Etc.

Pros: Assortment, customer service, quality, quantity
Cons: None!
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 11/15/2002

For a long time now I’ve been ordering spices from Spices, Etc. www.spicesetc.com/”>Spices, Etc.
Why am I not satisfied with my local grocery store? Well, for a number of reasons.

  • Tiny containers. I go through waaaay too much cinnamon and ginger to settle for those teency little jars, you know. Heck, sometimes I can only find things like dry mustard in those little half-sized things. How long is that supposed to last me, two weeks? I do a lot of cooking!
  • Prices. Those teency jars can also cost a lot, particularly when you’re talking about something a little exotic, like cardamom or cloves.
  • Selection. Do you really think you’re going to find nice, plump vanilla beans at my grocery store? Dill seeds? What about whole-leaf savory? Nope, I didn’t think so either.

Enter Spices, Etc.

What I Love About The Spices, Etc. Web Site

It’s simple. No maze of twisty passages – uh, web pages – all alike. I’ve never gotten lost just trying to find something. The online catalog itself is a simple set of text-based menus going from category, to sub-category, to item. The cart is easy to access and manipulate. Checkout is swift and simple.

Options. You can order online, by mail, by fax, or by phone. Don’t want to deal with their online system? Then don’t. Don’t have a fax? Don’t worry about it. Hate calling people? No worries. You’ve got options, baby!

Quick Shipping. As the order info page notes, they process orders within 48 hours.

Customer Service. Last Sunday I put in an order for a bunch of spices I’ll need for Thanksgiving. Since I couldn’t remember how long orders from them usually took to arrive, and I was cutting things a little close (oops!), I used the “comments” box during the order process to ask them to please send the order soon, as I needed these things for Thanksgiving. I’ll note that I have them in my hands today – just 5 days later. Also, although the vanilla beans I wanted are back-ordered, they put a note on the order form saying they would do their very best to expedite the vanilla beans to arrive before Thanksgiving. Most companies wouldn’t have bothered to say anything! (Note added a few hours later: I just got a shipping notice for the vanilla beans, so they’ll be here next Wednesday – only a few days later than the original shipment, and definitely in time.)

Handy FAQ. There’s a helpful FAQ detailing such things as how long you should keep ground spices and what sort of bulk ordering Spices, Etc. offers (if you really want to order in SERIOUS bulk, you can!). A page of “Spice Tips” similarly gives handy information for your use.

Amusement Value. A “Meet Joe Spice” page gives the spice packers’ listing of the top five spices, by just how nasty they are to package. Each one is scored in categories of Sticky, Nasty, and Pain!

Secure Ordering. Since I just got through trying to explain to someone in another organization why I was not going to email them my credit card number (and no, he never got it), I’m in the mood to be extremely appreciative of secure online ordering right now. I mean, yeah, where I live you could probably leave your doors unlocked and never get burgled (and I’m sure many people do), but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna do it! Sheesh…

Limitations

US Only. They only ship to US addresses – no international orders.

Lack of Shipping Options… Sort Of. The order info says they can do UPS 2d day or next day delivery. However, you can’t arrange those through the web site. So if you need your order fast, I recommend calling them.

Mailing List Sharing. They do admit that sometimes they share their mailing list with others. However, their order info page also has instructions for telling them not to.

Occasional Lack of Information. Sometimes I’d like more information on a particular product, or I’d like to know exactly what “small” means in the little drop-down box of size options. But by and large there’s enough information there to facilitate my order. Worst case, you can always order by phone and ask them any questions you have. And they will include a paper catalog with your order, which sometimes has more information in it (particularly regarding sizes). The catalog also has some photos, which the web site lacks.

A Few Extra General Details

In the years I’ve been using it (at least 3 or 4, maybe more), the web site has never had a substantial overhaul. It’s kind of nice that they keep things simple and don’t give in to using the latest Flash animations and browser-dependent technologies. I don’t mind the fact that they keep things simple; they update the important information and the product lineups, and that’s what’s important to me. Sure, a slightly more sophisticated setup might be nice, but they have the important stuff – and it works.

Spices, Etc. also offers a “Buyers’ Club,” which you can join through the web site. For $25 a year you can get 15% off of your orders. You probably won’t need this unless you do catering or run a bakery or some such.

Selection & …

Selection: Oh, how do I love Spices, Etc.? Let me count the ways. They carry packaged herbs and spices of all kinds, spice blends, specialty seasonings, dried vegetables, dried mushrooms, natural flavorings, packaged teas, sauces and marinades, grinders (as in to grind spices), accessories, books, flavored sugars, and gift baskets. The sheer variety of spices astounds me; I don’t think I’ve ever tried to buy something from them and found that they didn’t carry it. Need to buy a gift for a special cook in your life? Try the ultimate spice assortment – 120 SPICES!

Size: I have pint jugs of cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, whole nutmegs, and more! If you don’t go through as much as I do you can get the standard-sized containers. If you’re crazy (or running a catering business, maybe), you can get even larger containers for many spices.

Price: The prices are certainly lower than the grocery store. Mind you, in part that’s because the spices are always packaged in plastic, not glass – glass will help them to last longer. But I can live with that compromise, particularly since many of the spices I find in the store are no longer packaged in glass either. Note that the plastic packages are actual containers, not plastic baggies.

Quality: The cayenne is a fresh bright red, and very spicy. The vanilla beans are plump and fresh – much easier to work with than the dried-out beans I’ve gotten at other places in the past. I’ve never once been unhappy with the quality of something I got from Spices, Etc.

In fact, I’ve never once been unhappy with the results of a single order! Only rarely do I find that items are backordered. Things arrive in a timely and un-damaged fashion via UPS. They send me package-tracking notices, even, so I’ll know when my package will get here. In short, I heartily recommend ordering your spices from Spices Etc. I think you’ll find it a delicious experience!

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