Sunday, September 15, 2019

Let my fingers do the shopping

Do you still remember the jingle for the Yellow Pages ad from the 60's? (Let your fingers do the walking in the Yellow Pages. Read the ads. Learn the facts. Find it fast.) Well, of course you don't. You were far too young!! But, as soon as I thought about writing this post the jingle came to mind - and doesn't seem to want to leave!

Last evening I was at my son's house and he was talking about doing his weekly grocery shopping... online. He, and many like him have changed the way business is conducted. He has used an online grocery delivery service for years and only visits a brick and mortar store when he needs a special item at the last minute, or runs out of a staple. Sunday morning the family sits down to talk about the coming week and their grocery needs. He submits the order and a few hours later his food is on the doorstep. It made me think...

I don't particularly care to go grocery shopping. In California the traffic is horrendous. In Florida the grocery stores are limited in what they carry or are further away than I care to drive...  and ditto the traffic. So, thought I, why not give online shopping a try?!

The first service I found that delivers in my area was Instacart. Instacart employs shoppers who go to one or more stores in the area to shop for online clients. In CA I can select from about 4 grocery stores, SAM's, Costco and even Petco, to name a few. (This post is strictly an overview of my experiences. It is not necessarily an endorsement and I have received nothing from any entity to post this information.) The service has both a web-based interface and an app for a smartphone or iPad. I began playing around online, then downloaded the app. I haven't figured out how to make them sync, so my order didn't show on my phone. Maybe now that I have signed up for both interfaces they'll play well together on my next order.

I think I might like online shopping! I found ordering to be really easy. I could search for items, pick which I wanted and add them to my cart in whatever quantity I desired. There were a few items that didn't come up in my search. For example, I wanted a bag of Candy Corn. I knew the store had Halloween candy. I could even "see" the aisle in my mind where it was located. But, searching brought up no seasonal candy. However, at the bottom of the page there is a link for "Add a special request". I typed in Brach's Candy Corn, and was given the option to add a picture. Clicking on that , brought up dozens of images from the Internet. I could pick the brand I wanted, and the picture was added to my request. On every item I ordered I also had the opportunity to leave notes for the shopper. So, for "Corn on the cob" I indicated I only wanted the corn if it was really fresh, and if the stem wasn't dried out at all.

The prices from the store I was ordering from seemed to be almost the same as the prices I would pay were I in the store. I did look at a few items at a competitor's store, and the prices seemed rather high.  I noticed that the price for a Costco rotisserie chicken was $6.09 online, where it is $4.99 at the store. However, it is my understanding that you don't have to be a member of Costco to order from them through Instacart, so they must tack on a bit to make up that difference. Sale items were also included, and some of the prices I paid were actually less than the prices shown online.

I liked how this manner of shopping made me think about what I might prepare over the next few days. No more scrounging around in the fridge at 5:30 6:30, trying to cobble something together for dinner! Since the price for delivery changes is based on the total of your order, I also wanted to get over the $35 minimum for the $5.99 delivery fee - seriously... how hard was that?! (In reality, I didn't pay a delivery fee as I opted to try out Instacart Express for free for two weeks. The express program has an annual fee of about $150 which offers free delivery on orders over $35 for a year.) I am a bit picky about my vegetables and fruit, as well as meat. This time I didn't order any meat as we had stocked up on it last week. However, I do understand others' reluctance in having a total stranger pick out things I pick out by touch, sniff or by careful visual scrutiny. The corn was rejected by the shopper. She sent me this message: ".... your Instacart Shopper: Hello! The ends of the corn are very dry so I marked them as “couldn’t find”. Later, I realized I had forgotten to add eggs, so I texted her and she added them to the list for me.

I was given several options for delivery times. I opted for the first two-hour window and within that time frame my shopper arrived at my doorstep, scanned my ID since I ordered wine (yes! you can even get that if the store offers it!), delivered my groceries, and was on her way. I carried several bags into the house, put the groceries away and went on with my activities. It was a pleasant shopping experience in many respects! No traffic hassles, parking hassles or trudging up and down aisles. I didn't have to schlep bags from cart to truck and from truck to house. Once I had made my list and sent it on its way, I was free to tackle other pursuits... well, so vacuuming wasn't necessarily enjoyable, but I did get it out of the way!

Here is a summary of the expenses for my shopping "trip". All of the fees were computed by Instacart. It is my understanding that one can change and/or eliminate the service fee. The tip can also be changed. I gave my shopper a cash tip, in addition to this paltry sum computed by Instacart.

All in all, even if I paid an additional $5.99 for delivery, this seems well worth the savings in time and hassles. Oh, and I would hazard a guess, that were I shopping at the store I would slip additional items into the cart whose total would far surpass the fees I paid for being removed from that temptation!

If you are thinking of trying Instacart I can get you a $10 coupon (for a limited number of folks). Just saying!


  1. No one delivers to the boonies...I could order something to be delivered by Fed X or UPS but like you I like my produce to be just so! We can order online and then pick up at the store but I haven't tried that :)

    1. Once, last year, I ordered groceries for pick up. I was really sick and had only enough energy to drive to the store. I liked the service, but for the most part, I wouldn't order vegetables or meat. Yeah, getting things in the boonies is a challenge.

  2. My son lives on instacart. 15 mo. old boy and another on the way--they need all the help they can get.

    1. That's how my kids started. When they were in San Francisco they ordered a lot of meals delivered as well.

  3. Where I am the grocery store is maybe a mile or so away and easy to get to so there is much less attraction to online ordering and besides if I got groceries online I might never leave the house!


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