Our Experience Ordering Groceries

In late March, we wrote about why people might rather order groceries over the phone or the internet. Even as things calm down, staying away from large crowds is crucial until we have a vaccine. For many of us with health concerns, it’s even more important.

Going to the store right now can be stressful. There are one-way systems people are ignoring, things you want are missing, you have to wear a mask and scrub yourself when you get home. And, even if you aren’t concerned about COVID-19, going is still a hassle because of all the regulations.

One of the members of our social media team tried out Instacart for the first time over the weekend. She wanted to share her experience with our readers so that everyone has an idea of what to expect. This is not an “advertorial.” We did not receive any sort of compensation or deal for the review.

First, our team member made an account. It comes with a two-week free trial. After that, the service costs $99 a year. While the service is excellent, she has no intention of going beyond the free trial phase. It makes sense to use it right now, but $99 is a bit steep for her budget when things are calm. Instead, she plans on doing a couple of big orders and then canceling before she would switch to paying for it. However, if you live far away from your grocery store, $99 might be what you spend on gasoline to get your groceries over a year.

If you order less than $35, there is a delivery fee. But, as she was doing a larger order, there was only a small service fee that was a little more than a dollar. While tipping is not required, she did add a tip as she lives on the fourth floor, and the shopper delivered the groceries right to her door. He did all the work, so she viewed it as being like a waiter. Instacart states that the personal shopper gets 100 percent of their tip. She added the tip in the system so she wouldn’t have to hand money to a person.

On the site, she could pick from a wide assortment of local stores — including the one she usually goes to. She selected her regular store. Then she made her list, typing in what she wanted and then clicking on it. By putting in “ground beef,” it showed her all her options. Once she was done, it showed her what the system thought the store might be running low on and gave her a verity of replacement options or the option to just get a refund if it wasn’t in stock.

At checkout, she was given the option of paying with a card or PayPal. Because she doesn’t like giving her credit card to companies she doesn’t know well, she paid with PayPal. She was given the option to either place her order to be delivered as soon as possible or set a date to have her groceries delivered. She chose the ASAP option and was told it would come no later than the next morning.

A personal shopper accepted the order about 15 minutes later, and she could watch the process as he shopped. Instacart is a national company, and while her order was assigned to a shopper within 15 minutes, it might be longer in a more rural area. But, if you select a delivery date as opposed to ASAP, that can be avoided.

She was shown his name and a photo on the app — which she ran from a computer. At one point, he messaged her to say that both options for the milk she wanted her out of stock. In fact, all dairy milk was gone. He asked if soy milk was okay, but she messaged back to say she would rather have a refund. A couple of minutes later, he messaged her to say that the store didn’t have the brand of butter she wanted and sent an image of the selection in the store. She chose a different brand. That butter was less expensive, and Instacart immediately reduced her bill.

She noticed that he moved through the store more quickly than she would have. That’s possibly because, as a personal shopper, he is more familiar with the layout than she is. If he has been shopping throughout the pandemic, he is far more accustomed to the one-way system than she is. He was finished shopping much more quickly than she would have been. He brought all her groceries up the four flights of stairs. He knocked on her door, then he waved at her through the window, called out a hello and was gone. He was wearing a mask, and they did not interact.

The shopping bags were packed nicely. The laundry detergent and dish soap she had ordered were in a separate bag from any food. Her eggs were on top of the onions and carrots. The produce he picked was good quality. The ground beef and butter were between her two frozen items — keeping them cool.

There were a couple of drawbacks. Manufacturer sales were honored: she bought three of one type of product and received a dollar off. However, the store’s sales weren’t included. The seltzer water she bought was on sale in the weekly store circular, but the price was not discounted on her receipt. Apparently, whether those sales are honored is up to the store individually and not Instacart. So, you should double-check to be sure the store you have selected is honoring their sales online.

Overall, she was pleased with the experience but said it wouldn’t have been something she did in her normal life. For one thing, while her personal shopper was polite, fast and diligent, that’s no guarantee that all the shoppers are that way. Additionally, she likes browsing and picking what’s on sale. However, the shelves at the store are sparse at the moment — hence the fact that the store was out of milk. At this time, the lack of sale items and not being able to shop around was a trade she was willing to make for not going into the store.

For the current situation, she gave her experience an A+. But she said that, in her normal life, $99 a year plus a service fee isn’t worthwhile. Especially as she likes picking her produce and using the store circular.

We hope that this review helps you decide if an online service is right for you. Your safety is critical, having someone else do the shopping can be a big help when it keeps you out of the supermarket.

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