Earlier in the year, when the pandemic was just getting started, I tried shopping online for groceries and the results were disappointing. Many items were out of stock and delivery times were impossible to schedule. I gave up on the idea of having food delivered. Recently, I noticed that my local grocery store had added a local pickup option. I decided to give it another try, but this time I would drive to the store and pickup the order. The online store uses the popular “Instacart” web application. I still had my account login info from my previous shopping attempt. After logging in, I changed the default delivery option to “Local Pickup” before I started shopping. Having shopped at this local store for over 10 years, I had a good idea of which items they would have in stock. I also scheduled the pickup for the next morning, because they typically restock the store over night. The website made it easy to find what I was looking for. They showed a picture of the item and the price, in addition to any discounts that were active on the item. I browsed through each department adding items that we would typically get. It didn’t take too long to get 32 items in my cart. Being able to see the total before you checkout was better than the guessing game you play when you shop in the physical store. I checked out and set the pickup time for 11am the next day.
The store sent text messages to my phone, keeping me updated on the status of my order. I was allowed to make changes right up to the time when they started “shopping” the items. Shortly after shopping started, I was notified that 2 item substitutions needed my approval. I clicked on a link in the text message, which opened the shopping app, allowing me to make the approvals. It felt like an interactive experience, which I wasn’t expecting. When shopping was completed (one hour early), I was notified by a phone call (which I missed) and a text. I was concerned about buying dairy and frozen foods if my order sat too long before I could pick it up. So, I drove to the store and parked in one of the six designated spots for local pickup. A link in the text opened the shopping app which allowed me to enter a description of my vehicle (SUV/Silver) and let them know that I was ready and waiting. A short time later, a young lady came out of the store, pushing a cart with five grocery bags toward me. I helped her load the bags into the back of my SUV. I asked if they accept tips and she said that wasn’t necessary. I suppose that makes the transaction completely “no contact”. The first pickup was free. Normally they charge $3.99 for each order, which is very reasonable. They also offer a subscription, that could save you money, if you use the service frequently. I forgot to mention that when you put in your order, they automatically put a $100 charge on your credit card. I suppose because substitutions can change the final cost of your order. My two subs were the same price as the items I originally picked. So, my final cost was exactly what I expected. It ended up being a much better experience than my previous attempt. The communication and interactive element was great. Seeing that my order was completed ahead of time, makes me think that not many people are using the local pickup option. It sure felt like the way of the future.