Grocery pickup and delivery services are becoming more prevalent, with big players like Amazon, Kroger, Target and Meijer joining the “grocery wars.”
Many of the delivery options are serviced through Instacart or Shipt, third-party providers who send personal shoppers into stores to select each customer’s groceries and then deliver them to shoppers’ homes.
This news organization gave Instacart a test run. We ordered groceries at the area’s largest provider, Kroger. Here’s what we learned:
1. It’s quick.
From start to finish, the entire process of ordering and receiving groceries took only about one and a half hours for 14 products including produce, freezer items, dairy products, bread, lunch meat and granola bars, totaling $38.06.
The order was placed at 1:02 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, with a requested delivery time within two hours. The immediate delivery estimate was in a window of 2:05 to 3:05 p.m., but the driver pulled up in a Chevy Cruze at 1:54 p.m., just 52 minutes after the order was placed.
The delivery destination was roughly 4.5 miles from the Kroger Marketplace on Yellow Springs Road in Fairborn.
Customers can also choose a time frame like 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. if they would rather order during the day and receive the delivery in the evening. Push notifications alert customers of when their personal shoppers have started searching for groceries, departed the grocery store and arrived outside the destination.
2. Don’t expect to receive in-store discounts.
Perhaps the biggest downside to shopping third-party delivery is that the dollar amount on the Kroger store’s paper receipt won’t match the digital receipt provided by Instacart. In-store sales and specials don’t apply to the app, but the app does offer its own coupons.
For example, the price of a medium avocado on Instacart is $1.29, the everyday store price; however, the same avocado is currently on sale at the Fairborn Kroger for 69 cents, so a shopper ordering the groceries for delivery will pay 60 cents more per avocado than shoppers who go to the store themselves.
An alternative option to both delivery and in-store shopping is ClickList pickup, where customers can order online and pickup at the store’s curb. ClickList orders through Kroger’s website and the app does honor the store’s sales.
3. The app is user friendly, but does have some downsides
The Instacart app is relatively easy to use. At the top of the app, customers can pick which store they’d like a delivery from, including Kroger, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Meijer and CVS Pharmacy. Once a store is chosen, shoppers can type in a search or browse items by department.
For example, if customers want five bananas, they search “banana,” click on the product and press the plus button to five. The app automatically calculates an estimated weight and price for the bananas.
The app also stores previous purchases, making it quick to find repeat buys and add them to the shopping cart.
The purchasing process continues to be relatively easy — just pick a delivery time window, add a credit card number and enter an address.
The only downside appears to be that shoppers can’t use paper coupons with the app. Instacart does have its own coupon section with deals and promo codes, but paper coupon codes do not work. While it’s not detrimental to the app’s success, it can be frustrating for shoppers at stores like Kroger, that send personalized coupons to Kroger Plus Card members.
4. Instacart will right any wrongs.
Though it was on the store receipt, meaning the item was purchased, one item on our grocery list didn’t make it to the destination. A 3.6 fl. oz. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream purchased for 50 cents with a coupon from Instacart wasn’t in any of the bags delivered.
When we reached out to Instacart about the issue the night of the delivery, the company added a 50 cent credit to cover the expense.
When evaluating the store receipt, we noticed the Instacart shopper upgraded the size from a 3.6 fl. oz container to a pint, likely because the store didn’t have to correct size stocked. The price Instacart charged didn’t change with the larger size.
The produce received was all fresh and in good condition.
5. It may or may not be worth the price, depending on who you are.
Unlimited free grocery delivery seems too good to be true, partly because the free delivery does come at a cost. An Instacart Express membership, which drops the regular $5.99 delivery fee for each order, comes at a price tag of $149 per year or $14.99 a month.
In addition to the monthly or yearly rates, shoppers will pay a $2 service fee per order, may be subject to an additional fee during “busy pricing” and have an option to leave the driver a tip.
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