Scene: I’m sitting in the hallway of a hotel ballroom while my daughter is finishing her last dance workshop of the weekend. Feeling tired and anxious to get home and prepare for another busy week. I notice a dance mom friend is ordering her groceries online, so I strike up a conversation. Never having ordered groceries online before, I’m interested. She explains the basics, how it works for her, and I decide on a whim to give it a try.
At this point, I should add some color around why I haven’t ordered online groceries before. Mostly, it is because I actually enjoy grocery shopping. I like the experience of picking out my own apples and loaf of bread. I like to see which brand of deli meat is on sale. I like to chat with Ms. Louise, the friendliest grocery bagger in the city of New Orleans, and maybe the world.
However, the efficiency and ease of the process lure me in, and I decide, at least for this Sunday, to skip the store and save some time.
Why I Did It
Honestly, despite my somewhat old-fashioned ways, the convenience factor of driving up and having someone put groceries into my car sounds divine to this busy mom of three. In this way, I’d be saving time and effort. In addition, I know there are always those “extras” I pick up when browsing the aisles; so the idea of saving a few dollars on my grocery bill was pretty appealing. So, going into this experiment I’d identify my expected outcomes as: get the groceries I wanted, when I wanted them, for less.
I created an online account with my favorite local grocery chain. The website was easy enough to navigate, and I’d already meal planned and made my list for the week so the actual process of filling my cart was pretty simple. I only had to really “search” for a couple of items. In this way, I’d say I saved some effort. In addition, I selected the box allowing the store and clerks to make minor modifications as needed.
I was also pleasantly surprised when I completed my shopping trip and went to checkout. The total was about 70% of my regular weekly grocery spend (though some of that savings was due to some extras I’d bought the week before). I was also able to select the pickup time that was most convenient for me, and it allowed for a one-hour window. Done and done.
And then. And then, there were some challenges. I got an email about an hour after placing my order that stated that some of my items were unavailable and had no substitutes. This included: chicken thighs, chicken breast strips, grape juice, hot dogs, a pizza Lunchable, arugula, cheezits, spaghetti, marinara sauce, and andouille sausage. That was about a third of what was in my cart!
After the dance convention was over, we drove back to New Orleans just in time to pick up the groceries, at least the ones that had made it through the order process. This is the part I was most looking forward to. Drive up. Click the link to let the store know I’m here. Wait 5 minutes. This is not what happened.
I waited 15 minutes and eventually called the store. The manager was very kind and apologetic. She explained that the online system doesn’t actually alert the store that the shopper has arrived, so it is always best to call instead. A clerk was momentarily outside and loaded the groceries in my car.
You might think this was the end of my story, but alas, it is not. I still had to procure the items I’d intended to purchase but were not included in my final order. I was not about to go inside the original store to purchase those or similar items, so I drove down the street and made an additional trip.
At the end of the day, my experiment yielded the following results (based on my three stated goals).
Get What I Want — I didn’t actually get everything I wanted, even after making multiple stops. And, in fact, expended more effort, with additional frustration because of the canceled items, wait time, and additional shopping trip. This was honestly the biggest area of failure in my experiment.
When I Want – I also don’t feel like I actually saved time out of the deal. While filling my online cart was much quicker than walking through the store, the time waiting for groceries to be brought out, along with the additional trip to the other store, I still spent about the same time all in as I would have if I had physically gone to the store.
For Less – This was the one area that actually exceeded my expectations. Even though I had to go to multiple stores, and paid more for a couple of items than I would have preferred, I still saved about 25% on my weekly grocery bill, which feels significant, especially in these times of rising prices.
Even though I wouldn’t consider my first foray into online grocery ordering and pickup a success, it wasn’t a complete failure. I’m sure I’ll try it again in the future…it just might be a while. On that note, do you have any tips or tricks for making online grocery shopping easier with more effective results?