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Getting to know: Online Grocery Shopping

October 11, 2009 - 9:00 PM

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to order your groceries online?  Well, let me tell you!

Back in February due to my broken foot, I was not able to do the grocery shopping, or walk, or drive, or do much of anything for that matter.  Thankfully, Josh was Super Husband and stepped up to the plate beautifully.  However, he realized that it would be worth his time (the 4+ hours it takes him to go grocery shopping) and money (the store's $13 gathering/delivery fee) for us to try online grocery shopping.

Little things to note: Strange but true, I am not a big fan of shopping on the internet.  I actually enjoy going to the store to buy things and I especially like grocery shopping.  Strange but true, I am not a coupon goddess, or a drive-around-forever-and-find-the-best-deal kind of goddess, but I am a hardcore Fareway girl (an economical food store here in our area) and I love staying in budget with my groceries.  The only grocery store with online shopping in our area is the more expensive grocery store and shopping there I inevitably spend one and a half to two times as much.

"Me" preferences aside, this is how it really went...


- Not every item in the store was on the website.
They tell you this before you get started so you are prepared.  For the most part everything major is there in some brand.  More specific brands / items were missing to varying degrees: various organic aisle items, fresh bakery items, fresh meats / fish, as well as random on sale items and larger varieties of different items like cereals or breads, etc.

- You have to know your ingredients.
Because you can't very easily check the "Nutrition Facts" on the back, you have to be very familiar with the items you purchase.  It is easy when you stick with your regular meals, but if you want to add in an item you don't buy that often or never, you just have to hope for the best at the nutritional content.

- You are at the mercy of the store employee & their thoughtfulness.
Even though the list is fairly detailed, mistakes were made every week, generally 3 each time.  Not that they were bad mistakes simply inconvenient, like 2 - 32oz bags of shredded cheese instead of 2 - 16oz blocks of cheese that were on sale.  (Disclaimer: I was just so happy to have groceries & Josh was so happy not to have gone grocery shopping, that we didn't mind.)  Some weeks items would be out and this is where the thoughtfulness of the store employee would determine your fate: either they would just skip it and you'd have to live without your half gallon of Organic Valley milk OR they would actually call you and suggest a substitute 1/2 gallon of another brand of milk.  (The ones who called were definitely a positive!)

- The website is painful.
It only runs on a painful browser and it chunk-chunk-chunks along.  So slow and so painful, so mixed up and so painful.  (Probably more for me since building websites is our business and oh, how I wanted to send them an email and ask them if they would hire us to rebuild their site!)


- Saved grocery list
The website actually saves your info from week to week, so the items you regularly buy are already on your previous week's list and you can simply click on them to add again.  This also made using their website faster as you didn't have to always refind an item on their (painfully slow) in site search engine.

- No missed items on my end
Employee mistakes aside, I would come back to my order throughout the morning and make sure I didn't forget anything before the 11AM deadline.  Coming back to my order on the computer was much easier than shuffling the kids back and forth between aisles.

- Online ads from participating store
One big perk to the more expensive grocery store, was they always had their ad online.  While doing my shopping I could switch between websites and specifically buy things on sale (as long as I could find them on the shopping website).  Even if the price was not correct online, it always rung up correct in the store.

- The thoughtful employees
I used this system for about 4 months total, or 16 weeks.  About a third of the time I had the employee call to ask about a substitute or actually offer an on sale item as a substitute (generally the item that I had initially wanted to buy but it did not show up on their website).  And every week, the delivery person was incredibly kind!

- Paying by check
Instead of paying online, I would always pay by check.  I was not sure about trusting the chunk-chunk-chunk site with my credit card info and while I am sure it would've worked out, it was always nice for me to see that the total was always $15-20 less than expected (yet another reason why I didn't mind the mistakes as much).

- Soooooo great when needed!
All the negatives aside, it was so nice to be able to still do "something."  It was also so nice to simply do it when convenient for me, have it ordered by 11AM and at 4PM have a friendly clerk bring the groceries in my house and straight to the kitchen table.  Seriously worth the $13 gather/delivery fee!


Overall, I would say it was a good experience (for us) shopping online, one that I would recommend to someone if asked (tho' I would warn of the negatives).  However, because of the initial mentioned "me" preferences, I have not gone back to shopping online since I was given permission to walk and drive.  I know it is there if I need it but for now I am happy to enjoy walking the aisles again, even the back and forth... and back and forth... and back...

Response to Getting to know: Online Grocery Shopping

  • Nancy said on October 11, 2009 - 11:20 PM

    Oooh I was so excited to see that you blogged tonight, Dana! I've never tried it, but I can see that it would be soooo handy when you really need it. It was wonderful to hear your "voice"! :)

  • Nancy said on October 11, 2009 - 11:22 PM

    And, actually, when I first saw the title, I thought you were going to talk about grocery shopping through Amazon! (I know they've got some really good deals on some non-perishables.)

  • Dana said on October 11, 2009 - 11:28 PM

    Thanks Nancy! Yeah, Matt had mentioned Amazon to me when I first tried it months ago but Amazon's prices weren't what I was expecting... though, I stink at finding good deals, so someone else would probably do better than I! :)!

  • Alicia S. said on October 12, 2009 - 1:22 AM

    I did online shopping last winter (pick-up instead of delivery) and eventually stopped because it ended up being progressively more inconvenient than actually doing it myself. Here is an excerpt from an email I sent to store management, and this is the third (and worst) experience I relayed to them: "...Last night, I ordered again and took an early lunch today to pick up my groceries, which were bagged and ready. However, someone had marked it as a delivery and had the delivery driver not been running late to pick it up, it might not have been there when I arrived. After I got home, I saw that I was charged a $7.00 delivery fee and four items were incorrect (besides being wrong, they were all twice the price of the items I had ordered), totaling about $15 more than what a correctly-filled order would have been. (I had "no substitutions" selected and what I ordered was in stock.) I also got twice the porkchops I ordered, but decided to keep them. My frozen items were almost completely thawed and the meat wasn't very cold. I returned to the store to exchange the wrong items and get a refund for the delivery fee. Although an employee offered to get the correct items, I decided to just do it myself to avoid further errors. I was still charged the $5.00 shopping fee. I had to take two trips to the store and extend my lunch hour by an additional 30 minutes to complete what should have been a simple pick-up. " I got a $20 gift card in the mail, but I still am not planning on doing online grocery shopping again until someone tells me my frozen items won't sit out for hours and the substitution decisions aren't made by a 16-year-old stockboy. :)

  • Dana said on October 12, 2009 - 8:37 AM

    Oh Alicia! That sounds horrible! Definitely puts extra marks on the "negative" side for being at the mercy of the store employee! (I think that I should also add a disclaimer of the desperation of our situation!) BUT, I think you will be happy to know, my items were never thawed, and twice I remember them actually ALL being on the frozen side - they must have taken your hint, :)!

  • Alicia S. said on October 12, 2009 - 12:53 PM

    Yeah, you definitely had a far more legitimate reason to use the service than I did (I was busy + lazy + winter-weary). That experience was the worst of several less-than-stellar orders, which led to me sending the email. I'm really not the type to lodge formal complaints, but I was so fed up! And how would they know the areas that needed improvement without my feedback? Really, all they need to do is pay close attention to WHAT was actually ordered (size, flavor, brand), refer to the customer's listed substitution preference, call if they are not able to meet the pick-up deadline, and follow food safety guidelines (store the order in a walk-in cooler). Basic stuff! Maybe I just couldn't handle lack of control. :D

  • Alicia S. said on October 12, 2009 - 12:54 PM

    Your comment section doesn't do line breaks?

  • Dana Cramer said on October 12, 2009 - 1:10 PM

    I know!! It USED to do it but this time is not, something must have broke. I tried fixing it on mine earlier and it didn't work. Good thing I know a guy who can fix it up real quick! :)!

  • Sarah said on October 12, 2009 - 2:00 PM

    I've always thought it would be great to order online, but never have for all the reasons people have addressed. I wonder if we could form our own site, then have someone do all the shopping for us. Like a student. Ah, that would be nice. Like having my own personal go-fer.

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