Sheltering in place for many Americans has meant trying online grocery shopping and delivery for the first time. Food retailers are clearly overwhelmed by the demand for such services. It’s a bit ironic since they’ve been touting curbside pickup and online ordering for some time, perhaps a case for them of be careful what you wish for.
After several weeks of hit-and-miss service, I’ve put together this list for you of 5 problems you should expect when using online grocery shopping and delivery/pickup.
- You’ll pay a lot more. Shopping in stores means you can search out the week’s specials, discounts, etc. to cut your grocery bill. Forget that online. There are specials but by the time your order arrives they’ll likely be unavailable even if you ordered them. Which leads to problem two…
- You won’t receive everything you ordered. Retailers are so backed up with orders that they can’t keep items in stock apparently. A recent order I placed at Walmart.com came with half of what I ordered missing (see the photo here of my post-order screen below). That leads to the next issue…
- Delivery fees are high, especially considering you won’t get everything you ordered. Retailers generally have minimum delivery amounts you have to buy, $20 or $30. Walmart charges a $9.95 delivery fee for every order. I recently ordered about $25 of groceries but when it was delivered I received only $10 worth of food that was still available,. That means I paid double for every item when the $9.95 fee is included. I complained about this but never heard back.
- Beware substitutions that will drive your bill higher. I’ve used both Walmart.com and Jewel, my local mainline supermarket. But it took me two orders from each to realize I needed to click on a small button on the ordering screens not to allow substitutions for what I ordered. I didn’t see that button on my first Jewel order so instead of getting chicken breasts that were supposed to be on sale for around $3 a pound, I was sent chicken that cost $7.50 a pound because the special I ordered was out of stock. That was a significant price increase I wasn’t expecting and wouldn’t have agreed to. On my first Walmart order, I ordered diet Pepsi only to get diet Coke, again at a higher price.
- Speedy delivery doesn’t exist. Need some quick items for tonight’s dinner? Forget it. If you;re lucky you can book delivery a week out from the date you order. To do that, you need to be online when the food store you shop adds a new day to its delivery schedule. Some do that at midnight, others at 6 or 8 a.m., depending on how their shopping software is programmed.
All-in-all I’d say online delivery has been a painful, unsatisfying experience. So much so that my wife decided to venture out to a store today to look for all the items which aren’t available for online delivery, such as low-salt, low-fat products and lean meats and various produce which seems almost impossible to get online.