Thursday, February 19, 2009

Online grocery shopping – a comparative review

If you think that shopping on-line is purely for the "slothful" you may probably be right. If on the other hand your family is subject to the occasional domestic disaster, then it may be something worth checking out. Just off the top of my head, I can easily think of half a dozen different scenarios where this service might be of use:-
Freezer death
Fridge death
Sudden illness, oneself or a family member, which results in house bound
Car death
Explosion of oven
Death of any other essential household appliance, such a toilet, whereby the owner occupier must remain in residence for a minimum period of 48 hours on the off chance that the plumber may honour us with a visit for a standard call out charge, 5 minute examination, departure on the promise to return with the month, not to exceed 31 days in any event, many harsh words regarding consumer mis-use, and the promise of further additional charges for parts, installation and tax, not to include clean up or removal and disposal of broken parts, nor the slightly battered and water logged Thomas the Tank Engine.

For many efficient people, any or all of the above would still leave them with a carefully organized store cupboard of ingredients to whip up a wholesome and nutritious meal for a family of "seven," and sometimes more.

Other less efficient people, may need to resort to on-line grocery shopping.

In my vast experience in these matters, it is far better to set up an order on-line prior to the disaster. A basic list of essentials can very quickly be drawn up, especially, if you’re not working on a Mac. If you are working on a Mac it is even more essential to set up the emergency shopping list in advance, to iron out any inevitable and frustrating kinks.

Make sure you save the voucher for free delivery on all orders over the minimum requirement. Orders that are delivered on the same day take the maximum hit in delivery charges, assuming that you can find an open window or convenient slot. If you are doubtful that you can hit the minimum charge ensure that you stock up on staples such as toilet rolls, laundry detergent and other non-perishables, preferably large, heavy ones as you need to exploit someone else’s muscle power to the maximum and reserve your own strength, so as to be better able to run your household efficiently and hand the plumber his tools.

Book mark the site or leave as a permanently open window so that other household members are able to hit the ‘order now’ button should you find that your fingers are inoperable due to a surfeit of wooden splinters from Thomas the Tank Engine. It is a good idea to include finely targeted bribes for each member of the family as an incentive to their co-operation in this endeavour. Most family members will be reluctant to hit the ‘order now’ button in the sure and certain knowledge that the result with be several hundred weight of healthy vegetables winging their way towards your door, but a packet of M&M’s here and there may just make the difference between success and failure to the enterprise.

It is handy to note that the pictures of the shopping items all appear to be the same size and there is no scale available for comparison. This means that a one and a half ounce individual fun size pack of M&Ms appears to be the same as a family pack for a herd of elephants. Most children salivate to such a degree that they are not mindful of the fine print.

A few details.

Our personal experience.

Customer service is great. If the delivery person turns up with half your order or half of someone else’s order, this is easily remedied by telephone where you get to speak to a real live human being who is also capable of making decisions. This works even if you only discover the error an hour later. We had no problem being credited for items that we were charged for but failed to materialize. They also offered to deliver the missing items later in the day for free. Make sure that you check each item off the print out to avoid hic-cups.

All of the different supermarkets are competitively priced but don’t forget to check the ‘specials.’ Since price is crucial in these financially crippling times, take care to double check the price per ounce to avoid expensive mistakes. Also be aware of the difference between buying some by quantity, i.e. one unit, and by weight, i.e. one pound, otherwise you may end up with ten ten pound bags of potatoes.

Take care over the ‘substitutes’ page. This is where you explain whether you are willing to accept alternatives for specific items. This is generally divided into substitute brands and substitute quantities. If you fail to complete this form then you may end up with something entirely unexpected.

The delivery personnel are friendly and personable and on time. I’m not sure on the etiquette but I believe it would be appropriate to tip the delivery guy, afterall they’re providing a service, although I have no idea what sum would be appropriate.

One last hidden benefit is that you're helping to keep your carbon footprint under raps as well as preventing impulse buying, as little pictures are not as tempting as the real thing. It also means, in theory at least, that at the check out, the trolly won't be filled with erroneous purchases by other more surreptitious members of the "family."


Marita said...

I love online grocery shopping. Really does help to minimise impulse purchases and makes me plan my meals in advance a bit more.

Recently discovered that we have an online pharmacy here in Australia also so I can add that to my online shopping list.

Thanks to online shopping and new determination to walk the children to school and PreSchool I've not driven the car this week! Go Us! one step closer to our car-free goal :)

I've made the choice to tick the 'No Substitutions' box for our groceries because I was never happy with what they substituted.

And you have reminded me that today is shopping day and I've not done it yet. Best get cracking.

Almost American said...

I used to think it was for the slothful - and then I experienced my brother's shopping nightmare in London. Nice Tescos. Horrendous car park - far too small! I'm not surprised his family does their food shopping online!

deb said...

0h, my, do I love online grocery shopping. Here in Illinois, it's called Peapod. I tried it several years ago when we were in the midst of a major crisis- son in hospital for 4 months after a Traumatic Brain Injury...yada yada yada. Suffice it to say that after 6 years, I'm still at it. I get downright surly if I have to go the the store for some small thing that was out of stock at my beloved Peapod (a rare occurrence, by the way). Their customer service department is superior- if there is ANY problem with any item delivered, it is credited before you are charged, no questions asked. (After all this time, I am what is called a VIPea customer- get it? Peapod? VIPea??)
It took a bit to set up my first order, but after that, it was quite simple. Now, it's a piece of cake. I know it is somewhat more costly than dragging my butt to the store. But, it is so, so worth it.
All the best-

codeman38 said...

I wish there were an option for online grocery shopping where I live. I wouldn't be grousing so much about not being able to drive if that option were available!

Awesome Mom said...

Hmm I may have to try this. I am sick and tired of having to drag both (soon to be all three) kids to the store and have to be on the look out for stray items that get randomly thrown in the cart and so on.

Online Supermarket said...

Superb application in the UK - Tesco will allow you to register a second address on your account. We often self-cater, so after we have driven for a few hours to the accommodation, gone to the nearest pub for supper and then crashed out, it's great to get a knock on the door the following morning and have your breakfast and grocery basics delivered by the Tesco man.

Of course part of the fun of staying away is searching the local markets and stores for regional foods, but to get you started, this service is a boon!

Robin said...

I tried online grocery shopping for a bit years ago when we were living in a third-floor walkup and my husband was out of commission with a broken foot.

I gave it an honest try, but finally gave up the day I ordered a dozen bagels and received a dozen small bags of "bagele" - in other words, 12 bags of pretzels!

Expat mum said...

I have been on-line grocery shopping for about 15 years. So much so that I am a VI Pea-podder. (Peapod is my service).
I am not a shopper at all, and I long ago decided that the $6 delivery fee was worth the blood, sweat and tears that is shopping with babies.
I tip my delivery guys a lot because they bring my stuff at the beginning of my two hour window and carry it through the house to my kitchen. Once, they didn't have the wine I ordered, so they were told to go and buy it at the corner shop for me. (I did tell them not to bother, - I'm not desparate.)
And - for those who think it's an unecessary luxury in these times - you save a heck of a lot by making alist, ordering what you want, and not "impulse" buying.

All Rileyed Up said...

I've been curious about online groceries and have to thank you for such a detailed review of it.

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Call me lazy, but I really do hate grocery shopping-- and with two autistic kids under foot--oh my!! disaster and overspending. Now I get lazy about ordering on-line and sometimes the wait is a few days via Peapod (Stop&Shop). Now I'm back at the market with my son to teach him about shopping--all good but I still hate it!!

Whitenoise said...

I sympathize. And, although I have never tried the online grocery service, the water-logged Thomas the Tank Engine problem brought back some memories.

buffalodick said...

You will always be British..God bless us, everyone...

karenyengel said...

This is a great idea - at least for essentials. I'll have to try it out. But what about fruits and vegetables? I would want to pick things out myself.

Hammer said...

In my backwards and primitive city we don't have online groceries, pizza, or anything of that nature.

It sure would be nice to be able to click on a few things in the morning, and get them in time to make dinner.

Betsy said...

I do a bit of online's so convenient!

Catherine said...

On-line gorcery shopping is a god send just so long as your internet connection doesn't trip out just as you're choosing your last few items!! My computer nearly died a slow and painful death that day!!!

Whitenoise said...

Hey, time for an update, eh?

Jocelyn said...

I've never even considered doing this (simply because I'm looking for any excuse to get out of the house and have a small issue where I get thrilled to buy ANYTHING). However, your extremely funny account here has gotten my attention.

Enjoy the M & Ms.

Stacy said...

Oh my goodness, I almost cried when my online grocer went under! I was happy, happy, happy when they were bought out by another in a different area. I save money from not impulse buying, and for the most part they get my order right 99% of the time. When they don't they are quick to credit me back. They don't have the variety that the big supermarket has, but that just means I only have to venture into the store rarely.

I however, have never tipped. I guess I didn't think of it, and usually I'm not a cheapskate. They don't bring it in the house, though...I don't feel comfortable with that!