Today, I tried the online grocery shopping site – Instacart. I’d been looking for something like this ever since I moved to the US from India. In India, I used to do my weekly grocery shopping on a similar website called Big Basket. It was a convenient option and saved your precious weekend time from being spent in busy supermarkets, which is how most working class people end up spending either their Saturday or Sunday. Plus, you didn’t have to step out of your house and get traffucked! Okay, now I’m digressing. Let me get to the point. I had my groceries delivered by Instacart, and here’s how it went.
Instacart is a grocery delivery company that lets you shop online from major grocery stores like Whole Foods, Kroger, Costco etc. and then delivers your groceries to you that same day, often within an hour or two.
Sounds too good to be true? That’s what I wondered, and so I decided to give the service a try. Here’s how my experience was:
How it works: Instacart allows you to shop from local grocery stores online, then sends a personal shopper to pick up and deliver your order to you the same day. Unlike other grocery delivery services, Instacart doesn’t keep an inventory of fresh produce in a warehouse. Rather, it lets you shop from major grocery stores like Whole Foods, Kroger, and Costco through its website, and then sends your order to one of its part-time employees aka your personal shopper. This “personal shopper” goes to the store of your choice, shops on your behalf, and then delivers your grocery order to you.
Cities it serves: Most major cities like Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Boulder, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Seattle & Washington D.C. areas.
Stores it partners with: Super markets local to your area like the Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger etc. (In my area, I have the option of only Kroger as of now which I don’t mind since that’s where I buy most of my produce and meat from.)
Delivery costs: The delivery fee depends on the size of your order and the delivery time that you choose. Delivery prices for your individual order are shown at the time of checkout. There’s also an option to join the Instacart Express membership club, which offers free two hour delivery and scheduled grocery deliveries over $35. Tips for your personal shopper are optional but encouraged.
All orders must be $10 or more.
My Ordering Experience
After logging in and providing my zip code, the first task was to choose which grocery store(s) I wanted to order from. There were two choices available to me in Irving: Kroger and Petco. This actually makes it just one option since Petco is for pet supplies.
I chose to place an order from Kroger. I’m fairly familiar with the things I usually get from Kroger, so I found it easy just to search for the food item and the brand of my choice. You can shop by category, though, and I was happy to find a complete selection of what I’d find in-store. There were photos attached to most food items, which helped confirm I’d found the exact item I was looking for.
Before I placed my order, the site allowed me to choose substitutions for all items in case they were out of stock, which I think is a great feature. Instacart offered its own recommendations, but it was easy to customize the picks, or to decide just to have the item refunded instead. There was also an option to have my personal shopper call/text me to confirm any substitution purchases. Since I just wanted a few items, I was done with placing my order in under 10 minutes.
After placing my order, I just happened to check my order details and saw a delivery charge of $9.99. It wasn’t a pleasant surprise since I was expecting a free delivery like it said. (I don’t like paying for delivery charges anywhere since I come from a country where everything is delivered for free. I’m spoiled that ways). I immediately called up Instacart’s customer service and explained the issue to the representative. After about five minutes of looking in my account, I was told that because my order was under $35, I was being charged a delivery fee. I then tried to explain how all their promotions just say “free delivery on first order.” Anyhow, I was promised that the delivery charge will be refunded. All’s well that ends well!
Now, this is the fun part:
The confirmation page gave me live updates on my order, including the name of my personal shopper, when he/she started shopping for me, and when they’d finished, and were headed my way. At that point I was able to follow them on a GPS map, so I knew when they were getting close to my home. The delivery was right on schedule, too. Within two hours my doorbell rang, and a friendly woman handed me three bags of groceries. She quickly told me about the substitutions she made, and then told me my receipt would be emailed to me.
I checked my order and found it perfect. It felt great!
How Instacart prices the items
When I put together my Kroger order on Instacart’s site, I assumed all the prices were actual Kroger store prices, and that was actually how it was, at least in case of Kroger. For other stores, the prices may be lower or higher than the in-store prices.
The company’s pricing strategy isn’t apparent anywhere on the main page. It’s only when you dig into the FAQ that you get some info on it:
When possible, Instacart works with retailers to bring you the same prices as found in the physical store. In some cases prices may be higher than in-store. We don’t honor in-store discounts (although we make available Instacart Coupons from time to time). You can see detail about pricing at the stores in your area here (you must be logged in): https://www.instacart.com/store/prices.
But once you add in delivery cost and tip, it’s likely that Instacart still costs me more than if I shopped in-store, although perhaps not quite as much as feared, depending on what I’m ordering.
- Very convenient, particularly if you’re sick and can’t go out to shop, or have small children and can’t step out of your house
- Allows you to pick your own time slot for delivery
- Options available are almost like in-store
- Ability to order from multiple stores in one go
- Access to Costco even without a membership (this I got to know from someone)
- Friendly personal shoppers and easy ordering experience
- Can’t be choosy about the produce (for instance, how ripe should the pineapple or avocados be)
- Prices are Instacart’s own, and vary from actual in-store prices, which means you could pay a premium (but not always). The markup varies from store to store, and it’s not clear why some items are more expensive and others less
- Doesn’t take store sales, coupons, or rewards into account
I don’t plan to use Instacart frequently. When I have the time, I like shopping in person — picking out the produce I want, comparing prices, seeing what new thing grabs my eye. But on one of those days when getting to the store just isn’t on the cards, or to have groceries delivered to a friend or a babysitter, I think it’s a great option.
You can get your first 3 Instacart orders delivered free with promo code: PGUPTA1C31F5
Have you ever ordered from Instacart? What has your experience been?
*This is not a sponsored post.
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