MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In today’s world, going to the grocery store can be stressful, if not life-threatening for some people, so we tested out ways you can get your food without ever going in the store.
For our test, we focused on a few options; bigger stores like Kroger, Walmart and Target offer both pickup and delivery, depending where you live.
And then we focused on exclusive delivery services like Instacart and Shipt, where you sign up and they pay people to go in the stores and shop for you. You can pay a one-time fee or get a membership.
For shopping, we focused on about a dozen items: milk, salad mix, chicken breast, hand soap, pasta, bread, frozen pizza, tomato sauce, dishwasher soap, laundry detergent, ground beef and tomatoes.
We also wanted to shop for paper goods, but they were not available online at any of the stores when we checked.
We started with Target; however, we found we could not add any perishable foods to our pickup order. It did suggest using Shipt for delivery, but on the day we tested, Shipt didn’t have any times available.
Instead we focused on Instacart delivery, which offers you access to multiple stores, as well as Kroger and Walmart pickups.
Instacart had a ton of scheduling availability, including that day. Instead, we scheduled for the next day and built the cart. The next day, Instacart sent notifications indicating shopping had started as well as when the shopper had to make modifications when items like hand soap were not available.
We waited outside WREG for our delivery and I could track the driver’s progress.
When she arrived, we did not have any physical contact. She left the groceries outside.
As far as cost, the tab included a $4 delivery fee, $2 service fee as well as tip. We tipped 20 percent, which is recommended right now. In total, it worked out to an extra $14.
Next we turned to pickup orders, which are free at both Kroger and Walmart, though Walmart has a $30 minimum.
On both websites it’s helpful to create an account, enter your payment information and choose a location before you shop.
Once you’re building your cart, try to do it as quickly as possible since availability can change.
When we checked, the Kroger at Poplar and Cleveland had the most availability. We booked the Thursday morning time slot and then submitted. The only hiccup: the detergent we ordered wasn’t available.
I also later booked a second time: early evening at the Kirby Woods Kroger, a more suburban location.
For the first Kroger pickup, we pulled into the spot where they have signs asking you to open your door for unloading and giving you a number to call. After calling, the associate took about five minutes to bring the groceries. The associate put the bags in the backseat but that’s when she said multiple items like tomatoes and hand soap weren’t available. The receipt said exactly which items weren’t available and the amount of the refund for them.
But later in the day, the second Kroger pickup in East Memphis was a lot different. There were no parking spots available and it took three times to get through on the phone. When someone answered they said the order wasn’t ready and told me to come back at the same time the next day. We asked why we weren’t notified. The associate said corporate should’ve sent a notification.
The next morning, someone called to say it was ready but added that more things weren’t in stock, including hand soap, laundry detergent, ground beef, pasta and bread. In total, only five of 13 items were available.
To round out our experiment, we also tested Walmart pickup at two different locations: West Memphis and Germantown Parkway.
The night before the first pickup, Walmart sent an email that the tomatoes were out of stock and they wouldn’t charge for them.
When you arrive in the Walmart parking lot, you also follow signs to pickup and then follow the number to call. We waited about 10 minutes and then the attendant unloaded the groceries in to the car. The second Walmart experience was similar; the attendants were prompt and we got our pickup order quickly. However, three items were not available: chicken breast, hand soap and frozen pizza.
No matter where you decide to go, we did learn some tips:
- Try to schedule for the morning. That’s when stores have more inventory and the pickups are less busy.
- Search around different locations, if you can. Going farther from home may get you a sooner time.
- Set expectations of flexibility. You probably won’t get everything in your order, you might have to settle for a substitution, or even come back a day later.
But know the employees at these stores are working harder than ever, under stressful conditions, to keep you and your family fed.
We contacted Kroger about our pickup experience. A representative released the following statement: “As you can imagine, not only is the demand for food high but our Pick Up option is also in high demand. We are currently hiring to help meet the need. Those interested can apply at jobs.kroger.com. We are asking customers to be please patient with us as we navigate our new normal and work to provide much needed items for our customers.”
We also contacted Shipt about its limited availability. A spokesperson released the following statement:
“Given the current environment, we’re experiencing higher-than-average order requests and understand customers may be experiencing longer-than-usual delivery times, unavailable day-of delivery windows or unavailable items due to high demand. If a requested item is out of stock, our shoppers will do their best to find customers an alternative, but we encourage our customers to check back often.
Shipt is available to over 300,000 households in Memphis, TN and has seen a significant increase in new customers in recent weeks. To help community members get access to the groceries, everyday essentials and medicine they need more quickly, we’re in the process of hiring additional shoppers and customer support team members for faster service.”
And while we also wanted to test our Whole Foods delivery and/or pickup, it was not available. A representative told us the following: “Customers who have never placed an order for Whole Foods Market delivery are being asked to sign up, and we will notify them when they are able to shop.” The representative said customers who have previously used Whole Foods pickup and delivery services should continue to have access.