Online Grocery Delivery Services Booming Amid Coronavirus – Consumer Beware

  • Online grocery delivery is becoming a good alternative during coronavirus.
  • Instacart is failing their customers.
  • At this time, the best strategy is ordering online but scheduling pick up.

Many US  States and Cities issued closure orders in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The list of state and city orders according to USA Today:

  • Missouri’s two largest cities issued stay-at-home orders Saturday. The St. Louis mandate, which also applies to St. Louis County, begins Monday, and the one for Kansas City and its metro area goes into effect Tuesday.
  • New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell directed residents to stay at home.
  • San Miguel County, Colorado, is under a shelter-in-place order until April 3.
  • Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, is under a shelter-in-place order until April 7.
  • Blaine County, Idaho, is under a shelter-in-place order.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced that all New York residents must stay home “to the maximum extent possible.”
  • The State of California is under a stay at home order.
  • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker  announced a “stay-at-home” that will last until at least April 7.
  • In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday announced an executive order directing all nonessential businesses and not-for-profit entities to close.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday told residents to stay home, calling the directive “both an order and a public awareness campaign.”
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Saturday that he would be ordering residents to stay at home.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to close.

Whole Foods delivery page via Amazon Smile reflecting limited delivery availability.

With all this closures, naturally the populous is resorting to e-commerce for their needs. A lot of online retailers are having mega sales to attract customers and to ensure spending. It is important to stimulate spending to maintain some normalcy for the economy.

However, one of the vital necessities are groceries and prescriptions for people to survive during such a crisis.

There are major online players in the grocery delivery market in North America.

One option for consumers is Whole Foods delivery, which is under Amazon. Nevertheless, since the Coronavirus, their delivery is minimal due to staff shortage and you can wait almost four days to have your order delivered. It is free with Amazon prime membership with over $35 dollars or a fee of $4.99 per delivery.

HelloFresh promotional image available through their website.

Another option is prepackaged ingredients for meals through HelloFresh but the options are predetermined and not cheap. Actually, the cost of the prepackaged meal ingredients is almost the same as going to an average dine-in restaurant. Of course the majority of dine-in options are closed in many US States and in Canada.

The other alternative is Instacart. It seems like a very convenient and viable option. You get a free two week trial and there after you pay either $149 for the whole year or $9.99 per month for free unlimited deliveries with an order over $35 Dollars. There is a hidden fee of a $1 service fee in each order. Instacart offers deliveries from ALDI, PUBLIX, Kroger, Target, CVS, Costco, even PETCO.

Instacart mobile App Stores availability (varies by geographical location).

It seemed simple for me to try, due to the store variety and to avoid going to public places at this time. So, I downloaded their app on my iPhone. Of course I had to create an account and then I ordered groceries. I scheduled a delivery time frame of two hours (you also have an option of within five hours).

As a first time user, I could use a promo code as well. It seemed like a great solution. So I waited. I got one notification they were out of mangoes, and they offered me a refund or substitute. Sounds great but not so fast. Then all communication stopped, My order that was supposed to arrive between 6-8 pm never arrived. No notifications or updates. My credit card was pre-authorized for $60 dollars.

I tried to call customer service and the recorded message stated that due to high call volumes the wait would be 59 minutes. Since that was quite a bit of a wait with no call back option, I went back to the app and under help found the option of text support. I waited for over three hours to no avail. The app kept saying they are assigning a representative. I Thought maybe it was a technical issue, and so I refreshed, but still got no response.

The same complaints by customers on @twitter from US and Canada, including price gouging.

Meanwhile, I got an email that my order was pushed back to 10:45-11:15 pm. The order never arrived. I tried to communicate with the shopper via app chat but again no response. So no groceries, no communication.

Finally, the following morning I was able to get through to customer service via phone and was issued a refund. No additional promo code and still no groceries. Also, depending on your financial situation, the refund will only be available on your card within a few business days.

After this experience, I decided to use Google search to read other people’s experiences. They seemed to be on par with mine in the past 48 hours. Either the shopper never responded and the order was never delivered or the order was marked as delivered but no groceries arrived.

Refunds took days, with no updates or responses. I was fortunate to get mine processed faster due to my use of social media. Also, I have tweeted to @instacrt and also reached out to the Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta. From my personal experience, I would be very wary of this service.

Lastly, there is also Shipd, which seems to be more organized and has less complaints of grocery delivery problems.

The image of tweeting to the @Instacart CEO without any response.

Personally, amid this pandemic, I think the best way is to order online and pick up in-store to avoid large crowds. Sadly, at this time grocery delivery services are starting to fail.

Lastly thought: Buyer beware and do your research prior to ordering groceries online.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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