March 16, 2010

Bulk view

Experiment: Shopping for groceries online

It was Friday, and I was preparing for a tea party. I didn’t have some of the ingredients I needed to make apple pie. The forecast for the weekend was rain, rain, rain. W- was in crunch mode and would probably be too busy to take the car to the supermarket, I needed more than I could comfortably fit on my bicycle, and I had far too many things scheduled for Friday to walk to the supermarket and back.

So I decided to give GroceryGateway.com a spin, encouraged by the positive tweets I’d seen. It probably took me fifteen minutes to review all the categories I was interested in and select the items. I ordered lots of groceries and set my delivery window to 7:00 – 8:30 AM the next day. I paid for my groceries online as well, although there’s an option to pay by debit card on delivery.

The deliveryman arrived with my two boxes of groceries at 7:30 AM. We completed the transaction and verification in less than five minutes.

Produce is a great way to test quality. The bagged Macintosh apples were slightly bruised, but otherwise in good shape. The Pink Lady apples were in perfect shape. The lemons were bright and shiny, but he asparagus spears were a little dry, with small indentations from a too-tight elastic.

To my relief, the eggs arrived intact.

The rest of the groceries were the same as the ones I regularly buy from the neighborhood No Frills. I was delighted to find steel-cut oats in stock online, as I rarely see them in stores.

The groceries were priced higher than the ones we buy at No Frills. GroceryGateway is run by Longo’s, which positions itself more as a premium supermarket. For example, the GroceryGateway 3 lbs bag of Macintosh apples cost $2.99, but I can get 4 lbs for only $2.49 at No Frills. My groceries cost about $110, which is probably about 10% more than I would have paid at No Frills. Add to that a $9.95 delivery charge (softened by a $5 credit for the first order), and the price of convenience turned out to be around $15, and probably $10 + 15% for future orders. We usually save even more on our groceries by shopping the sales, so the gap would be even bigger.

In terms of time and convenience, it was a good experiment. It took me about 20 minutes for the entire thing, compared to maybe two person-hours if W- and I went shopping, or 1 person-hour if I went on my bicycle. I’d save a bit more time if I bought more groceries in the batch.

I probably won’t use GroceryGateway regularly. I like shopping for groceries with W-, figuring out what to do with what’s on sale. No Frills occasionally doesn’t stock things we like (such as steel-cut oats!), but we’re pretty good with working with what’s available. It’s good to know that a service like GroceryGateway exists, though, just in case we get really busy someday.

Good to experiment!

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