With COVID finally making its way to our household this past week, this means I placed my weekly grocery order online through Instacart for delivery this morning rather than going to wander through the store myself.
When my order arrived today, I had purchased some alcohol so I need to show my ID—rather than just having the groceries left on the porch. When I answered the door, the first thing my shopper said was “thank you so much for being so nice about the substitutions.”
I replied, “Of course! It’s not your fault the store is out,” at which point she told me a few stories about awful customers who have berated her through text messages, yelled at her on the phone, and even threatened her with bodily harm over items that were out of stock or unavailable.
I was so shocked. I mean this woman is a mother of seven and just trying to make ends meet and is simply doing her job.
In a world struggling through massive supply chain issues, it’s not the online shopper’s fault the shipment of strawberry lemonade flavored kombucha didn’t come in this week.
This experience inspired me to create this post, with my tips on how to be a good online grocery shopper. Because, hey, maybe you have been lucky and haven’t had to quarantine for 5-14 days, but for many, many people grocery delivery service is the best thing to come out of this pandemic (second to the margarita being delivered with my Mexican food), and we need this service and their shoppers to continue.
1. Be explicitly clear when placing your order
When you place an online grocery order, do it much like you would if you were shopping for yourself in person. When you select an item, be sure you look at all of the brands and select the item you would choose if you were standing there looking at all of the products in the aisle. If you would not normally buy “Nabisco” brand cookies, do not order them, and then be disappointed when they show up at your door.
When ordering fruits and vegetables, and/or meat, double-check that you are ordering for items vs weight. For example, you may want 6 bananas, but not realize you just asked for 6 POUNDS of bananas. Sometimes, you are not able to select items or weight, so you can make a note in “special instructions” for your shopper when placing your order (example: “I just need two leeks regardless of weight”)
2. Choose your replacements ahead of time
Most all grocery shopping apps will allow you the opportunity to select “replacements” in case something is out of stock. Be sure you look at this option and select replacements that are acceptable to you, or you can select “do not replace this item” if you really want what you are looking for. Most of us shop for replacements for ourselves all of the time because that is how shopping works. Things sell out, brands are discontinued, and so on. Most shoppers are really good at finding suitable replacements.
This is especially helpful if you’re not going to be available while they’re shopping. This way, they don’t need to text or message you and can move along to the next item without waiting for your response.
3. Be available when they are shopping
If you place a grocery order for a specific window, that usually means the shopper will be shopping for your items an hour before the window. Make sure you are available during that time, especially if you are picky about what groceries you are hoping to get. Most often, a shopper will notify you when they start the shopping process, and if there are items unavailable they will text you to ask if they can replace them with a comparable item. I have even had shoppers text me pictures of things that they think may be suitable replacements. If you are not available while they are shopping, they will just go with either the replacements you approved or give you a refund.
When your groceries arrive, you do not have to accept any replacements you don’t like. Just kindly let the shopper know, and they can take them right on back. Although please note: when groceries are returned, they can not be restocked and sold again, but are often thrown away or donated. Double-check that your store donates, and if not, you can take it to a local food bank instead.
4. Tip generously, if you can (and leave a good review!)
Most online shopping services automatically add a tip on, but it is often not very much. If you are really happy with the shopper and the service, please consider tipping them above the automatic tip that is added. Many people are struggling to make ends meet right now and if you can tip generously, it will be very much appreciated by those working so hard to make your life easier.
Also, if you have a good experience, please leave them a good review. Most shoppers are selected to do other jobs and even get paid bonuses based on good reviews. And a bad review can literally destroy their ability to continue to do their job and make an income. Don’t throw out one-star reviews for things that a shopper can’t control.
5. Be kind
There is a shortage of products everywhere. If you have gone to the store in the last month, you have surely noticed it. Please be understanding and patient with your online shopper. It is not their fault that the store is out of any of the items that were on your list. They will do their best to replace it with a comparable item, but sometimes they just can’t. So take it easy.
And also, just be kind to service workers—all of them—delivery drivers, bus drivers, garbage collectors, shoppers, baristas, restaurant workers. They are working very hard to keep the wheels turning in all of our lives.