I’d noticed the special parking spaces at Loblaws across from those set aside for people with disabilities. No one ever seemed to be parked in them but they were a sign that the food giant expects online grocery shopping to grow. I knew I’d give it a try one day.
That day came Saturday when Loblaws sent me a promo code for one month of the service for free. One of my favourite voice-over recording sessions was for Walmart’s online grocery shopping – not available in my city. But the premise is the same.
Placing the order was easy enough, although one particular item I wanted wasn’t available in the biggest size. Derek likes Nature Valley Sweet & Salty peanut granola bars. I buy the big box but only the small ones were posted. I found that odd. Just about everything else had the option of ordering in all possible sizes. You have the option of allowing or not allowing substitutions. I made a note to my shopper that a substitute for the bigger box of granola bars would be appreciated.
Pickup is only $5 (I thought it would be more) and the code made it free. My credit card was approved (or so I thought) and I got a confirmation email. The only available pick-up time that day was between 3-5 pm. Not ideal for a Saturday. One of the positive spin-offs of my crazy-early hours is that I can mostly avoid driving in the thick of the city’s worst traffic. I tend to go shopping when the stores first open – I’m up anyway. The email told me to wait until I was told my order was ready and then go to the store after 3.
I’ve seen the grocery pickers at work in the store and it actually looks like a fun job. Follow a list, fill the list, pass the stuff on the customer. Personal food shopping! I could do that.
The next email arrived at about 2:20 pm. It alerted me to the unavailability of two items: Ontario grown strawberries and the mega-box of West Coast Dark Roast K-cups. Both items were marked “substitute unavailable”. Derek doesn’t eat berries but I like to take some to work to enjoy with yogurt. And the coffee is our regular brand, in completely compostable K-cups. These items necessitated two more stops. One at a farmer’s market for two quarts of local berries. Then I made a mad dash into Shopper’s Drug Mart where I paid a premium for the next-biggest size of the coffee pods. (Shopper’s and Loblaws are family companies, in case you didn’t know.) I arrived at Loblaws just after 3 pm and called to let them know I was there, as directed by the email.
The friendliest employee in the world came out with my groceries, all bagged and good to go. (You can bring your own bags if you like.) She told me two things: my credit card didn’t go through after all. And they managed to find the berries and the big box of coffee. I paid with debit at the car, helped her load my stuff and off I went with more berries than any one person can possibly eat before they spoil! Hello, freezer.
I’m ambivalent about shopping this way again. It does save time, no question. They did a great job picking out fresh produce and followed my list to the letter. (I didn’t get the big box of granola bars after all.) But the mix-up with the berries and coffee was annoying and offset any other savings. So was the issue with the credit card. I could buy a good used car with that thing and there’s no reason why it should have been declined. (The employee said it was happening a lot that day.) I’ll give it another go on a weekday and see if it’s any better or worse. I want to be ready when they advance this process to Jetson’s level, where you place your order and everything pops out of a receptacle in your kitchen. It could happen!