the week two weeks from hell dealing with #CeilingCollapse2018 and the ensuing fallout (pun – ha!) so I decided it was a time to let someone else do the necessary grocery shopping. Fitting in a trip to the store for much-needed supplies was difficult with all that was going on for both of us.
It was time to give the Giant Eagle Curbside Express option a try. We do the majority of our shopping at Giant Eagle anyway. We’ve considered using the service in the past, but it feels a little awkward to hire someone to handle such a basic task – at least for me. It feels a bit classist maybe? That’s where I was before I tried it.
My first step was to post on Twitter and Facebook, asking for my folx to share their experiences before I took the plunge. A LOT of people responded that they used the service and were generally pleased with how much it simplified or eased their lives. Most of my folx were either parents who appreciated not having to wrangle kids through the store while shopping and/or disabled folks/seniors who appreciated the assist in conserving their energies (spoons.)
I visited the website on a Monday evening and browsed to see how it worked. It took me a minute to figure out that I had to use a designated store close to my house versus the one we typically visit, but the website corrected me pretty quickly.
I started a grocery cart of items I thought we could use and would be reasonable for a first time experiment, heavy on the canned goods and not so much on meat, deli, bakery, etc. I realized that I needed to stop my shopping and consult with Ledcat so I was pleased that the website allowed me to move my cart items into a shopping list which I could retrieve later. The site also automatically updated for price changes during that time-lapse.
Tuesday evening, I returned to my shopping with Ledcat’s input and realized that I was going to hit the weekly circular change date. Giant Eagle’s circulars are good from Thursday to Wednesday. So while shopping on a Tuesday or Wednesday was within that circular time frame, the delivery wouldn’t happen until Thursday so I would be charged the prices in effect on Thursday. You are charged when they shop/deliver, not when you place the order.
I solved this problem by consulting the circular we had received in the mail and putting items in my cart with the anticipation of the new price versus what was listed on the website. Once I figured this out, things were much easier. I wish this had been a little more clear while I was shopping or the new circular was accessible say 12 hours in advance of the change.
The site is pretty intuitive, allowing me to search for items and compare prices easily. I shopped my existing list first and then browsed the sale items for any unexpected deals. My budget was to spend $150 on this experiment which is a little less than we typically spend on a shopping trip, but I was deducting the costs of the items I knew I wasn’t going to include such as meat and the deli. I ended up with 53 items and a total of $148.56 plus the tip for the driver.
I placed my order on Wednesday and schedule a delivery time slot for Thursday AM between 11 AM and 12 PM. Around 8 AM on Thursday, my personal shopper, Rob, called me to discuss my list – there were a few items out of stock and he told me about a few sales/BOGO’s I had not noticed involving items on my original list. Rob also explained what to expect when the driver arrived.
My driver was very prompt. He texted me so I knew he was there. I asked him the protocol on getting the groceries into the house and he told me that he could handle it or I was welcome to help. It just took two trips to get the groceries into my living room. Everything was packed in plastic bags lined with paper. I tipped him, thanked him, and surveyed my bounty.
Everything was in good condition. I had purposely ordered cookies and eggs to see how they held up during delivery and both were packed properly. I was a bagger when I was a kid, so I’m very particular about how items are bagged, but I can’t find any flaws with how Rob got it loaded up, including keeping all of the cold items together. Everything was there and ready to be unpacked. Since I wasn’t exhausted from the shopping trip itself, this was actually a pleasant task for me when usually it feels like a huge hurdle I have to overcome before I can collapse on the couch.
I am very pleased with this service. The typical cost is $9.95-$12.95 depending on your prefered time slot. Giant Eagle offer the first delivery for free so there was low risk for me to try it. Spending an extra $10-13 to save ourselves the time involved in actual shopping is a really good deal. In these situations, I usually calculate my time at a rate of $25/hour. I did spend at least an hour or so using the website because I was navigating for the first time which is what I would usually spend in the store. But I didn’t have to spend the time driving to the North Hills & back or waiting in line. So it really cost me less to use this service than it would to do the shopping myself if I take my own time into account.
What could be improved:
- The receipt was tucked into the grocery bags rather than handed directly to me. It took me a bit of time to find it as it had slid down between the bags. I can appreciate it was easier for the shopper to tuck it in. This could be resolved by also emailing me a copy of the receipt which I did not see as an option on the site.
- Not all Giant Eagles are alike. Mainly, this means the supplies vary from store to store so I was unfamiliar with what the designated delivery store (South Side) carried versus my usual haunts (MacIntyre Square, Brighton Heights, Cedar Avenue.) MacIntyre Square offers Bell & Evans chicken which is what we prefer. South Side does not. So I’m still going to have to make a trip to the store this week to stock up on that item. I’m not sure how this could be addressed because the geographic approach to delivery does make the most sense. Perhaps they could request items from other stores and build in a delivery delay for special requests? My pharmacy does this.
- Coupons. Coupons are a big, big issue. The site was not at all clear on how I could apply my e-coupons attached to my Advantage card and there was no option for redeeming physical coupons. For the Pick-Up option, you hand your coupons to the Shopper who can scan them and give you a new receipt before processing payment. A coupon widget built into the site would be a huge improvement. If the site helps me save money with my coupons, I’m more likely to spend even more money on actual groceries. I suspect the rampant coupon fraud is the problem here, but one solution is to convert manufacturer coupons into e-coupons. ** This is far more useful than adding images to Pinterest boards, people.
- Bags. In the commercials, the Shopper loads the items into paper bags, but then puts a series of reusable tote bags into the car for the customer. That looks pretty and reinforces the brand, but it doesn’t reflect the reality. So that sets me up for disappointment. Not a good outcome. Giant Eagle charges about $1 for a tote bag that actually costs them $.10 wholesale. Perhaps they could give customers the choice of reusable bags and factor the additional cost into the total with a discount for Curbside Express shoppers? It isn’t remotely possible to send my existing bags to the store for packing which is after all the point – reuse. I don’t want to accumulate hundreds of tote bags. ** My solution is for Giant Eagle to use a deposit approach to tote bags, charging me perhaps $.25 per bag and offering me a chance to return them to the driver on my next delivery. I would then get a refund on my deposit, just like they used to do with glass bottles or shopping carts. They cannot reuse the bags for health code reasons, but they can donate those gently used bags to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Or change the commercials to reflect reality.
- Process. The site should specify my assigned Giant Eagle before I can even get started. Some people are really picky about which stores they use. If I had been assigned to an unfamiliar store, I might not have wanted to proceed. And I waste time putting items in my cart that won’t be available. So if the front end of the process, before putting a thing in my cart, asked to select curbside pickup or deliver, I could avoid that frustration. Now I know so next time I might opt to do a curbside pickup at a store that has my preferred chicken versus a home delivery.
What worked really well:
- Notes. On each item, you can indicate specific preferences such as wanting very green bananas versus riper bananas. And there’s a general note section before you check-out. I used this to specify that I had really wanted salt-free pretzels, but couldn’t find them on the list. When my Shopper called me, he told me that he did have that item in stock after all. So if you want something off-list (secret menu?), ask. The worst that can happen is they say they don’t have it. And my bananas were the perfect shade of green.
- Weekly circular. I really liked being able to flip through the circular online and click on items to add them to my cart. That’s nifty. I found 2 or 3 things on sale that I hadn’t noticed beforehand. Whatever technology is at use here could be applied to coupon circulars, I imagine.
- Personal Shopper, Rob. He was professional and helpful. He saved me money. He pointed out a BOGO on an item I had selected and added the freebie to my list upon my approval. He talked me through the process. He answered all of my questions. He packed the bags very well. And I felt like he was giving me adequate time and attention during the phone call, not rushing me or hurrying me along an assembly line process.
- Lists/Carts. If you start filling your cart and have to leave the site, you can convert the cart into a shopping list and return to it later. Great time saver. Plus, your old lists are there to peruse so you can compare, contrast, etc.
- Free Trial. Do I really need to explain?
- Delivery Time Frame. You can do a same-day option if you order before 3 PM or schedule ahead.
What I hope to see:
- Incentives. One draw back to food delivery services is that there are rarely deals or discounts on the delivery fees after your first use. If Giant Eagle developed some sort of loyalty program for frequent Curbside customers that tied into our Advantage card, that would be smart. It could be something as simple as a free reusable grocery bag for every $25 spent in this program to more nuanced rewards for program loyalty. The price, IMHO, is solid but it is nice to feel appreciated.
- Drivers. My driver was great, professional and helpful. When he arrived and I physically saw my bags in the trunk of his car, I realized that I had not been asked about something as simple as a car being smokefree AND scentfree. This is an issue with Lyft; getting into a car with some heavy-duty perfume or air fresheners. You might not realize how someone with breathing issues can be susceptible to car scents attached to grocery bags, but it definitely happens. I will likely make a note of this on all future orders in the comment section, but it is worth consideration.
I will most likely use this service on a semi-regular basis. It saves time and energy that for me are precious. The fees are reasonable for my budget (and spoons.) I may opt for curbside if I want to get items like the Bell and Evans chicken or deli products from a specific Giant Eagle, but that’s part of the same program.
I currently use Amazon and Target online shopping pretty regularly for a lot of household needs. As an adult with disabilities, it works out really well for me and enhances my quality of life. Now this does mean you must have the cash to meet the delivery threshhold (Amazon Prime fee or the Target $35 minimum) and shipping is different from having a person actually deliver to my home. It also requires Internet access and the time to plan. I have all of those privileges, but not everyone does and we must remain committed to ensuring access for everyone.
Note that several different people have told me that Giant Eagle envisioned this would be utilized mostly by young, busy professionals They were/are surprised how heavily it is being utilized by elders and people with disabilities, as well as parents. $10 for delivery is less expensive than taking a car service and probably less than you’d spend to have a friend run you to the store and back for gas money. One person told me that he has noticed that folx with order their very heavy items through this service (cases of bottled water, laundry detergent, large bags of pet food) which also makes a lot of sense.
So my love/hate relationship with Giant Eagle will continue. I have a suspicion that the Kroger parent company is sniffing around to buy out GE which would suck. Having a strong regional grocery chain is a boon for Pittsburgh. I know you people love your Aldi’s but Aldi’s isn’t investing in the local schools, cultural institutions, or community events the way a regional business does.
I’ve already started my list for the next shopping venture.