Nearly a year ago, I wote a review about the Giant Eagle Curbside Express service, their home delivery shopping project.
Fast forward to late July and I’ve used the service 26 times. That’s a little more than every other week.
Here’s how I originally assessed the service
What Works Well
- The Notes section
- The clickable weekly circular
- The personal shoppers from Giant Eagle
- The shopping lists and cart management tools
- The free trial options
- The delivery time frames and scheduling
What Could Be Improved
- Printing the receipt
- The disparity between Giant Eagles
- Inability to use coupons
- The massive amount of bags
- The flow of the process getting established online
What I Hoped to See
- Sales incentives (loyalty programs, occasional coupons, etc)
- Driver variance and inability to request someone who isn’t smoking, wearign scents, etc
Everything that worked well then still holds true now. I had one small clash with a personal shopper who was rude to me, but that worked itself out. Sometimes the shoppers seem less than enthused about going back to replace items that aren’t available, but I suspect more that’s a reflection of their schedules and time constraints. There’s not enough of a buffer for them to do that little bit of customer service. That’s not so much a con for me as something for GE to correct with internal policies – I suspect that they might have quotas on how much should be accomplished per order?
Obviously, I’m happy enough with the service to use it so often. It has been an incredible time and energy saver for us. At one point this winter, we both were terribly sick at the same time. I wasn’t as ill as Laura, but not up to a shopping trip. I ordered an entire load of groceries, told the driver that I was sick so leave them in our foyer and stayed away from them. It was a huge relief to have everything we needed delivered.
As for what could be improved, there’s still the same issues.
- The receipt is never readily available and sometimes not even there so I have to call the store for another copy. I sometimes buy products like Starbucks coffee where I need to submit the receipt for a reimbursement. Solution – email the receipt as well as sending a hard copy in the shipment. This should be an easy fix as they can already send receipts via email from the register.
- The disparity between Giant Eagles is still annoying, but bearable. I’m in the rhythm of what our store has. We simply go elsewhere to buy what we need that’s not available. Our store also routinely is out of the same things every shopping order. I would think our requesting them for delivery would impact their stocking choices, but who knows.
- The inability to use coupons is a terrible flaw in this system. It is the number one thing they should fix.
- The inability to redeem Advantage points is another flaw. For a few weeks it was available at checkout – using the points for my food or saving for gas. Now, that’s disappeared. We prefer to use for gas anyway, but to be given and then have any savings options taken away is very annoying. And some folks don’t buy gas so they should be able to redeem for groceries like in-store shoppers.
- The bags. Here’s my very big idea that I have already shared with 412 Food Rescue.
- Set up a resuable bag deposit system. The bags they sell for $1.00 cost them about $.50. So they add a deposit to the process – $5.00 for ten bags. The items are delivered in the bags. To get my deposit credit back to my account, I have to return all 10 bags to the shopper who delivers my next order. Now, Giant Eagle cannot reuse those bags per Health Department standards BUT they can donate those bags to an organization like 412 Food Rescue (or the food bank) to be used by people accessing food supports. Giant Eagle gets a tax credit for the donation and gets even more of their bags with their branding into the community. Alternatively, I can keep my bags and use them for my own purposes.
- Giant Eagle encourages reuable bags and reduces waste. This will require coordination with the shoppers, paperwork, etc so it is not a zero cost effort, but the unclaimed deposits can help reduce that cost.
- Giant Eagle saves money on the plastic and paper bags they use now which can be used to help subsidize this.
- Unsure about the ease and flow of signing up as I haven’t tried that again. Maybe I’ll set up a blank account just to test it.
- Another flaw I’ve noticed is that the Personal Shoppers cannot use a text service to communicate with the customer. If your order needs a tweek, they call you and leave a message using their business landlines. A text notification would be more effective even to get my attention. Giant Eagle’s outgoing lines do not all show up marked GE and with the prevalence of spam on the rise, most people screen calls. So they could fix the system to address the outgoing calls being labeled as Giant Eagle like UPMC and AHN do, OR they could incorporate a text feature.
Giant Eagle’s new efforts to make Curbside Express accessible to residents of the Hill District is okay, but not across the board useful. They can’t accept SNAP online per federal regulations. They don’t take coupons per Giant Eagle’s internal priorities. And Giant Eagle isn’t always the most affordable store. So the convenience factor is great, but the delivery fee is only $5.99 to begin with. I think the bigger barrier for most people of all incomes levels will be the lack of other savings that more than offset the $5.99 savings. BUT it is still a useful tool in the anti-hunger kit. But fighting food deserts should include coupons and other savings tools. Not everyone who might use this will rely on SNAP or WIC, but I think they should make that very clear AND everyone has the potential to use coupons.
If I’m wrong and GE has a way for folks to pay with federal resources (and use coupons) PLEASE TELL ME because that would be another big pro in my list.
Maybe someone (ahem) should start a petition to add a coupon widget and other savings options to the service?
Overall, anyone who currently uses Giant Eagle for shopping could benefit from this service. The cost for home delivery is $5.99 which is cheaper than hiring a car or even giving a friend gas. The cost for Curbside pickup is now free. $5.95 is a good deal if you can afford the regular grocery prices and sacrifice coupon savings and aren’t using SNAP or WIC to purchase your groceries. So it is a great deal with affluent customers with the potential to be a great deal for families with modest and lower incomes.
I’ve always opted to shop at Giant Eagle because they carry pretty much everything I prefer to buy, they have a union, they are a local company that invests in local community supports, and so forth. I know that Aldi’s shoppers tend to be fanatical so winning them over isn’t probably realistic. The convenience of low-cost delivery is probably winning people over, but adding in savings options would win even more folks who might otherwise choose Shop n Save or Kuhns or WalMart.
Target sees this. They are decreasing the incentives to have items shipped and pushing their own delivery service pretty hard. Unfortunately, it is a subscription service so I’m not inclined to join. I shift a few of my regular Target purchases to my Giant Eagle order because the price difference is offset by the convience. And we just head to Target everyone once in awhile, but spend much less. When I could get great deals from shipping, I probably shopped online at Target every month or so. Now, just a few times each year if that.
Let me give a final shout-out to the drivers who deliver the items. They have been great. Almost all of them text me (as I request) to tell me when to expect delivery. They consistently ask me if I want the groceries on the stoop or brough into the house, they are courteous and professional. They take good care of my delicate purchases like eggs and pastries. I tip the drivers directly and sometimes that means I give them an envelope filled with quarters or even a check made out to cash because I don’t have actual cash here. I don’t know how GE manages to pay them when they are charging me $5.95 for the service, but perhaps that’s why I can’t use coupons – they need that extra retail price to pay for the delivery?
Do I buy more when shopping online? Sometimes, especially when there’s a deal. I tend to shop, let it sit for a few hours or overnight and then review my cart to rethink impulse buys. If I’m working on an order and remember that I need something I’d normally buy elsewhere like a bottle of tylenol or paper plates or even cat food, I’ll end up buying it at Giant Eagle because the convenience saves me money in the long run.
Please don’t think I’m a lady of leisure with unlimited money to pay people to do her shopping. I’m a lady with social anxiety who struggles to successfully do major shopping at grocery stores or go into other public spaces. Shopping online allows me to handle this task and save Laura some of her precious time. But it is tough sometimes. I get anxious about someone new coming to the house and even simple things like putting away the groceries and folding up the bags can be hard. That’s how anxiety and depression and trauma work.