Instacart . . . Just What is It?

When I was growing up in L.A., I loved spending Saturdays with my mother shopping at the mall.  Remember May Co., The Broadway, and Montgomery Ward?  To me, those were special times, but those “good old days” are gone.  Many big box stores have closed their doors, and more disappear every year.

The internet has changed the way people shop.  You want a particular brand of shampoo? You need an obscure book?  No problem.  Log onto Amazon and you can find practically anything, usually at a much lower price than a big box store.  Plus, you get the added benefit of buying all your items at once, without needing to go from store to store.

Seniors shop on Amazon, EBay and the big box store websites, just like their kids and grandkids.  For many, it’s a way of avoiding crowds, but for others, shopping online is a necessity.  For people who are housebound, getting groceries online used to be difficult.  Most of the food was in warehouses, and freshness could not be guaranteed.

Not anymore.  Now, buying groceries online has been made easier, thanks to several web companies.

The first is, of course, Amazon.  For Amazon Prime members, there is Amazon Fresh.  For $14.99 a month, you can order grocery items on Amazon’s website.  For orders over $50, delivery is free.  Amazon will deliver the perishable items in reusable insulated bags, and many items can be delivered the next day.

For those people who are either not Amazon Prime members or don’t want to pay Amazon another $14.99 per month, there is a fairly new web company called Instacart.  Instacart has partnerships with many grocery stores in the U.S.  In the Coachella Valley, they partner with Ralphs, Stater Bros., Aldi, Petco, Smart and Final, and Costco (and no, you don’t have to be a member of Costco).

This is how it works (and it really is an ingenious idea):

After registering onto the Instacart website, you log in and you choose which market (or combination of markets) you wish to shop from.  Once that is done, you shop for items much like you would if you were in Ralphs or Costco, putting all of your groceries in a cyber shopping cart.  Upon checkout, the cost of delivery is added onto the total price.

Once your order goes through, you receive a confirmation page with the name of your personal shopper and live updates on your order.  The personal shopper will go to the markets you selected and personally shop for your items.  The personal shopper will then deliver the items to your home within the time period you selected upon checkout.  The items can even be delivered to you within an hour of the order if that is what you specified.

It’s a great idea, but it has its downsides:

First, it can get rather expensive.  In-store coupons are not accepted, and Instacart’s prices are not always the same as the market you have chosen.  Plus, depending on how much you ordered (and it must always be at least $10), and how soon you want the items delivered, the delivery charge can be fairly high.  Also, an additional 10% service charge is tacked on at checkout (although according to the Instacart website, you can change or remove the amount of the service charge before you send your order through).

However, for people who are too busy to shop, or for many who are disabled and unable to leave their home, it is worth the extra money knowing that they are getting groceries that have not been sitting in a warehouse and were chosen by their personal shopper.

But for me, even though I do plenty of online shopping and am addicted to the home shopping channels, nothing can ever replace strolling through a shopping mall and spending quality time with my mother.  Sadly, “the good old days” are slowly and inevitably disappearing forever.

Submitted by Beverly Mirsky
IAC Member