Instacart, a delivery service that partners with various grocery stores, has blown up, especially over the past year. After becoming extremely tired of lugging like 50 pounds of groceries to my apartment every week, I decided instead of throwing my back out, I'd throw down the cash to have my groceries delivered via Instacart. I hesitated to use Instacart at first, because my neighborhood grocery changed drastically when Instacart came in. The already chaotic urban grocery store became a stressful place to be between cramming in a giant refrigerated section for Instacart and using Instacart-only cash registers (leading to massive lines down each of the grocery aisles when checking out). Plus the shelves seem to always look like they've been blown by a hurricane, since there's such a huge influx of Instacart people coming in to fill deliveries.
I'm sure these are all growing pains that will sort themselves out eventually. I'd love to think I'm making the choice to use Instacart rather than being finagled into it. At some point this year, curiosity and general urban exhaustion inspired me to sign up for an Instacart account, throw down the $140 yearly subscription for free deliveries, and try it out. Here's what I discovered:
- The line-up of stores is awesome. Instacart doesn't discriminate between high-brow, boutique groceries and your budget-friendly stores like Costco. All of my favorite groceries are part of Instacart, especially those that are far away from my apartment.
- It's very convenient. Instacart deliveries are pretty sweet if you don't have a car, don't live near a grocery store, have an injury and can't lift a bunch of stuff, are sick, or want to stock up on a massive order. All of it is delivered straight to your door. There's no heavy lifting involved.
- The user experience is very easy. It's almost too easy to search for your favorite items and add them to a cart. You can even make a note with a substitution if that particular product is out of stock.
- The delivery gets there fast. I've never waited around for an Instacart order. When you chose the time, Instacart gets it to you. I love that.
- The shoppers pick out the good stuff. The shoppers choose good cuts of meat, vibrant-looking produce, and perfect products without any dents/imperfections. I feel as if they really make an effort to pick up the best-looking items as if shopping for themselves.
- If you don't choose a substitution, it's made for you: If an item is not available, the Instacart shopper will choose something similar with or without your consent. This happened to me my first Instacart run, so I reached out to Instacart's customer service and learned there's a few work-arounds.
- You have to hound your phone: If you don't type in substitutions in the "notes" section of your cart before you check out online, you only have a short window to text your shopper while they are in store. Instacart will notify you when your shopper starts and if any products are unavailable. If you respond back before the shopper has checked out, you are guaranteed to get the substitution you want. It's a little taxing and stressful to hover over your phone; you really have to be on it!
- Sometimes, the prices are higher than in store: Instacart's prices by store vary. Some are the same prices as in store, some are every day pricing, meaning in-store sales on individual items are not included. And some stores, like Costco, are higher than in store, around 15%.
Despite my grievances, I have been very happy with my Instacart experiences. While it's not my main method of grocery shopping, I definitely use it regularly and plan to keep it up! Here's hoping the grocery stores will catch up to Instacart's fast-paced growth and don't forget to make grocery shopping a great experience for their customers too.