Instacart is a grocery delivery service which allows you to pick out groceries and have them delivered to your home within a couple of hours. Sounds pretty futuristic, right? While Instacart isn't technically new to the Buffalo area, I've seen considerable buzz regarding it this month since Wegman's has begun partnering with them as of August 1st. Previously, Western New Yorker's could use Instacart to shop at PriceRite, Petco and CVS. I thought I'd learn more and try it out myself!
So how does it work? You need to create a username and password for the service. You can use the website (www.instacart.com) or choose to download the mobile app. Choose your store and then begin browsing for your favorite products. You can adjust item quantities and add notes for your personal shopper if necessary. Once you reach the order minimum of have $10, you may complete your order, select a delivery time that is convenient for you, pay using a credit card, and then wait for your groceries to arrive!
Once you order your groceries, an Instacart shopper heads to the store, purchases all your groceries and drives them to you. It’s also possible one person could do your shopping while someone else delivers them. You’ll be updated via text about everything that’s going on.
So the big question is, how much does all this cost? At first glance, it appears the only additional cost to you is a reasonably-priced delivery charge. When I saw that, I was thinking in my head 'I guess I’m never going to the grocery store every again!' Unfortunately that’s not the only price you’re paying for this service. Let’s break it down:
Back to that delivery fee- the rate depends on how big your order is and how quickly you need it delivered. For your first order, this fee is waived. Past that, I've noticed there tends to be various promotions you can utilize to have this fee waived. My original order had a $5.95 charge that was waived, and after doing a smaller mock order (to help write this blog post), the delivery fee was going to be $9.99, or if I wanted my items in the next hour, $11.99.
If you look at how much your Wegmans items are going to cost through Instacart, you’ll notice that these are not the same prices that you’ll find in store. There’s what I consider to be a pretty significant price hike, ranging anywhere from 13-25%! For example, when researching the price for a gallon of skim milk - to buy this in store, it will cost you $1.59. Instacart will charge $1.99 for this same product. Those markups are going to really add up for a shopping trip!
When you’re checking out, a 10% service charge is added. You have the option of removing this charge before you complete your order. The Instacart website states that this service charge is not a tip being given to your shopper, but "is used by Instacart to provide high guaranteed commissions to shopper through the Instagram platform." You do however have the option to tip your shopper directly, either before checking out or after your items have been delivered.
I was a little confused about all this, so I did some googling. Apparently, Instacart users originally had the option of tipping their shopper. About a year ago, the tipping option was removed and the service charge was put in its place. This change upset many people working for them, so the tipping option was quickly added back, but the service charge remained. Now there’s just some confusion for users of the service as what to do. My take: if you pay the service charge, it seems that money goes to Instacart to help with their payroll. If you pay the tip, it goes directly to your shopper's paycheck. If you end up using this service, keep that in mind when deciding for yourself.
Final thoughts: you’re going to save a lot of money buying your own groceries, but there’s definitely a niche for this service. If you legitimately don’t have time to head to the store, using this service may still be cheaper (and healthier) than relying on take out and pizza delivery. If you’re strapped for time, but not cash on a regular basis, this may be a perfect solution to use regularly.
This service would also be great in specific situations: your car broke down, you’re really sick, you have to stay home with kids/pets that can’t leave, you’re waiting at home for the cable guy, or whatever else life throws at you. It’s definitely an excuse-buster; if there’s a will to eat healthy, there’s a way.
Grocery delivery services are also great for elderly people that can’t drive or walk around stores. To use Instacart, they would either need to be able to use the app or website, or have a family member be able to order for them- they wouldn’t even need to be in the same place! The person would need to be able to answer the door and then put the groceries away themselves. This could possibly prolong an older person’s ability to live in their own home. I call that a win!