Sunday, September 17, 2017

Walmart's Grocery Pickup

Shopping really isn't my thing. Sure, I love wandering ("wandering" is an exaggeration, I'm in and out in fifteen minutes) the aisles in Target. A new grocery store will peak my curiosity. Overall though, I'm a homebody and entering a retail establishment saps my strength like few activities can.

For a while, I thought I enjoyed grocery shopping in general. I waived off the flyer when the Walmart first introduced free curbside pickup at my regular store. And when the personal shoppers began to share the aisles with me more often, I thought "they're getting to have all the fun" and "if I didn't come to the store I wouldn't get to see all of the new things" and "that'd be nice if you're sick, but why wouldn't I come and do my shopping myself?"

My closest Walmart Supercenter is about twenty minutes away in Tarentum, PA. I go there every other week, sometimes more. Like just about every Walmart Supercenter, there's a Sam's Club next door. I typically go to both stores on the same trip and with travel the whole deal takes two hours. Occasionally I'll go to Trader Joe's. Sometimes a Target and Giant Eagle combination can get us through the week, but truly there's no greater efficiency than the Walmart/Sam's Club trip.

The app indicated multiple times that you don't need to call if you've initiated the tracker.
Every parking spot was marked with this sign though. They're not hiding the phone number
for when you want them to bring out your groceries.

Maybe the option to bag the whole Walmart portion of my shopping trip is what started my declining interest in actually going to the store. Those employees walking the aisles with the special cart full of blue bins seemed to whisper, "You don't have to do this. I can find the French dressing for you." And as I used the self-checkout, thereby handling each item for the second of what is eventually a gazillion touches necessary to bring the stuff from store to pantry, it occurred to me that the online ordering might not be the worst thing.

Still, it took a fairly overwhelming back to school cold to get me to try the free grocery pickup. Laid out for a week with fever, chills, coughing, aching, and an overwhelmingly nasty headache, I still needed to eat. Tim and Julia went to the store nearest our house, a little Shop 'n' Save, one night so we wouldn't starve or maybe because we were out of ice cream. They got buns, chicken patties, ice cream, bananas, and clementines. It cost $38. (Note: that's easily $15 more than you could spend at any of the stores mentioned above save Giant Eagle where it is known we do not purchase ice cream.) I either needed to drag my smart shopping butt to the store or put my faith in the professional Walmart shopper.

Since I was going to have to make a list anyway, I went online at 9:45am and started ordering groceries. The website is quick and easy to navigate. Within minutes, I'd assembled everything I needed including gluten-free hamburger buns I've never seen in the store. The total came to $48 and the first pickup time available was four hours later. At 10:15am the order would be final and it'd be too late to make changes.

At 11:05am, I recalled that Julia asked me to get her more cereal. Blarg!

By 1:15pm an email arrived saying the order was ready. It also suggested downloading the Walmart Grocery app which is different than the Walmart store app already on my phone. The grocery app has a button to push when you're headed to the store to pick up the order. Using the phone's GPS, Walmart can track your progress to the store. It's a little creepy. The app also seems like an even easier way to put together an order. I'll try it next time.

At 3:15pm, I pushed the "on my way" button in the grocery app and headed to Walmart. The pickup area is well marked, the side of the building is now bright orange to draw attention to the parking spots reserved for online order pickups. Another online shopping woman was just closing her trunk as I pulled up and the Walmart employee, Sara, approached my car. She asked my name and said to give her "a few minutes."

And so I timed her because I was looking for a flaw in the service. While I waited, another guy pulled into the pickup area. So it seems like the professional shoppers are getting some business.

She went into the building at 3:36 and returned at 3:41 with my groceries. I signed for them, accepted a little thank you swag bag since it was my first time, expressed my appreciation to Sara in my croaking, cold riddled voice, and went off to Sam's Club.

I was home by 4:15pm.

Sara, the shopper, assembled everything on my list. She did not divine my need for Julia's Cookie Crisp cereal, nor did she pick up on my one mistake: I clicked King Arthur Gluten-free Baking Mix instead of King Arthur 1-1 Gluten Free Flour. It's unlikely I'd have come away with everything I needed had I pushed a cart around the store. Rather than buying the wrong King Arthur, I'd have forgotten it entirely. I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't call myself a "smart shopper." Smart shoppers probably don't compulsively buy ketchup while completely forgetting we've been out of jam for a month.

Even with these two missteps, not going in Walmart was an exhilarating experience. When I got home I felt like I'd climbed Everest or finished a marathon. I've heard people feel exhilarated by those things. I don't have any experience with good feelings from exercise personally, but not going to Walmart, that was the stuff.

***I'm not anywhere cool enough to receive any sort of sponsorship or compensation for reviews of products or services on this blog. I just wrote about this because it's a really good idea. This service would have been wonderful to have when Julia was first born and for all the times I've suffered through shopping trips when I should have been anywhere else.***