Grocers are some of the last holdouts in joining the online ordering world until recently. Over the last few years, grocery delivery has become “a thing” and doesn’t show any signs of slowing for the time being. Publix decided to put its stake in the ground in July 2016, using the Greater Miami Area as a test market for their grocery delivery service.
In an online marriage made in virtual heaven, the popular grocery chain joined forces with Instacart to test their pilot program in South Florida. Fast forward to March of 2018, and their delivery service has landed all across the Southeast region, including right here in the Suncoast.
I had been hesitant to try the service initially. There was a bit of fear of the unknown: How long will it take? Will it be expensive? Can I still get the BOGO’s (Buy One Get One) and the sales? Will they pick out good quality produce or will my bananas look like a bunch of spotted giraffes? I brushed my first-world concerns aside and did an online search for Publix delivery. I wasn’t quite sure how to go about getting started, but they have made the process very simple.
The first step is downloading the Instacart app on your smartphone. I had an existing online account with Publix for their digital coupons (which you cannot use with Instacart at this time), so I was able to link the two together. The user-friendliness of the app was impressive. No clunky navigation or confusing functions. You can shop sales, departments, search for specific items, or see featured products. And yes, you can take advantage of sales and most BOGO’s, though not all weekly store sales are online. Also, you can’t mix and match your BOGO items like you can in store. But you can request specialty items, including alcohol (in FL and NC only) and custom deli foods.
As I began to shop, the app kept me up-to-date on when I’d have my groceries delivered. I was in the 1-hour window until I had enough items in my cart to turn it into 2-hour time frame. The Instacart prices are a bit higher than in store, however, I was able to stick to my list and refrain from putting other things in my virtual cart because it was a “good deal”. And no children asking me every aisle to buy something was a bonus. Delivery hours are between 9AM and 9PM, Monday – Sunday.
Having food allergies, we buy a lot of specialty items and I was concerned they wouldn’t be available via the app. But just like their in-store variety, Publix does not disappoint with their selection of foods online. Everything I needed I was only a click away. You can also type specific instructions or requests for items in your cart. For example, when shopping for bananas, I advised my shopper to choose just-ripe with no brown spots and some slight green on the ends. Yes, we take our bananas very seriously.
Once you finish picking out your items, enter your credit card information, and submit, you’ll be notified when your shopper starts shopping. I immediately received a text from Instacart that “Kevin” was on his way to shop for me. The shoppers are not Publix employees but vetted and hired through Instacart. You will receive a text with the shopper’s profile information and photo, so there are no surprises as to who is showing up at your door.
One of the features I really liked is the real-time information you are given while your personal shopper is picking up items. The app lets you know what shopper is still shopping for, what’s in the cart already, and if there were any changes. There were several items I selected that were out-of-stock. In these instances, you’ll get a notification of “Replacement.” It shows you the out-of-stock item and what the shopper put in the cart in its place, waiting for you to approve the change. You also have the option of picking something else out or declining the replacement altogether. It’s a good idea to keep your phone handy while your Instacart shopper is picking out your groceries in case they need your approval to make changes. You can even add items to the shopping list as long as the shopper hasn’t checked out of the store.
My total ended up being about $25 more than what I would have spent in store for the exact same items. But, I usually don’t get out of the store for under $200, so it actually saved me money in the end. Kevin showed up with my groceries in under the two-hour window. They were nicely packed, the meat and vegetables were in peak condition, no bruising, and my bananas were a beautiful yellow with green tips. No giraffe marks to be found. He unloaded them from his trunk and put them on my dining room table. I tipped him and told him how grateful I was for this service. After he left, I received a notification from Instacart to rate my experience, and leave a tip. I decided to give him cash this time around, but in the future, I might use the app tip feature. Instacart also saves the items you purchased, so the next time you shop through the app, it will take you less time to hunt everything down.
Overall, I really liked the delivery service. Grocery budgets are a highly personal, and some might feel guilty spending an extra $10 to $30 on a personal shopper. But occasionally outsourcing chores and responsibilities to lighten your load, especially when facing an illness, working full time, or having a new baby, is a welcome relief and money well spent.