Ever tried online grocery delivery?

By Vivian Blevins
Contributing Columnist

I’ve been ordering my groceries online and having them delivered to my house for well over a year now, and I thought I’d share some advantages and some cautions.

The provider touts that deliveries are free; however, those who are delivering depend upon you so that their work is paid for their investments of time, gasoline, wear and tear on their vehicles as well as wear and tear on their bodies. There are computer programs that indicate when orders are filled by store employees and are ready for delivery. These contract delivery persons can click on an order and proceed to the store to pick it up and deliver it. Drivers attempt, of course, to maximize the number of orders they deliver in a given time to maximize their income. I would assume that the drivers want deliveries that are close to the store and which have the highest tips which should come with the largest orders. The store I use pays these persons mileage and a delivery fee.

I try to assess the size and weight of the deliveries before determining a tip as that seems fair. I also specify my front door as the back door involves my carrying groceries up two sets of stairs. The front door delivery involves a rather long walkway and five steps for the driver. Time frames for delivery run about an hour, and I want the delivery person to ring the doorbell so that I don’t need to keep checking. Additionally, my front porch is more secure from thieves who roam some neighborhoods following UPS trucks and other groups making deliveries. Have I just told potential thieves a way to make money with all the Christmas deliveries landing on our front porches? I doubt, however, that they read my columns as I’m usually writing about veterans or social issues. There is, however, always the issue of squirrels, dogs, and cats sniffing around, and they might decide to sample the meat products in my orders.

In regard to meats, I was initially reluctant to order, sight unseen, fruits and vegetable as well as meats. I was cautious initially and didn’t order those supplies until I put my toe in the water and learned no hay problema.

There are several advantages to getting groceries this way. The first is that you can see at a glance on your computer screen or tablet the variety of choices for a particular item as well as the cost and the number of ounces in each item and cost per ounce. If I request a cheaper item and it is unavailable, the merchant substitutes a more expensive item at the same cost as the item I originally requested. Once I ordered picture frames, and the merchant made a substitution. When I called to indicate the frames did not match the veterans display on which I was working, the manager told me to keep them, and he took that amount off my credit card.

Another advantage to shopping via computer is that I clip recipes and watch cooking shows but haven’t a clue about some of the ingredients. If recipes call for more than salt, pepper, or cinnamon, I’m at a loss. I can buy the items online without knowing how to pronounce them or in the cases of some veggies what they looked like prior to being chopped or diced. With this COVID business and teaching most of my college classes online, I no longer have an excuse for not cooking, and I’ve cooked more in the past two years being housebound than ever in my life.

A third big plus is that I save time which so many of us have in short supply. The online directions are easy to follow. Additionally, I have a record on my computer of how much I’m spending on groceries and tips.

And we buy water and soft drinks in bulk, even bought a dorm refrigerator in which to store them so that they don’t take up space in the refrigerator. A great decision is to have these bulky and heavy items delivered.

Another issue concerns the items I’ve forgotten to order. If there is adequate time, I can add to my order or I can start a new list on my computer. Some merchants require a minimum order of $35, and a friend tells me that she shares an order with her next-door neighbor if neither has a list that totals $35. This conversing with a neighbor is also a good practice in these days of social isolation.

You might ask the following: How can I be sure everything on my list arrives? You need to check to verify that all items have been delivered. In my case, once eggs that I had ordered did not arrive, and the manager promptly deducted that from my credit card. Recently, paper towels did not arrive, and within minutes of my call to the store, a driver brought them to my door with the store’s apologies.

Some stores carry a variety of non-food items and additional items that they contract with other companies to supply. I have been satisfied with buying a plethora of items in this way although I recently ordered a white dress shirt for my husband from one of the contract vendors. It was much too small. He’s put on a little weight since he retired, but the shirt seemed more designed for a pre-teen boy. Another vendor from whom I ordered a set of wrist splints for my carpal tunnel diagnosis supplied me recently with two for my left hand. The last time I checked I only have one left hand. Is it easy to return such items? Not for me.

Now that I have my Pfizer booster, I’m back at restaurants — when I can find them open. There are now the problems with supply chain management and with persons refusing to return to jobs that they hated creating “Help Wanted” signs in every direction I look. And the menus now consist of whatever is available. Last week I had a baked potato and fried okra after the restaurant was out of the entrees I wanted. We had tried five restaurants in two towns prior to locating this one that was still open at 5 p.m.

I’m not sure how this is all going to play out. Maybe we’ll be forced to start keeping chickens, pigs and a milking cow in our yards and planting a little wheat field. Can we do it? Of course because we Americans are problem solvers extraordinaire.

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.