Grocery shopping service promises to make your life easier


With a few clicks of your mouse you can do all your online shopping in moments, but does it really work?

Instacart is a new Bay Area online company from which customers can order their groceries from up to four different stores and have them all delivered within an hour. Companies like Safeway have been doing this for a few years, but Instacart is different.

"On Instacart you can get stuff from Wholefoods, Costco and Safeway," said Apporva Mehta, the CEO of Instacart.

Instacart has no warehouses or inventory. It contracts people to drive their own cars and shop at designated stores.

"We don't have a fleet of trucks. What we do is we use crowd source labor to go to existing local stores, pick up your groceries and make the deliveries," said Mehta.

Laura Barnum is a shopper for Instacart. She just graduated from University of San Francisco and is now studying for the GREs and likes the flexibility that comes with being a contract shopper.

"You get to set your own schedule, you get to choose the hours you want to work," said Barnum. She says she usually shops for two people at once. "I would say it takes me about 45 minutes in the store and then about 20 minutes for delivery."

Carissa Balinski used Instacart earlier this week. She said, "At 4:00 I totally forgot that we hadn't gone grocery shopping and we kind of wanted to start cooking around 7 p.m. so ordered a bunch or recipes online and had it there in two hours."

For the busy parent juggling kids, this service could really be a life saver.

"You don't have to find a babysitter, you don't have to grab a taxi, or you don't have to find parking," said Mehta.

Instacart adds a percentage to some items. In other instances, the company negotiates a lower purchase price with the store.

Customers have to pay a delivery fee of $3.99 per store. The delivery charge goes up if you order less than $35 in any one store.

In comparison, charges $9.95 for home delivery on purchases of $150 or more and $12.95 on purchases under $150. And, the company requires a $49 minimum purchase for home delivery.

So, we tried the service. We ordered a few items from three of their stores: Whole Foods, Costco and their money saving option, Instacart plus.

We chose the two hour window option and sure enough three different shoppers arrived at different times within 1 hour and 15 minutes. And remember that included a shopping at Costco.

In the end we paid $15 for delivery, because we bought less than the $35 threshold in two of the three stores. And after some price checking we spent another $13 total in surcharges on a few individual items.

Instacart is available in most parts of the Bay Area. One note though on using the service on an older version of Windows – Instacart says you should use newer browsers and you'll have better results.

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