Grocery Store Delivery Might Be Convenient – But It Might Cost More

While everyone in the United States is dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19, many of us have been forced to reconsider how we shop for food and groceries. In most communities, it’s still OK to go to the grocery store yourself, and some grocery stores even offer special hours for the “over-60 crowd” to do their business. But, it’s difficult to maintain appropriate levels of social distancing in a crowded store, and with so many people in one place at one time, the risk of virus exposure goes up.

For people who are in higher risk categories (over 60, other underlying health and respiratory problems, mobility issues) grocery delivery has become an increasingly popular option. It works well for many people, but there’s one important thing you should remember if you opt for that service: it’s likely to cost you more than a regular trip to the store.

Here’s why. Delivery services that are offered by grocery chains and third party “shopper” services are just that – services. And when you use that service, somebody deserves to be paid for the service they provide when they shop and deliver your groceries for you. How much you pay and how it works varies among the various services.

In some cases, you sign up as a member of a shopping service for a set fee. (One service charges $99 per year or $9.99 per month). That entitles you to use the service all year long with no additional service fee. However, some shopping and delivery services use a different price list than the store you are buying from. For instance, if you would ordinarily pay $1.49 for a dozen eggs, the delivery service may have a price list that shows the same eggs at a price of $1.65. Not all services inflate all prices on all items, but some do, so be sure to check first. That’s one place where your cost may go up.

Also, even if you pay the minimal delivery charge (or no delivery charge at all) it is customary to tip your delivery person when they bring your order straight to your door. This can be done electronically by paying online or by leaving an envelope with a cash tip for your delivery driver. Typical tips run between 105 – 20%. So, if your total grocery order was $50, you might be expected to leave a tip of somewhere between $5 to $10. You don’t HAVE to tip that high, but if you don’t, your service may not be as good on future orders.

The bottom line is, if you use a grocery shopping and delivery service, your convenience factor will be high and you can avoid trips to the store during the Coronavirus outbreak, but you might be paying 15% to 20% more when you add in service fees, tips and higher pricing on some goods.

Some stores prohibit delivery drivers from accepting tips, and some don’t charge service fees for the service. You need to check with your individual store or shopping service to determine how it works in your area.

If you are fairly mobile, many stores offer you a different option called curbside pick-up. In this scenario, you order ahead from a grocery store of your choice; they go through the store, find your groceries and put them in bags; then you drive up to the store and they bring them out to the curb and put them in your car for you. This option is usually cheaper than the home delivery option – but it does require you to make a trip to the store, even if you don’t have to go inside.

In either case, you should still take precautions after you receive your groceries. Some people wipe their bags and boxes with a disinfecting towel before bringing them in the house – then throw away the bags they came in. You should wash your hands after handling your packages, and if you have deliveries made right to your front porch, encourage the drivers to leave the parcels outside to avoid the additional personal contact.

There is no current evidence that COVID-19 is easily spread through packaged or prepared foods, but it never hurts to take a few extra precautions, even if you are relatively healthy.

To find out if delivery or curbside grocery shopping is available in your area, call your favorite grocery store; go on line and look for grocery delivery services like InstaCart, Door Dash, Uber Eats or others; or call your local Wal-Mart if there is one in your community. They usually provide some level of service such as this for groceries and other merchandise.

In the meantime, stay healthy, watch your budget, and monitor the news so you can make the best decisions for you and your family in these unusual times.

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