Farm Stores: Only Online Grocery Shopping Now Available

On a recent late-night run to a local Farm Stores (the drive-thru convenience store with the cow on the sign), a nifty flyer with a $20 coupon was dropped in the bag. That discount is good for online grocery shopping. Curiosity was piqued.

So what are the advantages of Internet shopping with Farm Stores? Ms. Barbara Scarabello, Farm Stores marketing manager, says, "Simply put, it's about time." She makes a point that time is saved by not having to drive to a grocery store, find parking, push the cart through the aisles, wait in line to check out, and then load the bags into your vehicle.

FarmStores.com is

the first online grocery-shopping supermarket with drive-thru pick-up

in the United States. And as far as online shopping, there are also

no other grocery store chains offering online shopping, of any sort,

in Miami-Dade at this time.

All FarmStores.com orders are fulfilled from their main supplier,

Gardner's Market. Those orders are then taken to one of 17 Farm Stores drive-thru locations in Miami-Dade County. (Fourteen

locations are advertised as "coming soon" on the website). The

pick-up location and time are selected by the customer.

FarmStores.com and Gardner's

Supermarket Inc. are owned by the same parent company. This allows

FarmStores.com to offers thousands of brand-name items among fresh meats, poultry, produce, deli products, toiletries, cleaning

supplies, baby needs, pet food, and other items typically

found at major supermarkets. If you can't

find what you need while shopping on FarmStores.com, all you have to

do is click the "Can't Find It" link and submit your request. Farm Stores carries its own brands. If the ice cream is any indication, Farm Stores brands stack up well against name-brand competitors. Online, you can also find organic produce (Earthbound), but not much of it, and at $7.89 per pound for fruit, it doesn't seem like much of a bargain. Not to mention, produce is difficult enough to sort through at the store; imagine having a stranger pick your apples.

There is a $4.95 service charge

for online orders, but that fee is waived for your first three

purchases. There are also weekly specials offered with discounts of

up to $20 off your first purchase.

While testing out the fluidity of shopping online, I became

increasing frustrated by the time it took trying to find items and

brands that I typically purchase. The website isn't as user-friendly as

one would hope, not with a drop-down menu appearing on the left-hand

side of the screen and subfields appearing in the center of the

screen, at the bottom of large advertisements. As you try to navigate through the online departments, you realize the time you think

you're saving really isn't being saved after all.

While the novelty of online grocery shopping sounds intriguing, much is left to be desired. There's the lack of a user-friendly website getting in the way at this point, and ultimately there's nothing quite like picking your produce, choosing your meats, and deciding between the quality and value of two brands at the brick-and-mortar grocery store.

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John Zur