The same-day grocery delivery service launched in Miami yesterday and has 15 cities on its roster (New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Austin, Seattle, and Los Angeles among them). The move to metropolitan Miami, which is growing and swarmed with young professionals lacking time but still needing food to survive, was a natural one for the company.
So how does it work? Pretty simple, really. Download the Instacart app or go to the website and create an account. Once you've done that, it'll ask you for your zip code and provide the available merchants in your area. They include Whole Foods, Costco, Winn-Dixie, BJ's, and Petco. If your fridge, house, tummy, and/or cat require items from each, that's no problem, but orders will be assigned to different shoppers, arrive separately, and require their own delivery fee. Per order of $35 or more, the fee is $3.99 to receive it within two hours or $5.99 for one hour. Under the $35 quota? Delivery will set you back $7.99 to get it within two hours or $9.99 for 60 minutes. You can bypass delivery charges for orders of $35 or more by becoming an Instacart Express member. The cost for membership is $99 annually.
As for the service, Instacart gave me a $40 credit to stock up on the week's groceries. Because I'm catless and basically live alone, wholesalers BJ's and Costco, as well as Petco, were out of the equation. So I had a choice of Winn-Dixie and Whole Foods; I opted for the latter.
Once you've selected your merchant, you can either type what you're looking for in the search bar or browse the categories. If you're indecisive, Instacart might not be the best option, because choosing from 20 kinds of hummus is as confusing as trying to figure out what to watch on Netflix. But if you know what you want, and it can be as simple as "strawberries," you'll get search results of all the strawberries (organic and regular) available and the prices, which match those of the actual store. Found the ones you want? Add them to your cart. It's that simple. When you're ready to check out, choose your delivery window (I tried the two-hour) and wait for the universe to do its thing. OK, it's actually an Instacart driver.
If for any reason one of the items you ordered isn't available, you'll be prompted prior to checkout to submit adequate replacements based on the suggestions offered. And if that option isn't available either, your shopper will call you. Three of my items were apparently not in stock: baby spinach, blueberries, and tahini hummus. I explained I didn't mind alternate brands as long as they were still organic, which they were, and my shopper made sure to tell me the exact brands over the phone. (That same information also gets uploaded to your order online, which you receive via a text-message link so you can keep up with every step of the process.)
Shortly thereafter (one hour and 42 minutes later, to be exact), my order arrived in three reusable green bags. The first thing I pulled out happened to be something I hadn't ordered — coffee. I instantly thought they'd made an error but then found a note on the lid that read, "Dear Customer: Thank you for your Instacart order. To show you our appreciation, here is a gift on us." Sweet. Of course, Instacart would have no way of knowing I don't like or drink coffee, but hey, it’s the thought that counts. (Something the company might consider is offering a brief, fun survey with questions like "What can't you live without?" or "What would you refuse to eat even for a million dollars?" to learn a bit more about their customers.)
If you're produce-OCD like I am, you might be thinking you don't want other hands choosing your fruits and veggies, but rest assured Instacart shoppers have gone through a "robust training and on-boarding process with a heavy portion of that focused on fresh produce and how to pick a ripe avocado, look at berries for mold, spot wilted greens," and so on. And if you like your produce a specific way, you can type it in (i.e., soft tomatoes, ripe bananas) under preferences. General rule of thumb is items that are ready to be eaten within three days.
Indeed, while unpacking my order, I noticed everything seemed to be right on the money (including the produce), except the bread. Dumbfounded on what else to add to my cart to reach my $40 credit, I remembered Whole Foods now carries Zak the Baker bread and wanted to see if Instacart offered it in the search, which to my surprise it did (country wheat, rye, and multigrain for $6!). What ended up at my doorstep was actually Whole Foods bread. Not a big deal, but had I known this, I would have likely opted for something else. All in all, the experience was pleasant and saved me from having to get dressed and fight traffic.
Your order history saves every time you place an order, so with the click of a button, you can repurchase items you routinely buy, making grocery shopping a virtual errand and freeing up Sunday. You can choose a delivery time when you anticipate being at home.
Welcome to the future.
To try Instacart and receive free delivery of your first order plus $10 off, use the code NEWTIMES.
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