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As a fan of all things food and technology, I jumped at the chance to start using the Instacart grocery delivery service in Salt Lake City when it recently launched. So far my experience has been stellar and I wanted to give an overview of how the service works. Scroll to the end of the post for a quick Q&A about the Instacart service in Salt Lake City.
Ordering groceries for delivery in Salt Lake City
You start an order through either the Instacart app or website, you’ll just need to sign up first. One initial neat feature is you can switch back and forth between the two as you like. Start your order on your computer, and add to it through the day on your phone if you like.
It’s a rather simple process. Choose the store you want your shopper to visit for you and start adding items to a virtual basket. For items with a weight consideration such as fruit and veg, prices are listed per pound; but when adding to your basket you will be able to specify a more granular amount that you’d like your your shopper to purchase.
As you add items to your basket you can also specify what you want to happen in the case of the item being out of stock. By default, your shopper will pick what they deem the best alternative (more on that below) but if you’re really only intent on a particular item or brand, you can leave a note as you add items – no replacements for example.
At this stage, unless you’re in a hurry, you don’t have to worry about Instacart’s messages that delivery can happen in the next hour – I know I found that a little unnerving the first time through. At the end of your order you can select a delivery time and date on upcoming days. Whether that’s first thing next morning, or at the weekend for a party, you can select an hour long window for delivery.
Bear in mind the stores public opening hours when scheduling your order. To my knowledge Instacart shoppers just turn up at a regular store like everyone else and shop for you; if the store is closed, they’ll be out of luck just as you would be. From there, kick back and wait until your delivery time.
The Instacart shopping and delivery experience
This is the part that I am sure most folks imagine is the most stressful. What if my item isn’t in stock, what if my shopper gets delayed, what if…what if…With some experience of using the service several times, I think Instacart deliver an excellent experience here.
First up, you’ll get a message through to your phone (if you have the app installed) that your shopper is at the store and ready to shop. You’ll also get to see their smiling face in the app too, but I’ve blurred it out here for privacy.
You don’t need to do anything at this point, but if you’re a picky/antsy shopper like me, you’ll want to keep the app to hand. One of the coolest features of Instacart (beyond groceries appearing like magic on your doorstep) is you get to track your shopper as they go around the store.
As they pick items, you will see this updated in the app in what seems to be real time. This means if you’re fretting over a particular items availability you can watch your shopper closely, and if needed, take the appropriate steps. All from your sofa…
As you can see in the the following pictures, here I had an item that was out of stock. My shopper decided to substitute with the same brand, but a different flavor. I was really only interested in trying out the one particular flavor though, so a refund was as simple as clicking the big red arrow option.
You probably noticed the chat button in the screenshots too. You can use that just like a text messaging app, to directly communicate with your shopper as they wander the store for you. If you have more specific requirements for a replacement, or bigger ad hoc changes you can let them know direct from your phone or browser.
On a previous visit my shopper even sent me a photograph of the freezer cabinet when the exact brand of veggie burger I wanted was out of stock, and happily waited for me to browse the picture with an update for them. The live chat feature is available to you through the whole shopping, checkout and delivery process.
From there, it’s rinse and repeat until your shopper has picked the full order, checks out and heads your way.
I’ve removed it from the images above, but exactly like Lyft and Uber, at this stage of the order you can pull up a live map of your driver’s location. I’ve found it to be as equally responsive and accurate as those two apps in tracking your shopper’s arrival.
Once your driver arrives, my understanding is the onus is on you to ensure all your items are as they should be. That said, on my first use of Instacart, I was missing a few items and accidentally had received another user’s items. A simple bag mixup, it’s understandable. My shopper quickly called me to pick up and replace the items, but no doubt at her own time/cost – so a quick check on receipt of your items is worthwhile to save everyone’s time down the line.
Depending on your satisfaction with the service you can now also add a discretionary tip. Instacart say this goes direct to the shopper who assisted you on the order. As you can see there are a number of presets available.
FAQ on the Instacart service in Salt Lake City
What stores can I shop from using Instacart in Salt Lake City
At the time of writing, Instacart delivers from the following stores in Salt Lake City: Whole Foods Market, Smith’s, Costco, Natural Grocers, Petco, Cash & Carry, Sur La Table. In the case of membership stores like Costco, you do not need a membership.
Are the prices online the same as in stores
Yes and no. It really depends on the store from my experience. If you choose to have groceries delivered from Whole Foods Market – the prices appear to be the same online through Instacart, as they are in store. On the flip side, there’s a definite mark up on items at Costco. Quite significantly so.
How much does it cost to use Instacart in Salt Lake City
There are several fees that make up the service:
* Yearly subscription fee – much like Amazon’s Prime service, Instacart charges a yearly access fee. I lucked out in SLC by getting this free for the first year as part of their launch in the city.
* Per delivery fee – if you spend over $35 on your order this fee is waived. Spend less and there’s a surcharge based on how quick you need your order. There are tiers for one and two hour delivery turnarounds. I’ve not yet tested this ‘express’ option, but it’s good to know it’s available.
* Service and tip – a 10% service charge is added as standard to every order. The company states this supports a minimum working wage for everyone involved. If you want to tip your shopper when they arrive, you can do that through the app directly after your order completes. You can also do this before delivery, but the app does make this a little complex. The tip goes only to your shopper. You can also choose to decline both the service fee and tip if you like.
Is Instacart worth it in Salt Lake City?
Your mileage will vary here, based on your own circumstances and shopping requirements. For me personally…
I always keep a fairly well stocked pantry of tinned and packaged goods, so I’m always able to make a meal in a pinch; even if it is spam fried rice 😉 The Instacart service has been really useful for me when I just needed a quick delivery of fresh products – some fresh meat and veggies to supplement – when I just don’t have the time or inclination (heck one week, no transport due to a broken car) to get to the store.
In instances like this I’ve found the service hugely beneficial and will certainly use it repeatedly as such; though I’d personally find it too cost prohibitive to replace my entire shop week in, week out. The bigger your order the bigger your service fee and tip.
In terms of the store selection, to date I’ve been drawn to using Whole Foods, as the prices online match those in store. I personally find the markups on items at Costco far too punitive to make sense, you might not. I also compared a recent Smith’s mailer to those listed online and found quite the disparity there too – though this may just boil down to the fact that the advertised offers are using a Smith’s loyalty card – which aren’t applied using Instacart.
Speaking more generally about this model of shopping, I also find that I tend to be more considered and selective as compared to shopping in person; which to an extent can offset the increased delivery charges somewhat. I tend to be more far more cost conscious using an app like Instacart where at the store I’m far more like to just throw items into the basket in order to just get home ASAP. The online experience also allows you to hunt out bargains, that you might overlook in store.
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Check out our review of Walmart’s online grocery ordering and pickup system: