Written by Marlo Cappocia:
In early November, Wegmans joined P&C Fresh in offering grocery delivery to much of Tompkins County. Wegmans’s service is provided by Instacart, a five-year-old startup that offers the full product line of a variety of grocery stores, pet supply stores, pharmacies, and small markets across the United States. In Ithaca, Instacart delivers for Wegmans, Tops and CVS. You can mix and match items from different stores Instacart delivers for but I will review the Wegmans delivery service only.
I tried Instacart soon after they began offering delivery from Wegmans in Ithaca. I used the website instead of the app because the app was unable to do everything I needed for my first order. The app will probably do most of what you want without trouble after you’ve ordered once or twice and your preferences and shopping lists have been stored.
After setting up an account at www.instacart.com you can start putting items in your cart. Instacart offered even the most obscure thing we regularly purchase (Goya pupusas) but the shopper did not know where to find them so the pupusas were not delivered and were credited back to us. The search engine is robust and you can find products by name brand or product type, but it is not deep enough to know that “butterbeer” means butterscotch beer. In this case, a specific one-word search of “butterscotch” will get me the product I want but many other keywords (butter, beer, soda) for this item will require sifting through products I didn’t want to get to the one I did want. If you know Ithaca Wegmans has an item but you can’t find it in the search engine, there’s a good chance you just need to redefine your terms.
Instacart seems to deliver pretty much anything I could think of including items from the Mediterranean Bar, bulk foods and even a slice of Wegmans pizza. For items they are not certain they have in the store, they offer to allow you to choose a backup item in case they can’t get your preferred item. If you don’t choose a backup item, they will substitute with the closest item available. For me, the cleaned peas in a bag were not available so they purchased loose peas in amounts equivalent to what I paid for. If that had not been available they would have credited me.
Be sure to keep an eye on quantities- if you are purchasing weighted products their defaults may not be the same as what you expect so a quantity of “2” for a 0.5 lb item will be 1 lb, not 2 lbs as you might assume.
Delivery fees change according to time of day and how busy the drivers are. While I was putting items in my cart, the screen changed from a minimum delivery time of 1 hours to 2 hours so I imagine they got busy and 1 hour delivery was no longer possible. It makes sense to do your shopping before you need the items and schedule delivery for a later time that suits you so you don’t find yourself at dinner time waiting for a (potentially-late) delivery to arrive. This also gives you flexibility to get delivery at the least expensive time, as the busier times have higher delivery fees.
You must pay a delivery fee, though this is waved for a brief trial period once you sign up. You can also pay for a membership plan which is a yearly fee in return for unlimited deliveries for the rest of the year.
An oddity of ordering through Instacart is that they give you the option to pay a service charge and a driver’s tip. I did some research on the service charge and discovered this is a fee Instacart charges and may (or may not) be used to pay the driver’s relatively meager hourly rate. Instacart may never share the service charge with the driver.
The tip, however, goes 100% to the driver, who is probably also going to be your personal shopper, too. It’s a huge time investment for the shopper/driver to spend time shopping for you, pack your order, make price adjustments to the total, be in contact with you if necessary, then deliver your bags to your doorstep. If your driver doesn’t get the additional compensation of a tip they make less than their low hourly rate due to the need to have use their own vehicle with accompanying repairs, insurance and fuel. If a driver is regularly makes a 10% tip they can make a decent wage in Ithaca.
When it was time for my personal shopper to choose items for my order, I received a text asking for clarification about items I had requested and I was able to text a response. My driver was not able to leave my bagged order on my porch without my approval, but the quick back-and-forth of texting was an easy way to make sure my shopper/driver didn’t spend too much time waiting for me.
The service is expensive, flexible, and responsive. It makes a lot of sense for families or individuals with some disposable income but you are definitely trading money for saving time. Though my family will only use it sporadically, we are glad to have it on those weeks where we just can’t find time to shop for ourselves.
For information about P&C Fresh’s grocery delivery service, see this 14850.com article about the locally-owned Rosie App.
Marlo Capoccia operated an Ithaca-based local food delivery service, Garden Gate Delivery, from 2009 – 2014.
Image credit: Photo by wintersoul1. Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)