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Online Grocery Shopping is My New Thing

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

About a year ago, I started ordering delivery from Randall's, a grocery chain in Austin affiliated with Safeway. I have a Randall's loyalty card and I'm signed up for "Just for U" savings, both of which offer discounts and are incorporated into the Randall's online ordering site.

Overall, Randall's website works great. The search functions are efficient, and delivery has usually gone smoothly, until Randall's stopped using their own trucks and instead went with an Uber-style delivery service called "Drop Off." Suddenly, just-plain-folks who are trying to make a buck were delivering groceries to my kitchen, which was not much of a problem except they hung around for a tip.

Randall's makes a point on its website for online customers NOT to tip, so this hustling by Drop Off drivers put us in an uncomfortable position. Also, we preferred to have Randall's own employees delivering, rather than Uber-style drivers. Not that they weren't thorough or solicitous. It was the hanging around in our kitchen that drove us nuts.

Yes, Virginia, Shopping Online Can Save You $$$

When I shop online, I resist temptations. I am able to check my fridge or pantry to see if I actually have olives, picante sauce, or rice noodles. And, I can plan my week's menu based on sales or discounts.

However, Randall's is notoriously more expensive than Austin's major grocery chain called "HEB." For those unfamiliar, this stands for H. E. Butt -- laugh if you must, but it's a very large retailer out of San Antonio. So, to save money and avoid the tip hustlers, I tried out "Curbside Pickup at HEB," which is not delivery but brings grocery items directly to your car.

HEB, You Have Some Work Still to Do

I had tried HEB's online ordering program in the past, but I had found the site dysfunctional. Over the past two years, I can say that it has improved but is still a work in progress. For example, when I entered the term "sweet potatoes" on HEB's site, I saw only frozen products. So I edited my search to say, "fresh sweet potatoes," but saw only a bag of frozen peas and a bag of frozen corn. Bizarre. So I searched just for "potatoes," and got every kind of potato but sweet.

Turns out, as a manager later told me by phone, there was a distribution issue, and HEB simply does not have sweet potatoes right now. Why did the website not say "unavailable," instead of showing me bags of frozen peas and corn?

Also, to confuse issues, when I double-checked my HEB order online, every single item I had selected was labeled in red type as "not available." Flabbergasted, I assumed this was some sort of system glitch, so I ignored it, but how many other customers who are less web savvy might have become confused?

Watch Out: Four Might Equal One

Another issue with the HEB site was when there were multiples-per-dollar pricing. For example, when I entered, "fresh corn on the cob," the result showed me pricing of, "4 ears for $1.88," (or something, can't recall exact pricing). So I entered the number "1" for my order, thinking that meant four ears. But, when I received the corn, I got only one ear. Turns out, I was supposed to select four ears of corn, but I was afraid if I did that at the "4 for $1.88" pricing, I'd get 16 ears.

As for other searches, many of my desired products simply would not show up unless I used the site's sidebar category menu, rather than simply entering a search term. This is a flaw in HEB's search capacity, and the chain needs to work on this diligently.

Drive Up, Pick Up

I did not choose HEB's delivery service because the curbside pickup charge was already $5.00. Considering that Randall's delivers my entire order for $5.00 or less (using one-day advance timing), with supposedly no tipping, I did not want to pay more for HEB's delivery service. I do not know what the delivery charge is, so you'll have to explore that on your own.

At the store, HEB has a curbside pickup area where you park and text your location to the store system. The delivery person then brings groceries to your car. Our service person was very cordial. When I asked, he said he could not accept tips. In addition, the groceries are in large paper sacks, which I can either reuse or recycle.

Just a day ago, I used Randall's new pick-up service at my local store and found that to be FREE, and very easy, with a friendly store delivery person who urged us to let others know, as this, "helps provide jobs at the local stores." For Randall's pick ups, you call the store number on a sign in the parking lot. Only complaint is that groceries arrive in far-too-many plastic bags. I do recycle these at the store, however someone else might not be so diligent.

Which Wins My Loyalty?

Both stores allow you to add to your order within a specific time period, which is great, so no store wins that battle. However, at this point, I plan to alternate between Randall's and HEB to see how each improves over time. Although Randall's groceries are more expensive, Randall's website has far-better functionality, which saves me time. And, for about the same price, using no rush delivery, Randall's delivers directly to my kitchen. For that same $5.00, I have to drive five miles and pick up at HEB. Or pick up at my nearby Randall's for FREE.

I look forward to seeing how each chain's online service improves overtime. But I am sold on online grocery shopping. Being able to check my pantry and refrigerator, while searching for sales and using discounts or coupons online, is saving me a whole lot of money and time.

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