IMG_4203Instacart, an online grocery shopping service, has launched in the DC metro area, and they are ready to take your order! Place an online order and then sit back and wait less than an hour while they shop at Harris Teeter. Soon, you’ll be able to get groceries from Whole Foods as well! You can try the service with free delivery and a $10 credit by clicking here. You can also enter the code “dcmothers2014” to receive the discount. Leave a comment about why you could use the service, and we’ll pick three random winners to receive free delivery for 1 month.

What differentiates this service from others?

They train their shoppers to select great produce. I tested this by placing a produce heavy order, and I was NOT disappointed. In fact, I received a call about a few substitutions that needed to be made and the shopper mentioned the avocados were ripe and ready to eat now – was that OK? You can give instructions to the shopper when you place your order like “my strange daughter likes green bananas” or “I’m making guacamole in 3 days, so the avocados shouldn’t be quite ripe yet”.

The interface is similar to other online shopping sites. You select the items you want and place them in your virtual cart. Over time, you can build a list of favorites, which presumably makes each order quicker than the last.

When an item I wanted wasn’t in stock, the shopper called me with a substitution suggestion and then reduced my bill correspondingly.

The quantity of products is vast. I was able to find everything I was looking for, and when I checked for other items I like to purchase, they were there.

The downsides of this service? You cannot tell the price of the item until you roll your mouse over it, which seems more difficult than it needs to be. And because the service isn’t associated with a particular grocery store, it seems you miss out on the weekly specials, and there will probably always be some issues with substitutions in produce. The service makes money by charging customers more for an item than they pay, which is a fine model – but does mean your final bill will be larger with Instacart than if you went to the store yourself (not surprising). This pricing scheme has the effect that larger orders make more money for Instacart than smaller orders, which seems to make sense. Some items (those green bananas), were just a few cents different than Harris Teeter advertised. Other items were about 20 percent more (a blood orange that was in perfect condition cost $1.19 rather than the store price of $0.99).

I loved the speed of the delivery and I also loved finding someone who could select produce! It’s not an easy task, but everything I received was in top condition. I was preparing for a dinner party that night so I did not have time to run this errand on my own. Not to mention, I abhor the task of grocery shopping (which is why my hubs is the chief shopper in the household).

I recommend the service for:

  • People who don’t like to go to the grocery store (me!)
  • People who forgot items they urgently need
  • People who have a child napping and need to get the grocery shopping done
  • People who are unable to leave their home for any reason
  • People who would like to send groceries to a friend and want to be confident about the quality of products their friend will receive.

To test the service, I was given a $35 credit and free delivery on Instacart. I paid for the rest of the order myself, and will use the service again when I’m in a pinch!

Elaine blogs over at ConnorAndHelen.