The ability to shop for groceries online has been around for a long time, but it has always seemed a little too expensive and a little too “clunky” to use on a regular basis. Recently, however, a bigger commitment to the business by HEB caused us to think about taking a second look. The following is a brief (non-scientific) comparison of some of the more popular companies providing groceries online. For a complete list of what was in our grocery bag, click here.
The web interface is not great. It kept giving us both Amazon and Whole Foods options. You do have the ability to filter for Whole Foods items only, but for each new search, the filter criteria disappears and you have to redo the filters. Also, we found that the photos were not always representative of the specific order (e.g., the picture might show a large jar of applesauce even though the order is for a 6-pack of single-serve containers). Once the order has been placed, the technology is good. You can monitor the location of your driver and communicate with them. Amazon offers 2-hour free delivery and the groceries arrived in paper bags (with all cold items in insulated bags).
Cost: $69.10 ($63.10 for groceries plus $6.00 recommended tip)
Ordering on the website was easy and intuitive, but communication after the order was non-existent. Since it is Walmart, prices were low, but organic selection is limited. If you order a lot of items in bulk, you would probably save more money at Walmart. They provide one-hour pick-up windows. Pick-up locations vary by store and you text or call when you arrive. Walmart also offers home delivery for a fee.
Cost: $50.58 ($50.58 for groceries—no additional fees)
HEB recently started offering home delivery, but since there may be more HEBs in Texas than armadillos, who needs it? The website is good—better than Amazon and equal to Walmart for ease of use. For example, items on sale are heavily promoted. The site also allows you to use past orders as a template for future orders. As one might imagine, HEB carries more items and package sizes than Whole Foods or Wal-Mart. One potential drawback is that all ordering is store-specific, therefore, on weekends you need to place your order early in the day or you may have to wait several hours before the order is ready. Also, the available pick-up times are subject to change during the ordering process. When arriving at HEB, you simply pull into one of the special “Curbside” parking spaces and text the number on the sign. Groceries are delivered to your car in the heavier (reusable) plastic bags. Our “shopper” arrived about five minutes after we sent the text.
Cost: $51.79 ($45.48 for groceries plus 3% for curbside plus $4.95 for personal shopper)
In summary, we preferred the HEB experience over that of Amazon and Walmart, but the other two certainly had some unique advantages. Ordering online can be a real timesaver and there’s no doubt that remaining in an air-conditioned car while someone else loads it up, beats walking from the back of the parking lot in 100 degree heat. Add small children to the mix and it is a no-brainer.