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Grocery delivery gets a lot of hype, but only 4 percent of people in this country regularly buy groceries online. While drones and other developments—including Amazon’s recent news that it will start two-hour Prime Now delivery from Whole Foods (though not yet in Washington)—may change this in the future, here are the five main models now.
The Kind Where You Still Go to the Store
Places such as Harris Teeter, Giant (via Peapod), and Walmart let you place an order that will be bagged and waiting for you at the store. It may still cost you: $4.95 at Harris Teeter, $2.95 at Giant. Walmart’s service is free.
The Kind Where the Store Goes to You
Giant’s Peapod is the main player in this region. Go online, fill up a cart, and pick a delivery time—your order will be brought to you for a fee of $7.95 to $9.95. Pro tip: While you might get same-day delivery during off-peak times, you usually have to order days ahead to get a prime three-hour slot.
The Kind Where Several Stores Go to You
FreshDirect and AmazonFresh are like Peapod in that they deliver all manner of groceries, but they source items from different purveyors. FreshDirect’s emphasis is on fresh—as in produce, eggs, and the like. Delivery costs $7.99. AmazonFresh wins raves for customer service and selection, including Whole Foods fare. It charges $14.99 a month for unlimited ordering (plus a $99 annual Prime membership).
The Kind Where Someone Runs a Quick Errand for You Right Away
For those who can’t wait for that head of romaine or jug of Tide, services such as Instacart promise quick delivery—sometimes within an hour—from stores including Whole Foods, Giant, Costco, Safeway, Harris Teeter, CVS, and Wegmans. Fees start at $5.99, but be aware: Like Uber, Instacart may use surge pricing during busy times. One advantage: You can get things from multiple stores in one delivery. A disadvantage: Instacart sometimes charges a higher price than the store—one customer study found markups as high as 42 percent on certain items.
The Kind Where You Wait a While for Stuff You’d Need a Station Wagon to Haul
Services such as Amazon Prime Pantry, Google Express, Boxed, and Jet appeal especially to those who don’t own a car, don’t have a Costco membership, or don’t want to lug home 35 pounds of kitty litter. Orders arrive within a few days. (Google Express is sometimes same day.) You’ll find such items as canned goods, cereal, rice and pasta, snacks, and cleaning supplies—sometimes in bulk sizes or multi-packs. Beyond groceries, Google Express delivers from the likes of Target, Home Depot, and PetSmart. Shipping is free if you meet the minimums for Google Express ($25 or $35 for each store), Jet ($35), and Boxed ($49). Amazon requires a $99-a-year Prime membership, then charges $5.99 a box.
This article appears in the March 2018 issue of Washingtonian.