With millions of people staying at home to help slow the spread the coronavirus and COVID-19, grocery delivery services like Instacart, Shipt, Amazon Fresh, Walmart Grocery, and Mercato are under heavy strain.
After adding items to your shopping cart, you might find that delivery dates are a week or more away, if there are any options available at all.
Now Instacart has announced two options designed specifically to help out during the pandemic — you can choose Fast & Flexible delivery to try to get delivery as soon as a shopper is available or Order Ahead to schedule delivery more than a week in advance.
Fast & Flexible is a bit of a misnomer, because it’s not so much fast as potentially a little faster than you’d otherwise get.
Case in point: Instacart announced the new feature today, but I spotted it in the app on my phone over the weekend. I placed an order for grocery delivery on Saturday, and it’s currently scheduled for delivery on Thursday. Theoretically that time could have moved up if a shopper became available sooner, but that hasn’t happened yet.
On the other hand, the soonest Instacart was letting me schedule delivery on Saturday morning was Thursday… and that date slipped further back as the day went on.
Anyway, the idea is that a shopper will notify you when your order is picked up and on its way to your home. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t work for people who work outside of the home during the day. But if you’re stuck at home anyway, allowing some flexibility could help you get your groceries a little faster — although it’s still probably a good idea to plan in advance and order several weeks worth of groceries at a time if you can afford to do so, because the next time you need to order you might find yourself waiting a week or longer again.
Speaking of which, the new Order Ahead option lets you schedule an order as much as two weeks in advance. Previously the limit was one week.
Instacart says the new option is already available in some “high demand locations” and will b rolling out to all customers across North America in the coming weeks.
Other new options include “Leave at My Door” for folks who’d rather not interact with the driver (you can still tip generously through the app), automatic cancellation for out of stock orders, and more.
You can find more details at the Instacart blog.
It’s also worth noting that Instacart has come under scrutiny for the way it has (or hasn’t) been supporting its shoppers/delivery drivers during the pandemic.
Grocery stores and grocery delivery are considered essential services, and companies like Instacart have been some of the only businesses looking to hire people at a time when millions of Americans have been put out of work by stay-at-home orders. But workers planned a strike last week demanding hazard pay, personal protective equipment, and an expansion to the company’s paid sick leave policy.
Instacart hasn’t reponded to all of those demands, but the company has promised bonuses for shoppers (not quite the same thing as hazard pay), an optional free safety kit for shoppers (with a reusable face mask, hand sanitizer and a thermometer), and some other changes that may help protect shoppers and customers.