Walmart Grocery Pickup

Time to step out of my comfort zone…

About half of the time, I do grocery shopping at the world’s biggest retailer that nobody shops at. I’m sticking my toe into new territory.

Walmart in my area is offering grocery pickup. They are talking about adding delivery via uber/lyft, but that isn’t here yet. If this works as advertised, I might join the ranks of the people freed from car ownership.

The basic concept is that a Walmart employee does the shopping for you. You use their web site to select from products available in the store. It is very easy to use and seems to be very complete in terms of what is available. Prices reflect the current price if you shopped yourself. There is no charge and no tipping. I don’t understand the business model at all. Groceries are a very low margin business.

So I completed my order for pickup on Monday afternoon in a one hour window. From the video, it looks like the shopper has a portable bar code reader and scans each item, so the result should be accurate. I can indicate for each item whether substitutions are OK.

My assumption is they take the frozen and refrigerated items to a holding area in the store. 15 minutes before my 1 hour window, they will call to remind me. They request that I call them back about 10 minutes before I plan to arrive.

Upon arriving at the store there will be a special parking area. When I arrive, I call them to let them know I’m ready. Spots are numbered (I’m in spot #2!). My stuff will come to me, the employee will put the groceries in the trunk, and give me a receipt to sign. They have my credit card on file, so nothing more to do. No tipping. I suspect the picking is done in the middle of the night when the store is empty.

If this works, it solves a number of problems:

– shopping for groceries is about the extent of my stamina. 20 minutes and I’m out of steam
– no waiting / standing in line for checkout
– people in the store don’t have to be annoyed by my appearance and vice versa
– no impulse buying
– no mistakes (fingers crossed)
– might be able to give up car and related expenses and annoyances
– frozen foods should not be thawing at all
– no shopping carts, dodging cars in the parking lot, etc

The only obvious issue is this service is at a different Walmart than my normal choice. It’s about six miles away compared to two miles.

I’m aware of Amazon Prime and Peapod, but this seems more reasonable. I’ll give you a report on Monday. Any questions? Anyone already using this?

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18 Responses to Walmart Grocery Pickup

  1. WesternMA says:

    I’ll be very curious to know if your happy with the results and if and when they can be delievered by an Uber driver, how much will that add to the bill.
    My local grocery store has the service, but I’ve never used it…I actually enjoy browsing.

    • CC1s121LrBGT says:

      This service will not be used by the average consumer for the average shopping for quite some time. It will be used by elderly people, the sick, or people unable to drive.

      I’ve occasionally had a party and realized I was low on supply of a particular item and would have used it to have the item delivered because I would not be able to leave my home during a party I was hosting.

      • Fred Stiening says:

        I could see busy professionals using it as well if they aren’t concerned about thumping melons in person and want to save an hour. On the pickup service, the minimum time from order to pickup is 4 hours.

        Harris Teeter has a pickup service as well, but I don’t shop there at all, despite being maybe 750 feet from their front door. Their shopping service carries a charge on top of being maybe 40% more expensive and is tied into their frequent shopper card. But probably more important is the Walmart online system is complete and easy to use. I have a high degree of confidence when I get home, everything I ordered will be there. We’ll see…

    • Fred Stiening says:

      The Walmart/Uber pilot is in Denver. I think the charge is around $6

      I get the bit about shopping in person – but Walmart has really commoditized everything. The fresh meat comes pre wrapped from a distribution center, not a butcher in the back. Produce is equally unremarkable. Apples are apples, all the same size without blemishes. Tasteless and nutrition free – sure. For me, shopping is becoming a real burden. Even in my best days, it was not something I enjoyed doing.

      Even without an official delivery service, taking uber to do the pickup is still possible albeit a bit tricky. Integrating the delivery means I would not have to even go to the store.

      I’m approaching the point of feeling it may be time to move to an environment where I’m not so dependent on my own ability to function. If this works out, it could delay the need to do that. Me collapsing in the supermarket parking lot would speed up that process. I am getting that feeble.

    • Fred Stiening says:

      The uber angle gets tricky. Uber is meant to go from point A to point b. I already did a trial run to and from a different store, but where I did the shopping myself, then called for a second uber. That makes sense if I’m shopping inside for half an hour.

      The tricky part is if I take uber to the pickup and release the driver, Walmart will not have a trunk 😉 If I request the return trip, I may or may not get the same driver and he might then have to wait for the Walmart person. It would be cleaner if the driver did both things, but it isn’t set up to work that way. The one way fare is about $13

      • Fred Stiening says:

        An indirect but somewhat related issue – uber just took a major investment from Saudi Arabia. That is causing me to hesitate about letting go of my “GM” freedom of the road

        There is another detail about Uber’s business model. It’s quite likely your Uber driver’s vehicle is a leased vehicle with Uber owning the lease and just deducting it from their check. That solves several problems – the lease doesn’t have the normal end of lease excess mileage charge, it provides new cars to people who don’t have credit to buy a car and it keeps uber out of fights with leasing companies who would say use by uber violates the no commercial use in a traditional lease. Does this make uber drivers an indentured servent? Perhaps…

      • Fred Stiening says:

        In the integrated Walmart/Uber service, it is very simple. When the order is ready, Walmart calls uber. The Walmart employee meets the uber driver, and the order comes to my door. Walmart pays uber, I pay Walmart. Now it is not a two way trip. It’s plausible if more people use the service that the driver might deliver multiple orders on a single trip, particularly if the vehicle is decked out with equipment more useful for delivery than a passenger car. America may be great again!

    • Fred Stiening says:

      So browsing a bit more in depth, I’m noticing Walmart carries a lot of things I never noticed. Since I’m normally rushing through the store and things on low shelves are a problem to see (and reach), they don’t exist 😉 I can browse at my leisure and flag many things I have eaten in the past or probably should try.

      The CEO of Walmart talked to investors (of which I’m one!) about being a little disappointed at slower growth in online shopping than they had hoped.

      A lot of the expense of supermarkets is “making them nice” with wide aisles, bright lights, and fancy display cases that are an inefficient use of space and energy and limited to only a few feet of usable vertical height. In wholesale food, frozen foods are in the frozen food room, pallets are stored to the ceiling.

      I can kind of see the Walmart, Amazon and US Foods technologies converging. If the fulfillment is done at a regional center and shipped close to me for pickup or delivered, the expense of big brick and mortar store goes away. People have already demonstrated an incredible lack of price sensitivity ordering stuff online… $40 a pound hotdogs – no problem!

      With two days of lead time, my order could be picked by someone in Mexico who doesn’t even understand English and isn’t demanding $15 an hour plus health care and unemployment checks the day after they can quit to get them for another two years. I can live with that

  2. Fred Stiening says:

    I took my Walmart shopping cart ($84.06) and tried to match it at Harris Teeter’s (now owned by Kroger’s). There are some things that are not exactly equivalent, but the total is $119.59 + $4.95 service charge

  3. Fred Stiening says:

    Publix, the Florida supermarket chain for people from New Jersey living in North Carolina isn’t even in the race. The only thing you can order online is special order items like party platters. In the regular store aisles, there is no pricing information or integration to check whether the item is out of stock.

    Food Lion is just about as bad. Walmart’s tightly integrated real time inventory management is going to crush these guys.

  4. briand75 says:

    I have used a grocery service for the past 4 years. This year I dropped it. The problem is the quality of the produce. The last straw was when the last 6 apples I got were all mush the next day. Convenient – absolutely. Quality – that’s the key. It doesn’t matter what it costs, it has to be top quality.

    • Fred Stiening says:

      Once or twice I’ve considered Peapod or similar services, and didn’t like the concept. It carries a fee, has very limited selection and pulls inventory from a Peapod warehouse, not the active inventory of a busy supermarket. Out of season fruit is stored in nitrogen to keep it “fresh”, but that doesn’t change it was picked 4 months ago (unless it came from Brazil). Apple trees require a hard freeze for a long time followed by warm weather to convince the tree that winter has come and gone so it can sprout the flowers

      In the suburb I grew up in, the city ordinance asserted all trees were owned by the borough. We had an apple tree in the back yard that had probably been there since the 1930s and “not authorized”. One day it was just not there. In the front yard, we had a sycamore tree as tall as our three story house. The trunk was about a foot in diameter and appeared healthy. One day, the borough decided it needed to be “trimmed back”. They left about a six foot high trunk with no branches. The following spring the tree took its dying breath – throwing out a single leaf the size of an extra large pizza. Well, that was that. If you wanted to know where my opinions about government come from, that is on the short list.

  5. Fred Stiening says:

    Amazon Fresh Prime is coming to the UK

    If Walmart does the fulfillment at the distribution center, there is no need for a retail store and paying city property taxes

  6. Fred Stiening says:

    Third and ptobably final report. Last night, close to midnight, I closed out my electronic shopping cart, and it let me schedule pickup for 8 AM, with the ability to make changes until 2 AM.

    7:30ish, Karla calls to tell me the order was ready for pickup – no out of stock items. Again, someone was parked in space #1 who wasn’t doing pickup. Eventually they’ll need to deal with that, but this service is very new.

    Karla almost forgot to put the contents of one bin in the trunk, but I was somewhat paying attention. She closed my trunk, then realized she still had stuff. Since she has my phone number, I’m sure I woukd not have gotten far. Fortunately the trunk release is right there on the dash.

    The minimum order is $30, and no fee (yet). Even if they added a 10% fee, it would still be 30% cheaper than Harris Teeter. The first order you get a $10 credit. You don’t have to register to play with the shopping interface and place an order, but it saves time in the future.

    I paid by credit card. They put a reserve against the card when you close out the order. If you update the order, they send an additional reserve. Eventually the real charge comes through and it has been accurate


  7. Fred Stiening says:

    This morning, I drove to the Walmart in Tega Cay SC for grocery pickup. At 8 AM on Sunday morning, I did not expect a crowd. The woman who brought my order out said a normal Sunday 8 AM has 10 orders – there were 4 when I arrived. From a business standpoint, I have to wonder if they can really make this scale up. People will be tripping over each other if it was 50 cars an hour.

    The SC store was much more agreeable – as I expected. Cross the state line, and the Charlotte attitude that I despise vanishes. I didn’t move to NC to live in Connecticut.

    The good news is in two weeks another Walmart adds the pickup service. It’s near one of the K&W cafeterias in town. The neighborhood is a little sketchy, but probably not people killed in the parking lot type of danger

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