Quarantine Day 6 – We Try Curb-Side Grocery Pickup

Grocery Store Aisle
Photo by gemma on Unsplash

My wife’s health and spirits continue to improve, and she continued to rest and take it easy today.  However, we still have no pretzels, carrots, or sugar-free non-dairy creamer.  The warden, that’s me, will not let her go to the grocery store, so we tried out the local grocery store’s online shopping, which uses software from InstaCart. Normally they offer delivery, but the slots are all full, so we decide that I’ll go pick it up.

Can we live without groceries?  Certainly, but we choose not to.  I am not convinced that groceries will be as easy to come by in two or three weeks as they are today, so why not shop while we can and save our long-term preps for when we truly need them?  And curb-side pickup sounds like a decent compromise with no face-to-face interaction with potential asymptomatic carriers. 

As I explained to my daughter, I think your chance of getting COVID-19 from a living, breathing, coughing, sneezing person is much higher than getting it from an inanimate cardboard box.  To get it from the box, you’d have to touch the contaminated area and then rub your eyes, nose or mouth.  So that’s an area where proper hand-washing can help.  Having the box in a bag in your trunk isn’t something I’m going to worry about. 

I look over my wife’s shoulder as we search for items online.  It’s pretty easy, and they seem to have everything we want.  We go heavy on some things, just so we won’t have to shop again.  But also, because I’m not confident that the long supply chain will hold up well.  We end up ordering 36 total items, which includes two or three of some items.

Online ordering, checkout, and payment were easy.  They’ve got the ecommerce part of this down. Where they fall down is with inventory syncing.  Not long after we placed the order, my wife started getting texts from the picker at the grocery store telling her something was out of stock. 

The order was picked quickly and ready for pick up an hour ahead of time.  So I trundled off and then had to wait in the parking lot five minutes for them to come out and stick it in the trunk.

By the time we got our order, fully half the items we ordered were out of stock and substitutions were made.  Some of the substitutions were not bad.  For example, instead of hearts of romaine, we got a big stalk (head?) of romaine lettuce.  Some substitutions of them were amusing.  For example, we got five pounds of carrots instead of a one-pound bag.  They keep pretty well, but I guess I’ll be eating carrots for a while. 

Out of the 36 items we ordered, we received only 18.  Almost all the fresh vegetables and fruits were available, although bell peppers were missing, and the shopper did a pretty good job of picking out nice apples, pears, onions, cabbage, and so forth.  More of the outages were packaged goods.  Special rice my wife uses to make risotto and dark chocolate candy bars, for example.

Thankfully, the pretzels were fine and we got three dozen eggs, alleviating my main concern.  The organic, vegetarian-fed hen eggs were out of stock, so they substituted the store brand.  I can live with that.  And now I won’t feel guilty if I sneak in a 3-egg omelet this weekend.

If I still had two or three kids in car seats, I would love the curb-side pick-up grocery shopping option.  No need to unbuckle and tote them inside, plop them in the cart, try to keep them from standing up or grabbing items off the shelf.  (You quickly learn to park your cart in the center of the aisle.)  But in my world, I think the inability to pick your own “substitutions” and make your own choices at the vegetable aisle based on what looks good is too great a sacrifice. Assuming things get back to normal, so will our grocery shopping.  You also miss seeing what’s on end caps and in the meat and dish counter.

We’ll probably use this or another remote shopping service again while this emergency lasts, but I’m sure we’ll go back to in-store shopping when its safe to do so.  Until then, we’ll just keep washing our hands and face after unpacking the bags.

Too Many People are Out and About

When I left our house, I had to travel about two miles before I saw the first car on the road.  Traffic was definitely light.  I drive a couple more back roads and then a busier road, and finally the main road where the shopping center is that houses the grocery store.  That’s where all the traffic was going – shopping.

While I waited for my curb side pickup, I probably saw 20 or more parties going into the store.  In at least three cases, it was entire family units, kids included.  As far as I could tell, very few were worried about catching the coronavirus.  Only two people had any kind of protective gear: a guy head in with a basic doctor’s office face mask and a woman who wore a full-face shield, but no mask or other breathing protection.  I wanted to give her thumbs up because that clear plastic screen would definitely keep you from touching your face and it looked like it was robust enough to be decontaminated and used again.

Driving back home, I noticed houses that had all their cars parked outside but several that didn’t.  OK, my car was out, so maybe I shouldn’t judge people.  But I did notice that one of the neighbors on our road had two cars visiting with kids running around in the yard.  Made me wince a little. I guess what’s essential differs from family to family.