Ordering Your Groceries Online? Here’s How to be a Compassionate Customer

Unsolicited advice from an online shopper

You’ve probably seen them in your local grocery store. Scanning items one after another with their phone and then scurrying on to the next item. Their speed and efficiency can be a bit intimidating to your leisurely pace when you just wanted to grab a singular red bell pepper from the shelf without incident.

As the world seems to be changing with each passing day many consumers have turned to online grocery shopping either out of necessity or seeking ease during this time of uncertainty. Having worked in this area for a few months, I can assure you that the ease of ordering groceries online — to then collect them from your doorstep in as little as an hour — is unbeatable.

I have been grocery shopping as an essential worker since early April 2020. First, part-time at a chain grocery store in the midwest. Now, I work independently with Instacart as a part-time online shopper.

Compassion during a time of unprecedented uncertainty can change the world. Send a thank you message to a shopper when they go the extra mile to find an item you requested last-minute. Spread love and share as much kindness as you can. If we all do our part, we can make the world a better and more compassionate place.

When it comes to the North American service industry (including online shopping), a little compassion can go a long way. Approaching difficult situations with an open mind and giving people the benefit of the doubt can transform a tense encounter into a positive one. Spread compassion.

Practice patience, even when it is difficult. Say thank you, even when you have been frustrated. Spread compassion, even when things don’t go your way. With those things in mind, here are 5 ways to make your online shopping experience better for both you AND the shopper.

1. Be clear about what you want

One of the best ways to help your shopper is to be clear about what you want. Do you want 3 extra ripe bananas? Make sure to leave a note and your shopper can make that happen.

  • Add notes to items you want specialized (especially when it comes to produce preferences)
  • If an item is a must-have, set it as a priority item to alert your shopper

Clarity about your expectations can speed up the shopping process and it allows shoppers to get exactly the items you want with replacements you approve of.

2. Add replacements ahead of time

‘Out of stock’ is one of the worst things you can hear as a shopper. Especially, if your customer doesn’t have a replacement item selected. Replacements are the easiest way to help us get you the items you want.

  • For specific replacements, make sure to add them to your list as a replacement/substitute
  • If you want the shopper to look for a comparable substitute, you have to be understanding that you might not get exactly what you’re looking for
  • Don’t want a replacement? Make it clear that you would like a refund if your original selection is out of stock

Having 2–3 replacement options is ideal. This allows shoppers the flexibility to ensure you are getting a product you prefer without changing the price of your order.

If shoppers are forced to refund several items on your order due to a lack of replacement options, this can negatively impact their earnings. If your item has comparable replacements that you approve of, make sure to let the shopper know what they can do to provide the best possible substitute.

Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

3. Be responsive during the shopping/delivery window

Communicating well is the best way to get what you want out of an order like this. From firsthand experience, getting answers from customers is one of the best ways to complete a delivery as fast as possible.

  • Have your phone nearby when your order is being shopped to respond to messages and answer a call if necessary

4. Be patient

Nowadays, grocery stores have become an overwhelming environment at times with one-way signs, social distancing practices, and impatient customers. If you are able to find it within you, be patient with your shopper if they are running a few minutes behind or are unable to find any item you requested.

Mistakes happen and that’s okay. The shoppers employed by Instacart and services like it are not professionals, we’re people trying to make some extra cash just like you.

5. Give a tip

In the time I have shopped with Instacart over half of my earnings have come from tips. Anything from 10% to 15% can make a big difference to a shopper. Plus, orders with higher tips tend to be snatched much faster than orders with no tip or a small one.

It is important to understand that shoppers are providing you with a service and in countries like the US it is customary to tip workers in the service industry. For many people, shopping is a second or third job to provide extra income.

If you are able, please tip your shopper generously.

I want to hear from you! What has your experience with online shopping been like? How do you spread compassion in your community?

Join the conversation by commenting below and sharing this story with friends.

She/They, LGBTQ+ advocate, bookworm, one of the top LGBTQ writers on Medium.

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