Shipt, the Internet-based grocery delivery service, which arrived at Traverse City Meijer stores via much fanfare a week ago, appears to be a gift from the grocery-getting gods: For $99 a year, or $14 per month, someone else will shop and stand in line for your groceries, then deliver them (free if your order totals $35+; $7 if less) to any address within its delivery radius, at a time you designate — often within an hour.
Shipt operates on the presumption that the busy, homebound or, like me, lazy will be powerless to resist its small per-item upcharge, which adds about $5 for every $35 spent.
It’s a smart presumption. Within 24 hours of the service’s TC launch, I signed up.
I had my reservations. We’re a family of four, with two tots in daycare and diapers. A monthly fee and average 20 percent “tax” on every item we buy is tough to take, no matter how convenient. And grocery shopping is, at its heart, an intensely personal pursuit. The chasm between green and ripe bananas is deep. Could I trust my shopper to pull the freshest milk from the back of the cooler? To squeeze my avocados?
There was only one way to find out. At 10am, I downloaded the mobile app and began selecting my stuff. Shipt doesn’t allow you to buy everything on Meijer’s shelves, but it lets you loose on about 55,000 items that include home, health, beauty and pantry products, as well as fresh produce, refrigerated and frozen items.
Given the bounty of selections — each showcased by a zoom-able package image, small description, and super handy tags identifying if it’s on sale or already in your cart — Shipt’s mobile app and web browser are surprising quick to load and navigate. You can search by product, brand, category, or what’s on sale.
One drawback to the hyper-abundance: Searching for one item, say, spinach, can yield 106 items, from one fresh bunch to the dozens of bagged, frozen, and spinach-incorporated baby food, pizza, dip, and dog-treat versions between. I spent significantly more time swiping and sorting to find my 10-ounce bag of NewStar Fresh Flat Leaf on screen than I would in-store.
Another con: Wine, beer, and liquor aren’t yet part of Traverse City Shipt services.
Still, you can’t underestimate the pros: I got a half-pound of Dietz and Watson Buffalo chicken breast on sale and without having to endure the sighs of the cantankerous deli-counter service staff. I shopped from our pediatrician’s waiting room. I shopped while I ate a cheeseburger. I ordered embarrassing and exceedingly specific personal items. I amended my list about 16 times throughout the day.
When I finally finished, at 5:30pm, my personal Shipt shopper immediately got to work. While my husband and I took a baby, a dog, and a toddler down the Leelanau Trail, I had only to respond to three texts: In each, my shopper suggested an alternative to an item I had selected that wasn’t in stock (you can opt to forgo those texts by directing your shopper to either pick or pass on all alternatives).
I requested delivery between 7pm and 8pm. At 7:22, I received a text that my order was on its way. At 7:50, my shopper appeared at our door. A sizable pro: Every item — produce, packaged, or personal — was the correct brand, quantity, and/or size requested. Eggs, unbroken. Chips, uncrushed. Nectarines, firm yet juicy.
The cons? Two: One, neither my asparagus nor kale was in a produce bag. Petty and not earth friendly, I know. But the thought of peel-less produce riding a checkout belt that also ushers along leaky packages of meat grosses me out. Two, my Shipt shopper was a heavy smoker, so our groceries smelled a little eau de ashtray. Not so bad for a box of stuffing; a big bummer for naked kale.
Truth be told, I’m undeterred. Our groceries could have arrived smelling like a dead possum, and I’d have gratefully received them. Because the fact is, our groceries arrived. I didn’t wait in a single line, navigate a single overcrowded aisle, or schlep a single bag. I swiped, selected, and then sat on my couch. $100 a year never tasted so good.