The Cost of Convenience: Grocery Delivery Fees Expected, But Not Higher Online Prices

Local online price survey reveals big price differences that can really add up

NBC Universal, Inc.

When we order groceries online, the delivery and service fees can catch some of us off guard. It’s the price we pay for convenience, but it may not be the only price.

While getting your groceries delivered before the pandemic was more of a luxury, today, for many, it’s a necessity to avoid large crowds. That’s why it’s more important than ever to understand all the prices included in the cost of your grocery delivery.

Patrick Fisher used to work for a major retail chain and now studies retail analytics. He recently compared online prices at 10 grocery stores so consumers can make a smart choice when it comes to where to shop online.

Fisher built a basket of 60 household staples; milk, cheese, snacks, and baking products. He shopped for them using various delivery apps such as Instacart and Shipt as well as some of the grocery store’s own delivery services. He then compared the total cost of each basket, excluding delivery and service fees. In some cases, Fisher found price differences of 30% to 40% which can really add a significant amount to your grocery bill.

The Results

Walmart, which uses its own delivery service came in with the cheapest basket, at $101.51. 

Harris Teeter was the most expensive when shopping on the Instacart app, coming in at $205.76.

However, if you were to shop at Harris Teeter on the Shipt app, your basket would have saved you $51.60.

Shopping on Instacart for Giant cost $189.59. However, shopping directly from Giant Delivers (formerly Peapod), Giant’s own delivery service, was significantly less, with a total of $141.53. 

So why such a big difference on the same items from the same store? The prices on the apps are sometimes marked up to cover the cost of shopping for you. The amount of that markup also depends on whether the grocery store has chosen to partner with a particular app.  

Let’s take Instacart for example. If you order from a grocery store that has chosen to partner with Instacart, then the grocer sets the prices of the items, which may be higher than in the store. But if you order from a non-partner store, then Instacart sets the prices, and may apply a fee to items to cover the cost of the service.

Instacart customers can view individual pricing policies for each retailer by clicking on the “pricing policy” link under each store’s logo.

Shipt prices may also vary slightly by retailer, and from in-store prices, to cover the costs of picking, packing, and processing and retailer service fees.

To avoid item markups altogether shop directly from a grocery store’s website. Oftentimes they’ll charge the same price as in-store and you can use a loyalty card. Walmart, Shoppers, Harris Teeter and Safeway tell us they don’t markup their online prices. Giant Foods tells us a large majority of prices on their website are the exact same as in-store.

If you want even more savings, skip the delivery option, and do curbside pick-up instead. This way you’re avoiding the crowded store and the hefty fees.

If you get grocery delivery every week and sign up for Instacart or Shipt’s subscription service, you won’t pay delivery fees each time, so you may actually save money in the end.

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