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Gephardt: How much is grocery delivery, e-commerce costing Utahns during outbreak?

By Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 17, 2020 at 8:02 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are flocking to e-commerce to get their groceries and supplies delivered in this coronavirus outbreak.

While that convenience can help us with social distancing experts are encouraging during the pandemic, it does come with a cost.

Most retailers offering delivery have an upfront delivery fee. Some tack on additional service fees, while others fold those costs into higher online pricing. To find out how much more Utah shoppers would pay for delivery, the KSL Investigators went shopping.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods, owned by Amazon, offers free two-hour delivery for Amazon Prime members. (Photo: KSL TV)

Whole Foods Market is owned by Amazon and touts free two-hour delivery for Amazon Prime Members on orders totaling at least $35. But is it really free? To get the answer, we checked prices on some random foods and supplies both online and in-store.

We price compared items like cereal, laundry detergent, jelly and dog food, among others. And for these items, it turned out the online prices were actually cheaper than the in-store prices – at least for the items that were on sale with bargain pricing. On most products, we found the difference to be fairly small – just cents. One notable exception was an 18-pound bag of dog food that turned out to be over $35 less for Prime members buying online for delivery.

But when it came to regular prices – without the deals – the price tags online and in-store matched at Whole Foods Market. No additional pricing folded into the online prices.

The catch: not everything in the store is available for an online order for delivery. And Whole Foods focuses on natural and organic brands, so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison to other chains.

Free delivery is for Prime members only and a membership costs $119 a year.

Walmart

Walmart offers delivery with fees between $8 and $10, or an annual option. (Photo: KSL TV)

Walmart tacks on a $7.95 to $9.95 fee to every grocery delivery order. And, like Whole Foods, the retail giant said it will deliver fresh produce. So being quarantined doesn’t mean getting stuck with canned peaches or frozen broccoli for Walmart shoppers.

Even better news: The pricing on each of the seven items on our list matched both online and in-store. We did not find any hidden delivery or upcharge at Walmart. But, some things even online might be out-of-stock like, you guessed it, toilet paper. Walmart recently launched an unlimited grocery delivery service. It is $98 a year, but it saves you from paying a delivery fee for every order.

Smith’s

Customers who drive to Smith’s can save $5 off their delivery fee. (Photo: KSL TV)

Smith’s offers a delivery service via Instacart that will deliver food and supplies to your door for an additional $9.95. But, if you’re willing to extend your quarantine boundaries to within your car and drive to Smith’s for pickup, that fee is just $4.95.

Like Walmart, every item price at Smiths matched both online and instore listings. That was even true for items marked at discounts for Smith’s Rewards cardholders.

Costco

Meanwhile, no sleuthing required at Costco. It says right on the website: “Prices are higher than your local warehouse and include service and delivery.” How much higher?

Well, a five-pound box of children-favorite dinosaur chicken nuggets is $2.50 higher online. A variety box of 30 Mars candies sells for $3.70 higher online, while a pack of Huggies Plus Diapers sold for $7.80 more for delivery online than in-store. In fact, delivery upped the cost of our shopping list of just seven items by over $26. And that would be added to the $60 cost of an annual membership.

Delivery delays

An overwhelmed industry is experiencing significant delays caused by the surge of orders during this coronavirus outbreak.

Over the weekend, Harmons announced it suspended its E-Shop service of personal shoppers for two weeks as it waits for inventory and demand to even out.

On its website, Amazon said items and delivery from its Whole Foods Market stores might not be available due to the increased demand. We couldn’t get same-day pickup scheduled when we tried ordering from both Walmart and Smith’s. And Instacart, which handles delivery for Smith’s, Costco and several other stores in Utah, warned delivery windows will be limited.

Amazon told us that it’s opening 100,000 new full and part-time jobs across the country in its distribution and delivery networks to meet this surge in demand.

Walmart told us they have had to cancel several orders because many items are out-of-stock.

“We’re offering time slots to customers for as soon as the same day and up to one day in advance, rather than time frames further out. This is a shorter window than we typically offer, but it will allow us to better serve our customers during this busy time,” said Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman.

On Monday, Smith’s announced it’s hiring workers immediately to keep shelves stocked with food and essentials. It told us there are no plans to halt its delivery or pickup service for now.

Matt Gephardt
    Sloan Schrage

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