Online grocery shopping can be…interesting

Even before the pandemic hit, grocery stores were implementing online ordering and delivery services. These features became essential almost overnight, but the process is not always seamless. Substitutions can sometimes leave customers scratching their heads in puzzlement, it is a guessing game as to which items will be in stock, and online pickup often comes with a few hiccups. Determining the correct quantity also perplexes shoppers, as Grub Street explains.

Whether an item sells by count or by pound is a huge source of confusion, says writer Madison Kircher. She regales us with stories of people buying a lot more product than they intended to purchase because they didn’t note the correct item units. One gentleman ordered ginger in a quantity of one, expect to get a single knob of the root. Instead, he received one pound of ginger, which he ended up using to make candied ginger. Others reported getting a single tomato when they thought they were ordering a bunch because the photo of the product, showing a bunch of tomatoes, was misleading.

I saw a hilarious Facebook post of a review of Kroger’s Quicklist online shopping service. The shopper ordered a pound of green beans – or so she thought. When the order arrived, it contained a single green bean in a plastic produce bag. Apparently even the grocery store clerks are confused by the online ordering system, although it is difficult to imagine why anyone who has ever eaten a green bean would think that a customer just wanted one.

Since I love to go grocery shopping, I resisted online ordering until just last week, when I determined that the risk was too great to go in person. I ended up getting about three-quarters of what I had ordered because I chose not to get substitutes for most items. The one quantity confusion that occurred in my recent order involved leeks. They were on sale and the photo showed two leeks banded together, so I assumed that a quantity of one meant one bunch. I assumed poorly. A quantity of one meant one leek, but I have never seen them sold individually; they have always been banded together in groups of two or three. What has your online shopping experience been like?

Post a comment


  • EmilyR  on  April 23, 2020

    I received parsley in lieu of cilantro… it wasn’t a substitution, someone just didn’t know which one it was. Maybe I’m a control freak, but I just don’t love someone else shopping for my produce.

  • Indio32  on  April 23, 2020

    My bugbear about online grocery shopping is ‘use by’ dates….. its really hard not to feel that you get all the stuff that’s short dated so the shop doesn’t have to throw it away.

  • dc151  on  April 23, 2020

    I have yet to find a slot available for either delivery or curbside pickup at any local grocery stores.

  • MarciK  on  April 23, 2020

    I haven’t even been brave enough to try. I’ve heard of one person having to wait a week for their grocery delivery. Another got half her order. One of the items missing was potatoes, and this store guaranteed does not run out of potatoes. I’ll just put on my mask and brave it. Luckily, the number of cases around me aren’t has high as some places. I wish other shoppers would understand the need to keep a distance though. Two people without masks got right in my face, one of them to tell me about the price of eggs, and another of them to tell me the grocery store doesn’t charge tax. lf I do try delivery, it will be to stay away from people like this.

  • annmartina  on  April 23, 2020

    I’ve received 15 pounds of ap flour trying to get bread flour on two different orders and jasmine rice was substituted for arborio yesterday

  • tmjellicoe  on  April 23, 2020

    I get the feeling the job title of “Substitution Specialist” may be implemented at grocery stores.

  • Shelmar  on  April 23, 2020

    I mostly do not get stuff I ordered because they are out of it. I always click no substitutions, having heard of wacky ones others have had delivered to them. What I find most frustrating is that half of what I would like to order from local stores are items that are “in store” only. Today I picked up an order that had very green bananas, some sad looking herbs, and Italian parsley in lieu of the regular parsley I had ordered. It does make cooking more interesting when you do not know if you will get what you want.

  • mharriman  on  April 23, 2020

    Since I’ve been social distancing, I’ve ordered five times from two grocery stores using Instacart. Last time, I got up at 4 AM to secure a three day window delivery time. I’ve only had one thing really off – jalapeño peppers. Instead of 2, I received two pounds! We eat them very sparingly, so I have no idea what I’m going to do with the extra. Other than bananas that need to be eaten immediately, the produce has been in very good to excellent condition.
    The best produce has been from an area restaurant that’s utilizing their supplier in a new market concept. You order online and pick up with contactless curbside / drop in trunk delivery – top quality.

  • Marjorie_T  on  April 24, 2020

    Mharriman, try dehydrating the jalapeno peppers, then (carefully) grind them in a spice grinder. Add to salt for a great spicy salt!

  • lucywayman  on  April 24, 2020

    My son emailed me for help when the 6 lemons and 6 limes he ordered came as 6lb of each. Lemon and lime marmalade, Indian lime pickle and various other ideas resulted, with help from my recipe library. Thanks to EYB X

  • lapsapchung  on  April 26, 2020

    The only substitution to have left me scratching my head is when I received ground mace instead of ground mixed spice. Although I’m puzzled by the fact that non perishable items on my order are sometimes out of stock when the delivery comes. When placing my order, the items are shown as in-stock (I appreciate that with perishable items, stock levels can fluctuate so ordering in advance doesn’t always guarantee availability on the day) and if, say, a bottle of orange squash is in stock when I order it, shouldn’t that mean it is then ring-fenced for my order and can’t be sold to somebody else? How can it be out of stock just three days later when my order is packed? Has somebody jumped the queue and nabbed it out of my trolley?

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!