Curb service

This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, not today. The signs had just been put up.

I am not, actually, the target market for ClickList, and probably won’t use it that often — but it’s something new to Shelbyville, and I had to try it out just to satisfy my curiosity.

I have Shelbyville friends who have been faithful users of Kroger’s ClickList (or Walmart Online Grocery, its opposite number) for some time — in Murfreesboro. They are people who work in Murfreesboro or go there regularly in the first place, making it easy for them to swing by Kroger or Walmart on their way home.

Now, though, ClickList is available in Shelbyville, the last piece of the recent remodeling and grand re-opening. It started yesterday, and I took advantage of it today.

Some of you, certainly those of you living in larger cities, already know what ClickList is, and others have figured it out without my help. But I’ll explain it anyway, because I am nothing if not the ultimate mansplainer. Plus, one of my Facebook friends asked me to report on my experience.

ClickList is a service by which you can order your weekly groceries online, arrive at Kroger during a designated appointment window, and have the groceries brought out to, and loaded into, your car. You do not have to get out. More to the point, your kids don’t have to get out. The service seems to be particularly popular among working mothers who might otherwise have to shop with their young children. But it’s also popular with those who consider their weekly trip to the supermarket to be a big chore.

I’m not like that. I like to cook, and I live by and cook for myself. I stop by the store every day or two as I’m leaving work — maybe Kroger, maybe Walmart, maybe United Grocery Outlet, occasionally Aldi in Tullahoma. I like shopping for whatever I’m in the mood to cook tonight, looking for whatever cut of meat is on sale. I love finding a really nice steak on sell-by-date discount. I love seeing a new brand of soy sauce and then trying to figure out what to cook or serve with it. ClickList isn’t really designed for me.

But, as I said, I had to try it out.

To use ClickList, you go to the Kroger website or the Kroger app on your phone. You can shop for a wide variety of products — presumably, pretty much anything you can find in the store you can find on the website, including things like produce and fresh meat.

You can do this shopping anytime — during your break at work, or sitting with your laptop in bed, or on your tablet while waiting for Junior’s softball game to start. If you are shopping at home, you can easily check the fridge to see how many eggs are left. If you’re on a budget, you won’t be tempted by end-of-aisle displays.

For each item, you can check or uncheck a box allowing substitutions. If the store runs out of Del Monte green beans, and you have the box checked, the store might substitute another brand. But if you have the box unchecked, they will only fill your order with exact matches. You can make this decision on an item-by-item basis.

You can also leave special instructions. I ordered avocados today, and I could have specified (but didn’t) whether I wanted them ripe, to use today, or not so ripe, to use a few days from now.

Once you have everything in your electronic shopping cart, you pick an appointment time — a one-hour window during which you can stop by any time to pick up your order. If you’re ordering in the morning, the soonest appointment windows might be in the afternoon. If you’re ordering later in the day, the soonest appointment window might be tomorrow. But you can pick and choose from the available times.

You also make payment arrangements. You can leave your card on file with them, just as with other online retailers. They put a hold on your card when you place your order but don’t actually complete the transaction until you pick up the groceries.

Your first three ClickList orders are free. After that, there’s a service fee of $4.95 per order (the price may vary by region). Walmart, by comparison, offers its online grocery pickup for free, but requires a minimum order of $35. Kroger does not have a minimum order size.

When it’s time for your appointment window, you drive to the store and park in one of the numbered ClickList spots. There’s a telephone number to call, to notify the store that you’ve arrived. They verify your name and ask which number parking space you’re in.

A few minutes later, they bring the groceries out to your car on a little wagon. The attendant tells you about any substitutions or problems, and then loads the groceries into your car and you’re on your way. You never have to unbuckle your seat belt.

My order this morning was a small one, only about $25. But it came out perfectly. There was a substitution report printed, but the attendant explained that was because of a quirk in the system which didn’t recognize some of the bar codes for fresh meat. I had ordered cube steak, and I got cube steak, but the computer didn’t recognize the bar code and thought it was a substitution. My limes and avocados were just fine, as were all of the packaged food items I’d ordered. (The avocados were ripe, so I just made guacamole and will enjoy it when I get back from my county budget meeting a little later.)

The wait wasn’t bad. I arrived right at 3 p.m., the beginning of my appointment window. There was one vehicle ahead of me, and the attendant brought his/her groceries out first, then went back in and brought mine out a few minutes later. My jug of tea and my cube steak were both appropriately cold. (I’m guessing they have designated coolers near that newly-cut ClickList door from which the orders are delivered.)

Because the service has just started here in Shelbyville (yesterday was the first day), they gave me a little zipper bag of candy and a package of cookies as a little “thank you” gift. The zipper bag of candy was stapled to a piece of paper asking me to fill out an online survey about my experience.

All in all, I had no problems. A former pastor of mine, responding to something I posted this morning, said his son loves the service but once had a problem with the store substituting slider buns for hamburger buns. I had no problems and was pleased with everything they loaded into my car.

As I said, ClickList doesn’t really fit the way I usually shop. But, based on today’s experience, I’d have no hesitation using it for a special occasion — a week when I’m particularly busy or have a lot of groceries to buy at once for some other reason. And I suspect those of you for whom it’s really intended are already looking forward to using it.

It will be interesting to see if Walmart follows Kroger’s lead and brings its version of the service to Shelbyville as well.