Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Grocery shopping list for September 2019

This post is the ninth in a series and this month saw me, for the second time in my life, shopping for groceries online. Hence this post examines, in some detail, how the online grocery shopping experience works in practice.

1 September

Went to IGA and bought sliced leg ham, tomatoes, a capsicum, milk, a container of chicken laksa soup, a blueberry cake, Stilton cheese, Dijon mustard, some flavoured mineral water, and mouthwash.

3 September

Went to Coles and bought Pepsi, flavoured mineral water, dry ginger ale, and a tuna sandwich. Normally I shop at the IGA but on this day I was down near Coles visiting the pharmacy.

7 September

Went to IGA and bought Scotch fillet steak, lamb rump steak, pork butterfly steak, barramundi fillets, milk, bread, three cheeses (dauphin, Cheddar, and Stilton), minestrone and chicken laksa soups, a poppyseed beigli (Hungarian poppyseed roll, a type of cake), olive oil spread, flavoured mineral water, and toothpaste.

8 September

Went to the Fish Market and bought swordfish steaks, a piece of chicken and pistachio terrine, marinaded baby octopus salad, artichokes with basil, sliced smoked wagyu beef, and water crackers.

9 September

Went to IGA and bought bean salad, potato salad, shallots, a bottle of Pepsi Max, and some flavoured mineral water.

12 September

The day before, I had tried to go shopping but had had to abort the exercise. On the way to the supermarket I had had heart palpitations. Later that day, I asked a friend to do some grocery shopping for me, using Facebook Messenger to give her a list of items to buy. Then on this day she went to a suburban Woolies and bought me barramundi fillets, pork sausages, two types of cheese (provolone and Tasmanian blue), a capsicum, carrots, corn on the cob, celery, bread, carrot cake, biscuits, some flavoured no-sugar mineral water, a bottle of Pepsi Max, and a bottle of dry ginger ale. She brought it to my place in her car and we had a cup of tea while her dog frisked about the room.

15 September

I went to the convenience store run by the Jordanian and bought two bottles of flavoured mineral water, a bottle of Solo lemon drink and one of Pepsi Max, bread, and a packet of salt-and-vinegar chips.

16 September

Went to the convenience store again and bought eggs, a bottle of Pepsi Max, a bottle of flavoured mineral water, and a packet of salt-and-vinegar chips.

17 September

Since I had to go to the pharmacy on this day, after filling a prescription I went next-door to Coles and bought pork loin chops, potato salad, artichokes, a piece of South Australian cheese called “Heysen blue”, some local fetta cheese, milk, sarsaparilla, and some no-sugar flavoured mineral water.

After getting home I happened to see a story on the Sydney Morning Herald website about a new Woolworths grocery subscription service so went to the Woolworths website and signed up. I also found by looking at my records that on an earlier occasion I had signed up for the Coles website. About a decade earlier I had done some shopping for groceries online.

18 September

Used the Coles website and ordered lamb loin chops, sliced ham, Stilton cheese, eggs, celery, shallots, semi-dried tomatoes with basil, capsicum stuffed with cream cheese, water crackers, Jatz, some bottles of flavoured mineral water, and laundry liquid. An email confirming the order arrived within a few minutes of the order being processed by the company’s database.

After paying I remembered some other things I had planned to order and went back to the website to add a couple of things to the order. When doing this I found the system allows you to easily accomplish the task but this function is time-limited: you have to make changes before you reach a specified point ahead of the delivery day.

The following is a screenshot made from part of the email receipt. I’m not sure why the lamb chops are included in the ‘Entertaining at Home’ category when there’s also a ‘Meat, Seafood and Deli’ category in the same list, but there you go.

Some of the prices are a bit higher than what you would pay if you went to a supermarket but the difference is not remarkable and the convenience makes this method worthwhile. I set the delivery date for the morning of Friday the 20th. The delivery interface on the Coles website offers you different time slots at different prices, and I chose a range of hours when I would be sure to be home and when I would not otherwise be busy. 

19 September

Went to the convenience store across Harris Street and bought a bottle of Pepsi Max, a bottle of lemonade, and some Doritos. On this day I received an email from Coles about the delivery planned for the following day. “We’re planning to arrive between 10:25 AM and 11:25 AM,” the email said, but it added that the time of the truck’s arrival might end up being outside the stated range. I also received a promotional email from Woolworths offering free delivery for purchases of $100 or more. 

Later I put in an order, via the Woolworths website, for beef eye fillet steak, beetroot hummus, taramosalata dip, lentil salad, pumpkin couscous salad, sweet potato & potato salad, some flavoured mineral water, and toilet paper. The delivery would be on Sunday between the hours of 8am and 11am and an email from the retailer soon arrived. It contained information about the items ordered (see below). The way the list was organised was different from how Coles did it. It didn’t have product categories, just a plain list of purchases, but it did have the per-unit cost for each line item.

20 September

At 11.13am a message arrived on my phone from Coles telling me that the delivery would be made within 30 minutes. At just before 11.45am the intercom buzzed and I got my keys and two tote bags I had already prepared, and went down to the lobby. The Coles deliveryman was waiting just outside the street door. He helped me load the groceries into my bags from three plastic boxes he had carried on a trolley. He then pulled a handheld electronic device with a touchscreen out of his pocket and I scrawled something like a signature on it to prove receipt of the goods. 

I took everything upstairs and packed it away as I usually do with groceries. The capsicum stuffed with cream cheese was only 150 grams – six small pieces in total – and seemed to me a bit meagre. The laundry liquid was in an enormous 4-litre bottle (I usually get 1-litre bottles at the supermarket) and it was cold, like the rest of the items, due to refrigeration used in the back of the truck.

21 September

In the afternoon I went to the convenience store nearby and bought bread, oat slices (for breakfasts), and a bag of Doritos. At just after 8pm I received an SMS from Woolworths telling me that their delivery would be on-time the following day.

22 September

At around 8.25am the Woolies delivery guy buzzed me on the intercom and I grabbed two tote bags and went down in the lift to meet him. Outside the street door, he put the groceries into my bags and I signed for the goods on his mobile phone. When I got upstairs I found that the steak delivered was smaller than expected but checking the paper receipt I saw it was priced less than the $24.75 I had initially been quoted. In fact, it was $13.37. The total for the order was also, consequently, less than what had appeared on the email acknowledgement for the order that had arrived on Thursday. The salads were very large and, I guessed, would do me for a number of meals. 

I had received an email in my inbox at 3.53am that morning. It went:
Your variable meat weight products  
All items in you order have now been hand picked by your Personal Shopper. Some meat item/s in your order are sold within a weight range. These item/s have been supplied in your order, but their weight is less than the maximum displayed and price estimated at checkout. The price of these item/s and total order value to be charged has been reduced accordingly, and has been accounted for in the payment adjustment shown below. For more details, please see your tax invoice. 
The pending charge on your credit card used for payment will be reduced by $11.38 prior to payment finalisation.
I checked my credit card transaction records and saw that Woolies had billed me $86.84 even though the amount shown on the paper receipt that came with the goods had been about $10 less than the debited amount. By the time I read the email I had already shredded the tax invoice. I made a mental note to check my bank’s transaction records again at a later time.

Looking at my records I noted that Coles had billed me $71.48 for their products. The Coles email I had received on Wednesday had estimated the total for my order at $72.40.

23 September

Accessed the Woolworths website and ordered ling fillets, barramundi fillets, mushrooms, a sultana and walnut cake, milk, bin liners, sandwich bags, dishwashing liquid, flavoured mineral water, and soap. Initially I hadn’t selected sufficient items to meet the $50-minimum purchase for home deliveries, so I added a couple of things. Delivery organised for the following day.

I checked my credit card’s transaction records and saw that the amount of this day’s order had already been deducted from the account ($72.60, including $15 for delivery). But the difference between the previous order as stated in the record emailed to me and the tax invoice that had been delivered to my door had not been credited back to me. I wondered what to do about this.

At 8.04pm I received an SMS from Woolworths reminding me of the delivery to take place the following day.

24 September

The Woolies deliveryman arrived at the street door at around 8.25am and when he buzzed me on the intercom I told him I would come downstairs to meet him. I took two bags with me and got in the lift. Outside the street door, he put the items I had ordered in my bags and I signed on his mobile phone’s app to acknowledge receipt. As we were standing in front of the building I thought about mentioning the overcharge on the previous Woolworths order but decided against it as, my thinking went, being a courier he would probably not be able to do anything about it.

I took the bags of stuff upstairs and unpacked them. There was more fish than I had expected to have and I made a mental note to order less of this kind of item the next time; I had ordered 750g of each type of fish. It’s hard when you’re online and deciding based on weight how much of this sort of item to order. In the supermarket you can say, “Two pieces of salmon please,” but you can’t do this online. For the dishwashing liquid I had ordered, in case of breakage it was wrapped in a thin plastic bag that had its top securely tied. Reassuring.

This time, the printed tax receipt that came with the order had the same total ($72.60) as had been tallied in the email notification on receipt of my order, which had arrived the previous day. The credit card account line item matched this figure.

26 September

I had to go to the dry-cleaners’ to pick up something and on the way back home I decided not to go to the supermarket for fear the palpitations would start again. Instead, I stopped at a bottle shop and bought a six-pack of zero-alcohol Heineken beer. 

After lunch I accessed the Woolworths website and ordered Scotch fillet steak, Cheddar cheese, eggs, bread, carrots, a capsicum, and flavoured mineral water. I set the delivery for the morning of Saturday the 28th. The total amount in the confirmation email was $80.88 (including the delivery charge). Then I remembered I had forgotten to order ham and went back in to amend the order, and completed it again. If you amend an order using the website you have to reselect the delivery time as well as reauthorise payment.

I checked my credit card’s transaction record in the late afternoon and saw that the debit had been made for the initial $80.88 and also a separate amount of $5.50 for the ham, but the online interface had said that the steak would be packed when the order was processed and so the final amount due for this item could not be known immediately. This was the same problem that had happened with my first Woolies order, and I wondered how to deal with it.

28 September

At around 8.20am the deliveryman from Woolies buzzed me and I went downstairs with two tote bags. He put my items in my bags and I asked him about the difference between the billed amount and the delivered tax invoice. This had happened, as mentioned above, on another occasion and at 4.24am on this morning I had received an email from the company alerting me to the fact that the Scotch fillet steak I had ordered two days earlier was out of stock. Woolies had, however, already billed me (according to my credit card transaction record) the amount that had been advised in their order acknowledgement email. 

The delivery guy told me to reply to the email (which, however, had “Woolworths No Reply” as the sender’s ID) or to call them to get a refund. I took my goods upstairs and put them away. The tax invoice had the amount of $53.98 as the total for the order.

I found a “Contact us” link on one of the pages on the website and opened up a chat box to initiate a conversation with an automated assistant named “Olive” but the options this machine gave me didn’t relate to my query. So I opted to chat with a real person and someone named Genevieve was flagged as due to come online. When this chat didn’t happen, soon enough I got to talk with a person named Nisher. 

I told Nisher what had happened with the two orders. As requested I typed into the dialogue box the order number printed on the tax invoice I had brought to my desk. Nisher then said, “Upon checking your order. You should have a pending transaction of $80.88 and $5.50. Your bank holds on to this amount for 3 business days.” I told him (there’s only one reference to a person with the first name “Nisher” online and it was a man) that my credit card had already been debited both amounts and he responded, “$32.40 should go back in your account. So you do not have to wait 3-5 business days for a refund.” 

While keeping the chat live I checked my bank’s online service and saw that debit from the previous transaction had been reduced to $75.46 (the amount that had come on the tax invoice the deliveryman had given me on Sunday 22 September) and, after thanking Nisher for his help in understanding the system Woolies uses to charge customers, ended our conversation at  8.42am.

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