Ditch the supermarket: These 3 companies deliver, and are expanding to more cities

By Joseph Pisani

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 19 2014 12:56 p.m. MDT

This undated product image provided by Google shows the Google Shopping Express mobile app. Same-day grocery delivery services from Google, Instacart and Postmates are expanding into more cities around the country, delivering everything from cereal to bottled water to toilet paper from nearby stores.

Google, Associated Press

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NEW YORK — If you dread making supermarket runs, you're in luck.

Same-day grocery delivery services from Google, Instacart and Postmates are expanding into more cities around the country, delivering everything from cereal to bottled water to toilet paper from nearby stores.

I tried out all three services, and they're fast, easy to use and way more convenient than waiting in the checkout line. All three deliver from local stores as well as some big national chains, such as Whole Foods, Costco and Target.

The services are different from more established grocery delivery companies such as FreshDirect, Peapod and AmazonFresh, because they don't actually sell groceries directly to you. Google Shopping Express, Instacart and Postmates merely send someone to stores in your neighborhood. It works like this: You select what you want online or on an app, choose a delivery time and the service will deliver the items to your door.

But convenience comes at a price. The delivery charges can vary greatly. Google and Instacart offer flat rates, while Postmates' fees depend on the distance of the delivery. And you may want to tip the delivery people. All three companies say it's not necessary, but Instacart and Postmates allows you to add a tip while shopping on the app or website.

Besides delivery costs, Instacart charges a premium for items from some of the stores it delivers from. That means you will end up paying a lot more than if you walked over to the shop and bought it yourself.

Another downside: getting your groceries delivered means you may be missing out on using coupons or browsing for cheaper alternatives in the store. And the orders do not always go according to plan. If an item is sold out, the delivery person will call you to figure out what to do next.

Before ordering, run an Internet search to see any coupon codes are available. I found discounts or free delivery offers for all three.

Here's how the services measured up:

GOOGLE SHOPPING EXPRESS

Items listed on Google's service match those of the stores it works with. That's because Google shares in the profits. The biggest downside is that the company doesn't deliver meats, fish, fruits and other perishable groceries yet, even though it delivers from stores that sell them, including Target, Fairway and Costco. (You need to have a membership to order from Costco.) Google says it is working on a way to sell perishables in the future.

All the items I ordered were available in the store, and they were wrapped up nicely too. My delivery came in bags with the Google Shopping Express logo, and my two glass bottles of sparkling water were wrapped and taped in paper to prevent them from breaking.

The company goes beyond groceries to deliver TVs, pots, air conditioners and other items. I ended up turning to Google Shopping Express again to buy a last-minute Father's Day gift.

DELIVERY FEES: $4.99 for each delivery. It's currently offering six-months of free deliveries to new users. It plans to offer a membership plan for free deliveries, but hasn't come up with pricing yet.

DELIVERY AREAS: Available in four cities: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and San Jose. It also makes overnight deliveries in parts of Northern California.

INSTACART

For my first order with Instacart, I selected items from Whole Foods. I ordered clams, which I was nervous about. I like to select them myself to make sure they're not cracked or dead. But the two dozen I ordered came in perfect condition. Instacart manager Aditya Shah says the company's staff is trained to pick out the freshest fruits, vegetables and other perishable foods.

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