When this CNBC article popped up in my Google News yesterday morning it reminded me of the draft of a blog post that I wrote several months ago declaring my love for Harris Teeter ExpressLane grocery pick up service. If you have never tried grocery pick up, you are missing out. Just how wonderful is it? A friend of ours loves grocery pick up so much that she wrote about it on her Christmas card; it was my favorite card and left me wishing I had also sent out the good news to everyone we know. ExpressLane is my sanity saver and is 100% worth the annual subscription fee.
Perhaps the most obvious perk of grocery pick up is that it saves so much time. In about the same amount of time it takes me to write a grocery list, I can do all of my shopping online. I usually put my kids to bed, turn on Netflix, and get my shopping done (without toddler interference). When it’s time to pick up, there is a designated parking spot for ExpressLane at the store, so I don’t have to drive around looking for a parking space. And since the HT shoppers carry my groceries to my car, I don’t even have to take my kids out of their car seats. All of these things add up so I have more time to play with my kids, make dinner, or do literally anything else.
What I did not expect is how much money ExpressLane saves me. Yes, I can still use my VIC card and eVIC coupons, and there are exclusive ExpressLane savings offers every week too. Yes, I can quickly and easily compare prices and check how much everything in my cart costs. And I definitely do less impulse shopping online versus in the store. But the biggest, most unexpected money saver is that Harris Teeter automatically price matches on substitutions. I did not want any substitutions on my first few orders. I admit that I can be particular about what I buy from the store and that was hard give up some control, but the shoppers really do a great job – they actually call you when they finish shopping for your order to review substitutions and you can always veto the substituted items. I was also anxious about the price disparity between what I selected and what may be chosen as a substitute. After a few substitutions, however, I learned that when Harris Teeter makes a substitution, they charge you for the less expensive of the two items. Recently I ordered Harris Teeter brand half-and-half, which was on sale for $1.67 for a 32 oz carton. My local store was completely out of stock of this item, but they did have 64 oz cartons of Organic Valley half-and-half. Guys, that Organic Valley costs $7.39! If I were shopping in the store, I would have skipped the half-and-half and bought it elsewhere. So ExpressLane saved me $5.72 and a second shopping trip. These substitutions happen almost every time I shop, and that adds up to a lot of money over the course of a year.
When I tell people I buy groceries online, they usually ask about the quality of the produce. The produce we get from Harris Teeter is usually very good. We have had some exceptions to this – a rotten pomegranate, mold hidden inside a container of cherry tomatoes, and an expired ham steak. However, Harris Teeter’s customer service is on point. Per the Harris Teeter refund policy, these items are all covered by a double your money back guarantee. When I discovered the moldy tomatoes, an employee literally drove to our house with a new carton and a gift card for more than twice the purchase price. The shoppers want you to be happy and the store will really work to make things right.
So yes, I have fallen in love with my grocery pick-up service. The $99.95 membership fee is a steep upfront cost, but price matching and produce returns/exchanges have paid at least that amount over the last year. When I was reluctant to sign up and spend that much money, my husband pointed out that it is less than $2 per week, which is less than I paid in tips to baggers at the commissary. Harris Teeter prices are also known for being more expensive and they are if you do not shop the sales. With sale prices though (buy 2, get 3 free, anyone?) they easily match or even beat the commissary on many items. For the items that really are just too expensive at Harris Teeter, I make a trip to the commissary about once a month and that helps keep our grocery bills in check. There are no Harris Teeter stores where we are moving next 😦 so I can only hope that Kroger or Walmart will be equally as amazing.