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With the holiday season in full swing, grocery stores are busier than ever. According to a USDA report, consumers spent 22 percent more on “food at home” (aka, grocery store items brought home to cook) in December last year than they did in January.
If you happened to shop the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year, you might have engaged in more than one battle to maneuver your grocery cart down the crowded aisles. Despite the holiday season being a time of giving, it can also leave many of us on edge, trying to frantically get it all done.
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When the grocery store becomes one more item to check off the list, it can feel like the last place you want to be (we hear you!). With that in mind, we talked with several grocery store employees to find out the things they wish all shoppers would do. Heed their advice this holiday season, and the shopping experience may become a little more pleasant for everyone.
1. Have patience.
This may sound obvious, but patience is often the first virtue to fly out the window in the grocery store. Try to keep a positive attitude by giving the store the benefit of the doubt. Before you get exasperated by long lines at checkout, realize that the staff shortage may be out of the store’s control. “We might have a longer line than usual because someone called in sick and we weren’t able to get someone back into place as quickly as we’d like,” explains Terrie Baker, co-owner of four Baker’s IGA stores in eastern Ohio, who’s been in the industry for 40 years and worked about half of those on the grocery store floor.
2. Remember that employees have the same stressors.
“It’s a very busy time in customers’ lives, and they’re trying to get everything done—and so are our associates,” says Baker. “Some of the times we’re busiest in the grocery stores aren’t necessarily times people want to work, like evenings and weekends.” Showing courtesy toward—and being thankful for—those people who are working right up until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve is much appreciated.
3. Unload your items strategically.
Always use the bar to separate orders upon checkout, says Baker, and help the cashier out by placing like things together on the belt. “At most of our stores, one person is scanning the products and also bagging them, so doing things like putting your frozen items together, your meat items together and so forth helps the process a little,” she says. Likewise, if you have heavy items stacked on the bottom of your cart, like sodas or bottled water, try to help make those barcodes accessible to the cashier.
4. Use their expertise.
One thing you should do more of? Ask for advice. “We have incredible team members who have worked with us for years, and they know their departments well,” says Adam Raczkowski, who works on the floor of Plum Market in Chicago. “[Customers] most often [ask for help] where you’d expect—meat, wine and produce—but all of our departments are staffed with a well-informed team.” So, have a question about an unusual flour, or trying to figure out a non-dairy substitute for a recipe? Ask away, rather than turning to Google.
4. Shop at off times.
If you want to avoid the crowds, the best times to shop are early afternoon—right after lunch until about 3:30 or so, when school gets out—or late evenings, advises Baker. Fewer people in the store means you can get in and out quicker.
5. Put items back in their place.
It’s perfectly normal to add something to your cart, then change your mind about buying it. But please, help the grocery store out by putting it back—or at minimum, the same temperature where you found it. “If you decide you don’t want an item, like a dairy product, at least put it in a cold spot, like the meat case, so it has temperature control,” says Baker. The grocery store industry has some of the tightest margins in business, so even a little spoilage can hurt their bottom line.
6. Organize your coupons.
Clipping coupons or loading them to an app on your phone ahead of time is a great way to save money at the grocery store—but digging through your bag for them or waiting until the last minute to pull them up on your screen can be an annoyance for both the customers behind you and the cashier. Try to get them ready while you’re still shopping to keep things moving in the checkout line, says Raczkowski.
7. Avoid eating before you buy.
You probably already know not to grocery shop while hungry, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. If you absolutely must open up a package or a drink while you’re still in the store, remember to tell the cashier so you can pay for the item at checkout. If you don’t, it’s considered theft.
8. Understand shortages.
Occasional shortages of products are inevitable during the busy holiday season, and sometimes being out of a product—say, the buttermilk you have to have for your cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning—is beyond the store’s control. “You can plan all you want, but if more customers wanted the item than you’d planned for, there may be a shortage,” says Baker.
Sometimes the shortage may be caused by an issue with the wholesaler, or the trucking company that delivers the item. Your best option is to accept the situation and try to find your product at a different store; you can also ask for a rain check, through which most stores will honor the advertised price for an item they’re currently sold out of at a later date.
The bottom line, says Baker, is to accept that little annoyances with grocery shopping can escalate this time of year—and recognize that a little kindness can make all the difference. “We’re all people, we’re all human,” she says. “We need to give grace both ways.”
Walmart Limiting Number of Shoppers to Help Reduce Spread of Coronavirus
In addition to closing stores overnight for cleanings, installing sneeze guards and social distance markers and starting to make gloves and masks available to associates, Walmart is now adding new restrictions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Starting April 4th, Walmart will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than 5 customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20% of a store&rsquos capacity.
To manage this restriction, associates at a store will mark a queue at a single-entry door and direct arriving customers there, where they will be admitted one-by-one and counted. Once a store reaches its capacity, customers will be admitted inside on a &ldquo1-out-1-in&rdquo basis.
Walmart is also instituting one-way movement through aisles in a number of their stores, using floor markers and direction from associates. And once customers check out, they will be directed to exit through a different door than they entered, which should help lessen the instances of people closely passing each other.
With all of these new rules, Walmart is hoping to eliminate the behavior in stores that puts undue risk on everyone. Walmart is hoping to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop and to allow for space with other customers while shopping.
Living La Instacart Loca
There is an extensive application process and background check to be an Instacart shopper, like any other retail job, but I was able to bypass this process as a one-off employee. An Instacart shopper app serves as the grocery list, with a messaging component to update customers on any changes or cancellations (if you sub lemons in place of Meyer lemons, etc). I put on my bright green Instacart shirt and lanyard with my name scribbled in Sharpie. Once I had my Instacart-branded MasterCard—the only way to pay for other people's groceries—I was ready to hit the floor.
Using toilet paper as barbells from now on.
My manager, a nice French man named Jean, walked me through my first shop, which was a mere 10 ingredients. Pfft, easy, I buy more than that on an impulse grocery trip after work. Well, I WAS WRONG. First off, I didn't know the layout of this store. Other Instacart employees literally ran circles around me as I searched for a very specific brand of almond milk. "Just pick another unsweetened vanilla," Jean suggested, but as someone who also has brand loyalty to Califia Farms, I opted to shoot a quick message to the customer to approve a plain vanilla of the same brand instead. She approved a few minutes later, and I was onto the next one.
ALDI SHOPPING TIPS
1. Bring along a quarter
You have to “rent” your shopping cart. You slide a quarter into the slot and then do your shopping. Return your cart to the corral after unloading your groceries and replace the lock and your quarter will pop out.
They do this to keep carts from being left in the parking lot which saves damage to cars. It also saves the store money as they don’t have to pay someone to run to the parking lot and corral the carts.
*Bonus tip: Make someone’s day and just give them your cart when you are through. You’ll be surprised at how much a small gesture can make someone’s day!
2. Don’t forget your bags
Aldi doesn’t have bags. Well, they do, but you have to purchase them. One way they keep prices low is that they don’t purchase paper or plastic bags for you to take your items home. They do have boxes in the store, which you can use if you happen to forget yours. I just keep my bags in my van and grab them every time I walk into the store.
In addition to bringing bags, you will have to sack your groceries too. I prefer this as it seems the kid a the grocery store always puts every heavy item in just one bag or mixes my cold and canned products. I can sort them as I want, which makes unloading and putting away my items so much simpler!
If you forget your bags, you may also find boxes in the front of the store that works perfectly (and are free). A trick many Aldi shoppers use it to keep a laundry basket in their trunk. They roll the cart of food to their vehicle and unload everything into the baskets, which they can carry into their house when they get home. So smart!
3. Don’t like something? Get your money back!
Refunds are one thing many people do not know about Aldi. If you ever try a product and it is not the quality that you expect, or you just were not satisfied, you can get your money back. Strike that.
You can get your money back PLUS a replacement product!
Just take the item and your receipt back to your store, and they will gladly take care of you. Note that the guarantee does not apply to non-food special buy items, alcohol or national brands. Read more here.
4. No store brands here (or very few of them)
You need to know this about Aldi. They have their own brands (which are as good as, if not better than, the name brands). It is one way they can offer such great prices.
The packaging also holds a secret. Look at it from different directions, and you will see several barcodes. Those multiple codes make the checkout process much faster as the cashier does not need to search for the code to scan.
*Bonus tip: Look at the packaging, and you may notice it looks similar to national brands. That lets you know which one they are like, so you know what “name brand” product you are getting.
5. If you find store brands, they may be more expensive
As mentioned in #4 above, Aldi does not carry many store brands. However, you may find them from time to time. The problem is that they are often more expensive than you will find at other stores, where these are on sale and you can use a coupon. These items are often those you will want to pass over when shopping.
6. Forget the coupons!
No coupons needed as Aldi does not accept credit cards. The prices are often lower than what you will find at your local store, even with a coupon. Of course, there are some sales at larger stores which are less than Aldi, so you do need to check your local ad and know the prices (when using your coupon), before you shop.
7. Spend less time in the store
Without ten brands of ketchup to look at and 47 boxes of cereal for your kids to look at, you can save time in the store. There is one type of ketchup. There are only a handful of cereals to look at. It makes it so simple to just grab the item you need without having to compare per unit prices of various products.
*Bonus tip: Checkout is also quicker as all items have multiple barcodes on them. When the cashier grabs the product, they don’t have to turn the item to try to find the barcode. In most cases, there is one on the item, no matter how they grab and slide it over the scanner. This saves time when checking out too!
8. Organic or Gluten-Free? Yes, please!
Aldi has a huge selection of organic and even gluten-free foods! They know that this is a concern for many families, so they have taken steps to help you get those items you need – at a price you can afford!
9. You can use cash back apps
While you can’t use credit cards, you can use apps such as Checkout51 to get cash back. They often offer rebates on general products such as milk and bread. That is instant money in your pocket.
10. Aldi accepts credit cards
One question I have heard many people ask is “Does Aldi accept credit cards?” Fortunately, they do! This changed in early 2016. Aldi accepts EBT, debit, credit cards and of course, cash!!
11. Know the store hours
Aldi has shorter hours than most stores. Aldi store hours run from 9 am to 8 pm. They are open on Sunday as well, but the hours are 10 am – 7 pm. again keeps costs down as people work fewer hours and the operating costs are reduced (fewer lights needed when the store is closed). You can head HERE to find a store near you and confirm your local hours.
12. You can save 50% and more
Try it and just see how your bill looks. Even if you save $30 a week at the store, do the math – that is more than $1500 in a single year!! I know I could find something fun to use $1500 on (or you could even use it to pay off your debts). When I go to Aldi, it amazes me how much food I get for less than at my local grocery store.
Shopping at Aldi has become a norm for our family and has made a huge difference in our budget. It amazes me how much grocery money we have left out of our budget – just by shopping here!
13. Aldi doesn’t have fancy displays
Aldi is a no-frills grocery store. In fact, products are not unpacked and put on display on shelves. Instead, it is left in the original box, and the side or top is removed.
14. The ad may vary by location
The weekly ad that you see may be different than one in another part of the country. Make sure you check the ad for your region before you shop.
15. Some items are the best deals you will find
There are products you may find are typically priced lower than other stores. Items such as milk and eggs are often priced lower at Aldi than other stores. Make a price list so you know what you pay at other stores so you know if Aldi is your best deal or not.
16. Know what you should buy
Ask most Aldi shoppers and they will share with you their must buy list. Some of these include chocolate (which is absolutely amazing), wine, milk, bread, ketchup, coffee — and so much more! Check out our Aldi Must Buy list for more great products you should try.
One of the 18 Amazing Secrets of Shopping Trader Joes is that the private-label chain has an immensely generous return policy. Don't believe us? Just listen to the TJ's employees who discussed it on Reddit.
When user lolly_lag complained that they were disappointed with a bottle of wine, traderjoesAMA replied, "How long ago? You can get a refund, if you ask. You don't need the bottle, and you're probably fine without the receipt."
In another AMA, Reddit user MrEfrom818, a crew member who has been with Trader Joe's for the past 10 years, teamed up with his or her sibling (a TJ's employee of 8 years) and father (a TJ's employee of over 30 years) to answer the most common questions they get. In response to "Why does TJ's have such a generous return policy?" the user disclosed it's "Because we want our customers to try new things they wouldn't normally try out of fear of possibly not liking the product and wasting their money. In some cases I'll just write it off and give it to them to try, especially if they're a new customer."
Even a Trader Joe's mate (manager), user slothh55, is "a firm believer in the return policy." The manager explained that "I myself have returned things in my own store. It is just as stated, return anything for a full refund. Receipt not even completely required. We encourage people to try stuff and the staff recommends products to customers. If a customer doesn't like it, we want to fix that. I returned 2 moldy bananas for a lady a few days ago, didn't bother me, although I thought it was odd, as bananas are 19 cents each. The only thing I hate is that people steal shit off the shelves while 'shopping' and then pretend it's a refund, that is the express lane to hell and I hope you get run over and die. For example, our vitamins can run up to about $20 for a small bottle, a customer will grab it off the shelf and come to a register claiming a refund. The company knows this happens and enforces the policy, knowing well they are being frauded. It eats at my core though. The worst kind of person."
OMG! Keep calm man! Don't kill her, please!
What your Shipt or Instacart Shopper wants you to know
Shipt and Instacart are popular grocery delivery services that connect you with personal shoppers in your area (take a look at all of your grocery pick up and delivery options in metro Detroit). These shoppers work hard to fill your order accurately and efficiently – and there are a few things that your Shipt or Instacart shopper wants you to know:
Be specific with substitutions and notes
Make your expectations as clear as possible (especially about meat and produce, where there can be much variation). Make sure to note if you want green, yellow or brown bananas, ripe or green avocado, firm grapes, etc. List which exact items or sizes would be acceptable substitutions I will not be able to read your mind. (Instacart allows you to choose a second item in the app if the first choice is out of stock). Specific comments are very helpful I won’t need to contact you as frequently with questions if you communicate clearly.
During your shopping time slot, have your phone ready
I should start your shop by sending you a text. Especially if you select “contact me” for substitutions, have your phone on, turned up and be ready to respond quickly. Especially in times when store stock is low, there could be a lot of unavailable items. Most of the time, I need to wait around for your response to substitutions – and wasting time costs me money. Being responsive to shopper questions or comments about availability is key to having your order on time and making sure you receive items you actually want. I want to help you, so please let me!
B2B Note: EVERY shopper I chatted with listed this as the major issue. It was brought up again and again. Please respond quickly to your shopper – it makes a big difference!
I’m a customer just like you.
Your order isn’t being filled by a robot. Shipt and Instacart shoppers are considered independent contractors. I don’t work for the store and I don’t get any special treatment there. I still need to wait in lines at the deli, meat counter and check out. There’s no secret stash of stuff in the back set aside for me. If an item is not on the shelf in front of me, it wouldn’t be there for you, either.
Sorry, I can’t deliver your Starbucks order.
I wish we could deliver your coffee but we can’t. Cigarettes and live animals (like goldfish) are also against the rules. I can deliver alcohol only if you add it to your order and accept the delivery terms (you must provide valid ID at delivery – I cannot leave it on your porch).
Be ready for your order.
For a pick up order, it’s important for you to arrive on time (or early). I have multiple shops to complete and if I have to wait for you to arrive, I will be late with other orders.
For home delivery orders, please make sure that you’re home during the delivery window (unless you have selected a porch drop). If you don’t mind an earlier delivery, just add that in the notes section. If you have pets, it’s nice if you put them in another room for my safety. If delivery is at night, sometimes addresses are hard to see please leave a light on for my safety and provide any helpful information on locating your house.
Rate your shopper (and not anything else).
After you have received your items, you can give your shopper a rating of up to 5 stars for their performance in shopping and delivering your order. This is NOT a place to rate your frustrations with the store, lack of available items, whether the app is user-friendly or whether you were overcharged. Checkout lines are long and it may not be their fault if your order is late. Do not feel obligated to rate high or tip high if you had a terrible shopper – but remember that many things are out of our control and we are not store employees. Ratings are very important and we work hard to earn your 5 star rating. (Four stars is a bad rating from a shopper’s perspective). I want my customers to be 100% satisfied with my service.
Tips are important to a shopper.
Always tip your shopper and tip them well. I am not earning an hourly wage from the store, but I am providing a service for you when you aren’t able to shop for yourself. We earn $8-$12 an hour on average so we really rely on tips for income. Remember that we aren’t in control of store availability please do not consider that a factor when calculating your tip.
B2B Note: You can tip in cash when you receive your groceries or you can tip through the app. Please make sure to tip at least 10% or more, like you would for any service. If you’re ordering through Instacart, do not “tip-bait.” (Customers are adding large tips on their orders to get attention and be selected quickly by shoppers, then removing the tip completely. Not only is this dishonest, it’s incredibly rude.)
Most shoppers keep track of their customers. If you tip poorly, give me a low rating or get upset with me over what the store didn’t have in stock, I will very likely not shop for you again. I keep very good records of every customer. If you tip well, rate me well and respond to my texts quickly during a shop, you are a “favorite” and I will go out of my way for you. For instance, if I have taken a day off but check my app and see that a favorite customer has placed an order, I will jump in my car to shop for you. I will go out of my way for my best customers I will treat them like family.
How to handle mistakes
If there is a problem with your order as delivered, contact Shipt or Instacart directly through the app or via email. You will be credited for any mistakes, overcharges or glitches.
Special Considerations During the Coronavirus
There are currently thousands of new pick up and delivery orders waiting to be filled, reduced store hours and limited store stock. It is impossible to meet demand right now and we are working hard while potentially putting our own health at risk. Please keep all of these things in mind. Your patience is appreciated.
If you’re lucky enough to book a time slot, it doesn’t mean that you will get your order that day. (If it doesn’t get picked up by a shopper, it will be pushed back to the next hour or day). Your delivery is likely to be late. Expect that many items will be out of stock expect that there will be substitutions when those are available.
If you’re placing a Meijer.com prepaid order, tip in cash if possible. At the time of posting, there is a Meijer app error that isn’t allowing for a tip to be placed through the app.
Normally, a shopper wouldn’t leave items at your door except by request (like if you have a crazy dog or sleeping baby). Because of COVID-19, porch delivery is now a temporary requirement for the safety of the shopper. Please don’t ask me to carry items into your home. And remember that I’m not allowed to leave alcohol on your porch.
Shipt and Instacart are trying to attempt to respond to this unprecedented demand by hiring and quickly training hundreds of thousands of new shoppers. And many people are new to ordering, trying out the service for the first time. There will be snags and glitches and mistakes. Rate your shoppers honestly the seasoned, efficient shoppers will stay and poor shoppers will either be forced to improve or leave due to inferior service. Contact Shipt or Instacart with your concerns about the service directly, if needed.
We are out there risking our health to take care of our customers. For a long time, I have been delivering to many people who cannot leave their homes: seniors and people with disabilities. So please be patient, be kind, help your shopper help you and be grateful for their effort during this time of crisis.
Can you choose where you want to shop?
&ldquoThe app is broken down into areas of town and you sign up for what areas you want to shop in. I live in a fairly large city, so there are probably 20+ areas for shopping. I started out shopping at just my local H-E-B grocery store and Target, but I expanded my shopping to include three other areas that are fairly close to my home.
When you put yourself on the schedule, you pick your times, and your area of town that you want to shop in. As a shop comes up, you get a notification on the app that a shop is available, and you have to accept it or it is sent to another shopper. You do have to be quick about accepting the shop, so you have to keep your phone available at all times while on the schedule.
When the shop is offered, you can see the address for the delivery and the approximate pay without tip, but you cannot see what you will be shopping for until you accept the shop.&rdquo
And these, at restaurants:
Restaurant hiring processes are discriminatory against people of color.
It's important to note that the behind-the-scenes workers, like those who deliver meals in metro areas, are often people of color. NPR reported that other "back of the house" positions including dishwashers and line cooks are typically not sought out by caucasian applicants. In 2011 and 2012, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United concluded that many high-end restaurants have discriminatory practices in their hiring processes. Even restaurant critics, whose very job it is to dine out and review service, are more often than not white.
Diners and patrons of color experience microaggressions.
Black customers and people of color can be victims of discrimination while dining on location. Take an incident from November 2019, where a party of minorities, mostly consisting of African-Americans, was asked to switch tables at Buffalo Wild Wings because a white customer told staff he "[didn't] want black people sitting near him." Or in 2016 when a customer's Papa John's receipt was printed with a racial slur, just two years before the founder of the company resigned after he admitted using a racial slur in a meeting.
Eco-friendly practices are common at Aldi. They expect you to bring your own reusable bag to carry your groceries out, or you&aposll end up paying a nominal fee for their bags. This cuts down on the use of plastic, a material that&aposs harmful to environment. Aldi is also careful to avoid waste with their packaging and display materials, which is why they repeatedly use cardboard boxes throughout the store. The employees are also handsomely compensated, allowing them to attract quality people who can provide you with a pleasant and speedy checkout experience.
Let&aposs face it: We all wish we could eat healthier, but organic isn&apost always affordable. Good thing Aldi has started carrying natural and organic products that are much less expensive, including beef, fruit, vegetables, milk, pasta, snacks, and dog food. That&aposs right, you won&apost find MSG, hormones, antibiotics, gluten, and artificial ingredients and colors in their vast organic selection.