Most of us already shop for clothes and electronics and books online; soon we may be doing all our grocery shopping online too. To the many online food delivery services (Google, Amazon, Good Eggs), add Instacart, a San Francisco-based startup that has now operates in ten cities around the country. Launched in Los Angeles in April, Instacart has expanded their delivery zone to include eight L.A. neighborhoods: Brentwood, Los Feliz, Mid-City, Hancock Park, Culver City, Westchester, Atwater Village and Beverly Hills.
As of today, May 22, Instacart is adding Bristol Farms to the list of stores where they'll do your shopping for you, including Costco, Ralphs and Whole Foods. The idea being that, unlike some grocery delivery services, Instacart not only does your high-end shopping, but your basic shopping as well - and at the same time.
Think of Instacart kind of like Domino's crossed with Uber - and Alice Waters. You make your shopping list, which includes not only fresh fava beans, Santa Rosa plums and prosciutto, but laundry detergent, dog food, 2 1/2-pound jars of Kirkland mixed nuts, and a Brunswick XC5 Table Tennis table.
Instacart will then immediately dispatch your own "personal shopper" to Whole Foods, while sending another one to Costco. Your Costco personal shopper, who has her own Costco membership (so you don't have to!), will drive over to pick up your nuts and dog food and table, while the Whole Foods personal shopper will personally pick over the plums and favas to make sure they're just right. All this will be accomplished in as little a hour, and in your personal shoppers' own cars.
Founded in 2012 by Apoorva Mehta, a former supply chain engineer at Amazon (this should not come as a huge surprise; or the fact that he's still only 27), Instacart is a venture-backed project that keeps its costs down by using what it calls a "crowd-sourced labor force." The personal shoppers use their own cars and shop for you. Thus you have, says Walker Dieckmann, L.A. City Manager for Instacart, "a real person selecting each item, rather than relying on a delivery truck and warehouse."
The personal shoppers not only sound cool, in a prestige kind of way, but they also have a pragmatic function - other than their cars. According to the folks at Instacart, while they're picking over bins of fresh produce, the shoppers are acting as inventory trackers, keeping the prices and availability of items updated on Instacart's website.
To use Instacart, you open an account on www.Instacart.com and start shopping by selecting groceries, then you chose from a few delivery options. Delivery under an hour costs $14.99; the price drops to $3.99 for 2-hour delivery. It's important to note that these fees are per store - which makes sense, if you consider that your personal shopper cannot be at Costco loading your table into her car while she's at Whole Foods finding you the best plums. (Yeah, yeah, we're all waiting for Jeff Bezos to invent time travel.)
A few more things to note. Firstly, Instacart has lately expanded their Whole Foods delivery coverage to include downtown L.A. - which is super noteworthy, since there is currently NO Whole Foods in downtown. And if you're a downtowner, you'll know how much of a huge drag it can be to negotiate the drive to (and parking lot in) the Glendale Whole Foods.
Also worth noting is that Instacart offers a kind of Amazon Prime-like service that they call Instacart Express, an annual membership of $99 that gets you free delivery on all orders over $35.
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And finally, just for reading this lovely publication, the folks at Instacart are giving first-time users $10 off and free delivery on their first order of $35 or more. Here's the promo code. Happy shopping, and get some peaches and a stapler for us, since Instacart doesn't deliver to Pasadena.