By Robin Wojtanik
Whether it’s back-to-school lunch supplies or a Thanksgiving turkey, grocery shopping will get more convenient as stores begin to offer curbside pickup.
Tri-City Fred Meyer and some Walmart stores expect to offer their version of the service before the end of the year.
The Richland Fred Meyer will begin its ClickList service in conjunction with a re-grand opening celebration. The store’s extensive $12.4 million remodel is expected to be complete at the end of next month.
Shortly after, work will begin on the Kennewick Fred Meyer store to ready it to provide the same curbside grocery pickup by late October.
Online Grocery is also expected to be available at Tri-City Walmart locations before the end of the year. The retail giant was unable to confirm which Tri-Cities locations will offer the service currently available in five locations in Washington — three in Spokane and two in Vancouver.
Building permits were requested for $120,000 in grocery remodeling at each of the three Tri-City Walmarts, with a specific mention of online grocery service at the Richland and Kennewick stores.
Once rolled out, the competing services will look similar in their order and pickup process, but Walmart’s is free and Fred Meyer’s is not.
To use Walmart’s online service, most stores require a $30 minimum purchase. Fred Meyer’s “ClickList” will have no minimum purchase, but each order will add a $4.95 fee. The first three orders are complimentary.
Each store will allow orders to be placed through a website or mobile device. Customers will place items into their virtual basket, compiling a cart and scheduling a pickup time. Groceries will be held in storage, even chilled or frozen, until the customer arrives at the store and uses the retailer’s notification system to alert a worker to bring the groceries to the car.
At both Walmart and Fred Meyer, this requires a phone to call the number posted on the parking stall, alerting employees of your arrival. While customers wait in their cars, the purchases will be brought out and loaded into vehicles by the attendant. Items purchased through each retailer’s online service cost the same as they do in the store.
Items must be paid for ahead of time, using a credit or debit card. Neither store will accept cash, checks or EBT as payment for online orders. For items priced based on their weight, like produce, deli or meat, the system will calculate an estimate for the item as part of the total, which will be finalized once the order is compiled.
Both Fred Meyer and Walmart guarantee the prices paid for items bought online are the same as if items had been shopped for in the store. Instead, a store employee is doing the work. Walmart reports its associates take a three-week training course to become certified as a personal shopper for the company’s Online Grocery service.
Each store boasts a selection of 30,000 to 40,000 items available for purchases made through their online services, listing sale prices in the same way you would find in the store. Fred Meyer allows customers to make specific requests about items that might vary, like choosing a ripe avocado versus a firm one. If an item is purchased online but sold out in the store, a similar substitute will be provided. Customers will have the ability to decline the substitute at the time of pickup.
Same day pickup service will be available at both Walmart and Fred Meyer locations. This offers an added convenience for shift workers. Online Grocery orders through Walmart placed by 1 a.m. will be available for pickup by 8 a.m., and orders placed by 10 a.m. will be available for pickup after 4 p.m. And if a customer wanted to set up a grocery order to pick up on their way back into town from a vacation, orders can be scheduled on Walmart’s website up to three weeks in advance. The same-day pickup service is not available in all Fred Meyer locations, but will be a feature of the Tri-City stores.
Yoke’s Fresh Market is looking at whether grocery pickup service is a future option for its stores. John Orton, vice president of marketing, said Yoke’s is speaking with a third party company next month to assess its options.
Orton says the Northwest chain is too small to be able to operate an online pickup service on its own and would most likely hire an operator to do so, if it decides to offer the option to customers.
Albertsons/Safeway, Winco Foods and Amazon Fresh did not return requests for comment on plans to offer online grocery services.
Walmart hopes to entice customers to try its online grocery service when it becomes available in the Tri-Cities. It offers a $10 off discount for a first order of $50 or more for those using a promo code. Fred Meyer waives the $4.95 pickup fee on customers’ first three orders, with no minimum purchase required. It also expects to offer in-store specials at the Richland store’s grand re-opening in late August.