Coronavirus Covid-19 Online Supermarket Shopping Tips – How to Find Stuff

If you have never used online shopping before, and are using it under pressure because of this awful situation, it can seem overwhelming. I have been using online grocery shopping for over twenty years, and I have made a wide selection of mistakes. I hope that I can share what I have learned and make things a little easier.

I made a note about online shopping, including substitutions here. This post is about finding what you want when you are completely unfamiliar with online supermarket shopping. When you feel under strain, the last thing you need is to be hunting for diced chicken as your blood pressure rises. However it is possible to hunt for what you need, and you may find some surprises along the way. I suggest that you take your time, have a cup of tea at your side and checkout regularly, so that you don’t get timed out.

Fresh Fruit and Veg

To find what you want, you have to hunt around for the menu. Some stores are easier than others. Asda will not allow you to browse all fruit, for example. You have to click each particular type, so you click apples, then oranges, then bananas. Other supermarkets are more forgiving.

It’s hard to judge quality through a screen, especially if you have got a delivery slot in an unfamiliar supermarket. On the whole, the better quality produce costs more. All items should have ‘price per kg’ or ‘price per 100g’ next to them. You can sort the items by cost – low to high, but you don’t get the full picture as you will get price per individual apple to price per large box and the prices aren’t always equivalent. You may have to work out the prices with a calculator, or even just guess.

Important – Produce

closeup photo of carrot lot

You will get the option to buy loose produce. Be very, very careful. When you choose this option you get a choice of buying by quantity or by weight. Do not, whatever you do, get them confused. I have been let down receiving one solitary carrot instead of the kilo of carrots I wanted for soup. I have heard of people receiving ten kilos of carrots instead of the ten individual carrots that were wanted. Check, double check and, if it’s really important, buy ready bagged.

Meat

If you go to a supermarket in person, you can make decisions like, ‘if they haven’t got a nice bit of chicken, then I’ll get some lamb’. When you online shop, you have to commit.

On the whole, by and large and in general, the better quality is more expensive. Check the weight as well. At time of typing, Sainsburys whole chickens range from a chicken with a maximum weight of 1.35kg at £1.90 to £7.45 for a 2.2kg, free range, organic chicken. There are plenty in between. It is worth taking the time to consider what you need, what you can afford, and how you will store it.

Dietary Restrictions

It can be really tough if you are on a restricted diet. It is a good idea to make a note against items as you check out that, for example, you cannot have dairy. There are sections devoted to items for restricted items in all stores, but Tesco also have a ‘lifestyle’ menu where you can sort for items that are, for example, gluten free without them being specialised ‘free from’. For example, Tesco’s own brand stock cubes are gluten free, but they are not marketed as such. I found out that they were safe by checking the lifestyle menu.

rice grains with measuring scoop in container

Don’t Get Carried Away

When you are in a supermarket, you can see how much your trolley is filling up. You can see the heap of tins getting higher. You can look at the extra large turkey and have a good guess whether it will fit in the fridge. You can’t do that when online shopping. Get what you want, and what you need, but don’t get things just because you can. Check how much space is in the freezer before you order extra frozen sausages. Don’t order more bread than you can use up before it goes stale. Do not make my mistake and buy a load of stuff that you don’t like that much just because it is a bargain. Always check the total cost as you are checking out (or even as you shop!). It may come as an unpleasant surprise.

Miracles Take a Little Longer

Finding what you want when you are not sure about the layout is hard. It can be rewarding, though, having a browse through the different sections. For example, if you like Branston pickle, and search just for Branston pickle on the Asda site, you get 18 results, including some other brands. However if you go to the ‘condiments, chutneys and pickles’ section then you find 116 different items, including Branston Onion Chutney, which suddenly really appeals. You may get inspired or reminded of an old favourite.

Too Much Choice

It can get overwhelming. If it just seems too much, it’s okay. Checkout (always, always checkout), walk away, take a few breaths and remember that you cannot possibly be expected to know it all straight away. Even now, when supermarkets are actively restricting choice because of the situation, there is just so much! It’s okay to make a list with pen and paper, come back and just use the search box to find what you need. If you have time, you can come back and explore. If you haven’t time now, you may be able to take more time next delivery, and it will be more familiar. Everybody gets things wrong. I forgot milk on the last delivery. I forgave myself.

Campbell's can lot on shopping basket

If you are doing your first online shop in these trying circumstances, I hope you find these suggestions useful. Drop a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Wishing good health to all.

Coronavirus Covid-19 Online Supermarket Shopping Hints and Tips

I have been getting online grocery deliveries for over twenty years, and I take it all in my stride. If it is unfamiliar to you, however, it can seem overwhelming, especially under the stresses of this time. If you take your time, however, and work through, you may find it easier than you expect.

When You Get a Delivery Slot

When you get your slot, don’t worry about getting it perfect straight away. All supermarkets allow you to change the order as many times as you like up to the cut off. You have to check the time of the cutoff depending on the supermarket. Tesco currently allow you to change the order up until 11.45pm the night before, but Morrisons are requesting that your order is finalised 48 hours before the delivery slot.

I recommend that you book the slot as soon as you can, bung something expensive in to hold it temporarily and meet the minimum spend and then check out. As long as you remember to get it finalised before the cutoff, you will be fine. Just don’t miss the cutoff. I seriously recommend setting an alarm.

Now all you have to do is pick what you want to be delivered.

Making Choices

This can seem impossible if you are unaccustomed to online shopping. Where are you supposed to find the dratted potatoes? How do you guess what you want with the loose carrots? What sort of dates are there on the diced chicken? What if they don’t have what I want?

UNKs original diced tomatoes can

I’ve made a separate post about finding different items which you can find here, but in this post I’m going to concentrate on substitutions. Substitutions are the dark side of online shopping, along with short dates. Under normal circumstances, you usually get reasonable substitutions (with a few wonderful exceptions!). However the people pulling out your shopping today may be new, flustered, exhausted, bewildered or just overworked. Sometimes weird stuff happens.

During checkout you will find an opportunity to make a note about substitutions. Usually you get a list of what you have on your order and you will be able to say whether you are willing to have a substitution or not. In normal times, I will be picky. I will say that the baked beans have to be Heinz and that the bread has to be sliced. Now I will click that I’m happy to accept all substitutions. If there is something that is important, then I use the option to add a note.

You may have to hunt around to find the ‘add a note’ function, but it is worth finding. In my case I may put a note under ketchup that while they can substitute, I can’t have gluten. This gives them a little more scope than a blanket refusal of anything except Heinz.

Human error can happen, especially with inexperienced and overworked staff, but my experience is that on the whole, they do their best.

What if They Run Out?

A lot of things were missed off my last Tesco delivery. I checked my order every day on the run up to the delivery and there was a regular list of ‘item unavailable’. Nothing is guaranteed at this moment. However, if you keep checking then you can make informed decisions. If your favourite yoghurt is unavailable, at least you can make a decision about whether you get a different yoghurt or whether you try fromage frais. Some sites are limiting how many of a particular item you can buy, so keep an eye on that. Tesco also cap the delivery at 80 items in total.

yellow and white labeled box

Always Go Through Checkout

If you change your order, whatever you do, don’t forget to checkout properly and fully. You won’t be charged more than once, but if you fail to go through the checkout process you will lose your changes, and possibly your slot.

If you are quarantined, please make a note on the delivery notes section. The driver won’t be able to bring stuff into the house, and at this time they are limited in how much they can help the customer.

I’ve had literally hundreds of grocery deliveries from Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Morrisons, Ocado and Iceland. And, with a few memorable exceptions, the drivers have been wonderful people and the deliveries have been more than satisfactory. I hope that your driver is of the usual, excellent standard and you get all you need.

Wishing good health to all.

Corona Virus Covid-19 Getting a Parcel

It is easy to worry about getting a parcel during this pandemic, and we owe it to ourselves to keep whatever sanity we have left, so if it is something that is preying on your mind, the following may help.

Important – I am not a doctor and this is not qualified medical advice. I took a first aid course in 1977. The information below comes from checking sources I trust and setting out a plan that I’m sure many readers have considered. I consider this as a starting point, and perhaps some reassurance. If you have any doubts, please consult a qualified medical practitioner or check trusted sources on the internet.

landscape photography of white box van

You finally recieve the package you have been waiting for. What should happen is that the postman or delivery driver should ring your bell or call you and leave the package on your doorstep, waiting for you to pick the package up while keeping an appropriate distance. This is to protect both of you.

Then you bring the package in. According to the BBC and their research here, the Coronavirus survives for 72 hours on cardboard and up to four days on surfaces such as metal or plastic. The parcel you have just brought in may well have the virus on it’s surface. This does not mean that you have brought in the virus in concentrated form or that you will immediately contract the illness. It means that you have to be sensible.

Suggested Routine

Step One – Dispose of the packaging appropriately. The packaging is not biological hazardous waste. It can still be recycled if appropriate. However it is a good idea to get it out of the way. You are unlikely to contract the disease by breathing air from the same room as the packaging. However if the virus is on the packaging, it is transmitted via touch, so get it out of the way so you don’t have to keep touching it. Avoid touching your face throughout.

Step Two – wipe over the contents with something like bleach or disinfectant. Do not mix cleaners as you can produce chlorine gas if you mix bleach with ammonia. Washing fabric at the highest temperature possible according to the care label with a modern powder or using some of the in-wash disinfectants would work for clothing, but from what I have found, the Coronavirus doesn’t survive a long time on fabric anyway. If there is no way to wash or disinfect the item, and you are concerned, then putting it out of the way while you practice good hygiene and handwashing for a few days should be fine. Covid-19 does not last for ever outside a human.

Step Three – wash your hands with soap to whichever tune you are enjoying and that lasts at least twenty seconds.

person holding stainless steel faucet

Step Four – look after your mental health. Getting a package through the post does not mean that you are likely to be infected. It means that there is a possibility of being infected. Being sensible and washing your hands will go a long way to keeping you safe. There are no guarantees, but if you take sensible steps, the risk is reduced. Unpack your goodies, dispose of the packaging, wipe over with whatever cleaner you choose, wash your hands and then enjoy your goodies.

This is a stressful time, and you can find yourself worrying more than is healthy. The World Health Organisation has published a brief guideline about Mental Health at this time which is here and is worth a look.

I hope this post has made you feel a little more comfortable if you were worrying about getting a parcel. Wishing you all health.

Online Shopping: When it goes wrong

I have been shopping online for around 20 years.  I was one of the first ones to go online for grocery shopping and I have had very few problems indeed.  I’ve had one or two, though, and thought it worthwhile sharing a few tips that may help when things go wrong.

Try a Friendly Approach First

To err is human, but to really foul things up takes a computer.  There is a huge range of issues that can happen when you buy online that would be easily dealt with if you were in a shop.  Anything is possible, however, if you are shopping online. Start by contacting the seller and asking what is going on.  Try these steps:

  1. Do not contact them while angry.  Shout into a pillow, go for a run, clean the oven or dig the garden – whatever it takes to make sure that you are in a cool and clear frame of mind.  You are more likely to be heard if you are calm and not shouty
  2. Have all reference numbers and details to hand, along with pencil or paper to take notes.  Sometimes you won’t have these, but have details such as postcode and phone number ready so that you can be found in their system.   
  3. Check that the person you are dealing with has the power to help you.  They may not have the authority to make big decisions.  Try and get through to someone who does have the ability to do things like cancel charges or refund money.  Don’t forget to write down their names.
  4. Be polite and friendly and ask what they can do to sort things out.  They may be able to help more than you think. 
  5. If someone goes the extra mile for you, make sure that you leave positive feedback for them. 

This will sort things out most of the time, and if a person or company sorts out problems without too much fuss then it’s worth going back to them again and again.  Mistakes happen, but good customer service is worth a lot!

And a quick note about threatening the legals – most customer service reps are okay and their job is to make the customer happy.  If, however, you threaten to take the legal route, then you will be passed straight to their legal team, whose job is to protect the firm and who do not care about keeping you happy. 

Get Reputable Advice

Just because your auntie’s dog walker’s cousin’s boyfriend tells you that you have certain rights, it doesn’t mean it’s true.  Unless you are confident that your auntie’s dog walker’s cousin’s boyfriend is a consumer law specialist, it may be worth checking out trusted advice.  Here are some links to places that can help when you have tried your best to get things sorted out, but you have had no luck. 

The Government – I am sure many are surprised, but the government’s official pages include advice on a lot of legal matters, including consumer rights.  Their pages are very clear and informative and worth checking out. 

Which – if you subscribe to their magazine, they have resources and advisors that will be able to help. 

Citizens Advice Bureau – you may find it difficult to get a face to face appointment as their resources are stretched these days, but their website has a wealth of up-to-date information.

Money Advice Service – this is always worth a quick look

Advice Now – this is an independent, non profit legal advice site for England and Wales

(Note – the legal system in England and Wales is different to the legal system in Scotland and also in Northern Ireland.  It’s worth making sure you’re getting the right advice for your area)

Know When to Quit

It really stings when you lose money and have no way of getting justice.  It doesn’t seem fair.  But sometimes you just lose. It may be that you have bought an item from eBay for 99p, and you need to return it, but the cost of postage is far more than the 99p and you won’t get the postage back.  Perhaps the firm has gone bust or they have moved and you can’t trace them.  Or it’s one of a dozen scams that litter online selling and there is no way of showing that you have been robbed.  Here are the things I consider when I think I need to quit.

  1. Will it cost more than the item is worth to carry on
  2. How much time will it take, and can I spare it from my life
  3. How much longer will it take to get it sorted out and can I deal with the stress for that long.

Getting dragged into a lengthy enquiry or a court case (some court cases can take years) can suck the soul out of you and sometimes you have to ask yourself, can I walk away with this and not let the unfinished business eat away at me?  Sometimes the choice is between losing and losing more.  I have never found myself in this position for sums great than £5, and I hope that you are luckier than me. 

Online Shopping and CoronaVirus Corvid-19

Should I Shop Online during the Lockdown?

two brown boxes and DVD cases on rack

There is no reason why you shouldn’t shop online. Spending money online can keep small businesses afloat in tricky times. If you are confident that you are dealing with a real business, and that the staff are getting the chance to maintain a safe distance then go for it. You are contributing to keeping livelihoods going.

Are All Online Shops Open?

Sadly, not all online shops are open. Sometimes you just have to look and see. I suggest that you sign up for all your favourite shops’ newsletters and they will hopefully keep you updated. You can also follow shops that have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any other social media they use.

Do I Still Have the Same Legal Protections

You absolutely do! You have a fourteen day period to change your mind when dealing with traders in England and Wales, and you are still covered by the same rules.

Are Delivery Times Affected

Things are very odd right now. A few sites state openly that they cannot guarantee the delivery times that they normally promise. In these times, I think it is worth making a note in a calendar and checking to see what comes, allowing a few days extra. However most parcels are getting through and I’ve been pleasantly suprised at the ones that have arrived here via Royal Mail.

man in black jacket carrying brown cardboard box

How Do I Know Which Shops to Use?

This is tricky. The obvious stores, such as Amazon and the supermarkets, are still working, as are a lot of department stores, such as Marks and Spencer. It is worthwhile, however, looking for the smaller places. I looked for online butchers local to me and found quite a few. Some will deliver, others are click and collect, and some are not delivering but staying open. These are the businesses that need our support.

How Do I Know a Site is Safe?

There are no guarantees. However you can look for reviews of the site online and ask friends and family if they have any experience with the firm. It’s worth checking on how they take money. If it is via a trusted site like PayPal or WorldPay, and if the url of the payment page starts with https then it is more likely to be safe. If it looks too good to be true, it is probably a scam. If you have any doubt then walk away. You have worked too hard to lose your money.

Lastly…

Remember the three questions you need to ask when online shopping – Do I need it? Where am I going to put it? How am I going to pay for it? Buying something just because you can right now is not always the right idea.