Wednesday, January 31, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Foodland starts online shopping

By Joan Namkoong
Advertiser Food Editor

Foodland Super Market Ltd. is launching its "Foodland To Go" service today, the state’s first online shopping service by a grocery retailer. By logging on to, consumers can shop for groceries online and arrange to pick them up at a convenient time.

Currently, pickup is at Foodland Beretania only, 3-9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. A three-hour lead time is required for orders. Other stores and times will be added in the near future, says Foodland spokeswoman Sheryl Toda. (Items from the R. Field shop at Foodland are not yet included, though some deli products are.)

I tested the online service last weekend, placing an order Saturday morning for a 5 p.m. pickup. Registration was simple, requiring a credit card and, if you have one, Foodland’s Maikai card.

I experienced no glitches or surprises in the process.

Shopping online was easy, too. The site is broken down into well- defined "aisles" as in a supermarket: dairy and eggs, meats, produce, grocery items, household supplies, etc. By clicking on one of these categories, you get to "shop the aisle" with further product differentiation as you go down the itemized list. According to Foodland, there are about 8,000 items online, with more to be added in the future.

Not all items include photographs but presumably they will, nor are all the items in the store available online.

In the produce and meat section, the approximate weight of an item is given alongside the price per pound so you can estimate what you want. For example, I ordered Granny Smith apples, and the product description said the average weight of an apple was .5 pound. I ordered five apples.

When it came to pork chops, I was looking for fresh, thick, center-cut bone-in chops. The description said "2 chops per package; average weight per package is 1 pound." I ordered three packages since I wanted six chops.

My order totaled 11 items; at the online checkout, my estimated bill was calculated, including a $4.95 service fee. Exact prices are determined at the actual checkout, when items are weighed and scanned.

I was given the option of plastic or paper bags, and I chose the latter. I also specified a 4:30-5 p.m. pickup time.

Then I dutifully printed out my order; a few minutes later, an order confirmation arrived via e-mail. All of it went pretty quickly, although it took a good 20-25 minutes to shop (and I have a pretty high-speed server).

Then, of course, I had to fiddle a little; this was a test, after all. I went back into my order to add an item: a 5-pound bag of King Arthur flour that was not available in the regular list of items. I added it via the "note" section, which allows you to communicate with the Foodland shopper and leave specific requests. I also specified a 5 p.m. pickup time.

Then came the glitch. For some reason, the system would not allow me to check out; I was asked again to specify my pickup date and time and, though I did so repeatedly, it never accepted the information to complete the transaction. Frustration set in.

At this point, a phone call to the shopper was necessary; she took down my request for the additional item and change in pickup time. No problem, I was told.

At 5 p.m. I drove up to the specially marked stalls on the ewa side of Foodland Beretania. There is a phone there to let the shoppers know you have arrived; you can also call ahead if you have a cell phone. Within a few minutes, Sophie, the shopper, appeared with my order.

My order appeared complete, all bagged in plastic. However, the three packages of pork chops turned out to hold only three pork chops when I needed six, requiring a trip into the store to get three more. The produce items that were selected looked good, and I did get what I ordered. I signed the credit card voucher and Sophie helped me load the bags into my car.

Would I use the service "for real"? Yes, if I was really pressed for time and needed a number of items. However, with a $4.95 service charge (in this case, that amount represented about 10 percent of my bill), I wouldn’t use the service for just milk and bread.

While shopping online seems like a nifty idea, it does take time. In this case, the 25 minutes I spent ordering 11 items seems like a lot. And then there’s the fact that I had to go into the store for the additional pork chops.

But online shopping can be great for those with time constraints or those who cannot or do not want to go grocery shopping. Shoppers, though, will have to be familiar with brands and know what they want. Foodland’s site is simple to use and well-organized; no doubt, system glitches will be worked on in the coming days as the company gears up to meet the demands of cybershoppers.

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