Outsourcing my grocery shopping is one of the best things I've done, but it's only worth it when I know the workers are paid well

FG Trade/Getty ImagesThe author is not pictured.

I never I thought I’d be that person. The person who is “too busy” to shop for their own groceries. What kind of princess have I grown up to become?

Living in the service-gig economy, it’s easy for all of us to feel like royalty as we outsource those annoying, time-consuming tasks our parents used to call “errands.” Honestly, I’m so time deprived and stressed out that I don’t care who thinks I’m a snob: I’m pretty much done shopping for groceries, and I don’t feel bad about it.

It’s especially easy to not feel guilty when I know that the people doing the shopping are getting paid a fair wage, and that the service is not incredibly expensive for me.

I was first lured into using the service by a coupon for three free deliveries from Giant Eagle, a local grocery chain in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. I gave it a shot, and now there’s no going back.

The convenience of shopping from home

At my local grocery chain, I place a grocery order by going online and selecting my items. It’s a fairly quick process, especially because I can pull up items from past orders. Staples are in my cart in a matter of seconds, and the entire task takes me just a few minutes.

From there, I schedule a time to pickup my order at the store. A personal shopper will go around and pick everything up, making sure the cold things stay cold until the moment of my arrival. I simply pull up to a designated spot in front of the store, call the service desk, and a shopper will bring my groceries out to my car. This service easily saves me an hour or more every trip.

The cost of using a grocery service

The cost of using this service varies depending on how far I schedule out. My first several orders were completely free thanks to the promotion that was successful in getting me hooked. I can also usually access the service for free if I place my order a couple days ahead of time.

Otherwise, I pay $US5 per order. It’s a sum I happily fork over, knowing that it’s a steal for the hour of my life I got back.

The compensation of employees

I would feel a whole lot uneasier with this setup if I didn’t know the personal shoppers and everyone behind the scenes were being treated fairly. In fact, I tried the third-party service that delivers groceries directly to your door once last year. I’ll never do it again, both because it was double the price and because I wasn’t sure at all how the contractors bringing me my order were being compensated.

The first time I used the curbside service from Giant Eagle, I specifically asked my personal shopper if they were getting paid minimum wage. They said they were. More than minimum, in fact, which was a relief in and of itself. Because they get paid fairly according to current law, I was told they’re not allowed to accept tips.

I had no problem tipping the woman who delivered my groceries to my door. She deserved it, as she was subsidizing my laziness with her labour. But it was an added cost I don’t incur when I use the Giant Eagle service.

The financial and emotional opportunity costs of skipping the grocery store

Paying $US5 for an hour of my life back is well worth it to me. There is a financial opportunity cost to that sometimes; if I’m shopping during what are normally work hours, I calculate my hourly rate to be far higher than $US5/hour. Even though I’m paying $US5, I’m gaining a lot more by spending that hour present in my business rather than browsing the aisles.

But there’s an emotional opportunity cost, too. If I’m shopping at a time when I’d have to take my kids to the store with me, we are going to be stressed out. More stuff is going to end up in my cart than I intended. I’m not going to have the energy to be a fun mum when we get home and out of the stressful situation.

If it only costs $US5 to not have to step foot in a grocery store and have a more contented family life for a few hours, call me Princess.

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