Parents, especially elderly ones, can be stubborn. They have their routines and will stick to ’em by gum. For my septuagenarian parents, it’s going to their local grocery store, which they love (my dad actually had his 65th birthday party there).
But as the COVID-19 shroud continues to unfurl across the nation and people are being asked to stay at home, going to the grocery store, especially if you’re elderly (sorry, mom!), seems like not such a great idea anymore.
We’ve already seen some grocery stores create special, early hours where only seniors can shop, which is a good idea. But honestly, I would prefer if my parents didn’t have to go out in the world at all, at least for the next few weeks.
I’ve been telling them about online grocery shopping since this pandemic began, and how it could be an option for them to get food without leaving their house. They politely nodded and said that yes that was an option, and then went to the store anyway. My mother in particular is pretty tech-savvy, so the concept of getting groceries online wasn’t scary to her; I think it was more about their routines.
As this pandemic transmogrified a full-on international crisis, I upped the pressure on my parents to give up the grocery store. But they kept going. I don’t live near them (otherwise I’d shop for them), so finally yesterday I Instacarted for them. And it was fantastic.
I live in a rural area where Instacart isn’t available, so I hadn’t used the service yet. But after downloading the app, I was able to plug in my parents’ address, find their local store, and start shopping.
My mom sent a list of items and I placed the order. While I was expecting deliveries to be delayed at least a few days, surprisingly there was a same-day window. Aces!
What I appreciated was how my shopper, Julia, was communicative throughout the whole process. Understandably, a lot of what I ordered was out of stock, so she sent suggestions and photos of options (or lack thereof, almost all of the bread was gone). Finally, I left instructions for her to just drop off the groceries on my parents’ front porch (no touching!). Julia sent me a pic when the delivery was done and I FaceTimed my parents to let them know.
I’m deeply aware that we are asking more of gig workers and delivery people than ever before. In this case, Julia is literally helping keep my parents fed. Instacart has a pretty crappy track record when it comes to treating its workers well. Given that their shoppers are on the front lines of this pandemic, Instacart better damn well step up and do the right thing (all of the tip I left should have gone to Julia). It would also be cool if Instacart offered something similar to Chatt.us, wherein you could buy groceries for someone else in need (because with all the restaurant closures and job losses, there is going to be a lot of need).
I realize that many of you reading this are probably saying Duh, Chris, we know all about Instacart. Great! I’m sharing this story because in these strange times, we can re-think how we use our existing resources to help others. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from a bunch of friends who are struggling with their parents going out for groceries. If you are concerned for your elderly parents, and have the means and can use a tool like Instacart or Safeway online or Walmart for them, maybe consider it.
Will this experiment push my parents into online grocery shopping? I don’t know yet, they say they are stocked for a few weeks. But hopefully when I bring up Instacart again, they won’t just nod their head politely.
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