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Slices of Life: Home delivery is a mixed bag

It's no secret; technology is changing the way we do things. I don't trust myself to get dressed in the morning before checking my weather apps (I have three). And I'm not sure how I survived prior to having the find my family app at my fingertips.

But retailers are attempting to influence us in a new way (or at least new for me). They want us to purchase our groceries online. There are even incentives — free shipping or discounts, for instance. The largest retailers are in competition for our grocery dollars. Whoever wins us over first gets the prize — ka ching!

It's an interesting concept: shopping for groceries without ever entering a store. I'm not sure how I feel about it. There are some things I simply prefer to pick out myself. Bananas. Steak. Bread. Ice cream. A cart.

But there are a slew of other products I buy over and over — week in, week out — that I'd be glad to have someone deliver to my door.

So one Sunday afternoon, on a whim, I decided to try it. Why go to the store when you can have the store come to you?

During the process I discovered a few fun, useful and interesting facts I thought I'd share.

First, you should know your prices. Many items were the same price online as in the store, but some were not. Those cheap packs of noodles we all ate in college cost about 20 cents at the store, but nearly a dollar online. Chicken noodle soup, however, is the same both places.

Despite the advertisements claiming you can choose from millions of items, not everything is available online for home delivery. You can purchase toilet paper, but not my preferred brand and type (I'm fussy that way). Some things still require a trip to aisle 12.

Shipping is free if you order a certain amount. When my cart didn't total enough to get the free shipping I threw in a pack of paper towels (because my toilet paper wasn't available).

I ordered a variety of random items: the aforementioned paper towels, shampoo, cat treats, potato chips, coffee, vitamins, sports drinks and assorted canned goods including soup, crab meat, tomato sauce and those spicy diced tomatoes.

The store guaranteed delivery in two days and came through on its promise. Delivery itself was surprising.

I was expecting one box — perhaps two. I got seven or maybe even more; I quit counting.

All my items arrived unscathed and undamaged. Even the potato chips, which were wrapped on four sides cocoon-style in a sort of fitted cardboard box and then placed in a larger box. Cans of tomato sauce were placed end-to-end and wrapped in bubble wrap. Most boxes contained at least one (or more) inflated plastic packing pillows to cushion items.

Products packaged together were not what I would have logically expected.

The coffee arrived first — a day early — in a box with the vitamins and a string of plastic pillows. The rest of the order came the next day. One box contained most of the canned goods, along with the potato chips, which were remarkably uncrushed. The sports drinks came with the cat treats. The shampoo came with one can of crabmeat.

Perhaps most surprising were the spicy tomatoes. I'd ordered four cans, what with it being football season — which is just another name for spicy tomato and cheese dip season. The cans arrived together, but not in the same box. Each one came in its own box, with a cushioned plastic packing pillow and nothing else. One 12-ounce can per box. The packaging and delivery had to cost more than the profit margin on the tomatoes, but I'm no grocery (or tomato) expert.

This was an experiment of sorts. I'd probably do it again — with certain items, especially heavy or bulky ones (with apologies to delivery persons). But I'm not sure the concept itself will last, unless they figure out a way to pack items in a more streamlined manner.

Until then I'd advise doing one thing: invest in packing pillows.

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