At the advice of a friend, I decided to try Hannaford To Go.

Hannaford To Go is a service Hannaford supermarkets offer where you shop online and later go to the store to fetch your purchases.

Before I go any further, I want to say I’ll likely still shop in person most of the time, but Hannaford To Go sure is convenient.

And easy. I typed in “hannaford to go” on my computer, filled in my name, address, phone number and the store from which I planned to pick up my order: Hannaford at JFK Plaza in Waterville. Then I proceeded to “shop” by department — produce, meat, dairy, pet and so forth. I hadn’t shopped in a while, so I needed many items and ordered a total of 38.

I scrolled through the online pages, clicking on pictures of items I needed and that I typically buy in the store: potatoes, broccoli and other vegetables, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, cat food, cat litter, and so on. I hit the plus sign if I wanted more than one of each.

After several minutes of looking for a particular item, I discovered a search button where you can type in exactly what you want and the photo of it will pop up. In my case, it was a container of cashews with sesame sticks, which I get in the organic section of the store. At first I typed “nuts,” which didn’t work, and then “trail mix,” also a dud. So I typed “cashews with sesame sticks” and, duh, there it was.

I spent about 30 minutes ordering, but I’m sure it’ll take less time next time, as I’m familiar with the process. I completed my order at 12:30 p.m. on Monday and was instructed to pick up my order between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. the same day. Hannaford emailed me a list of the items I had purchased and the total for the order — $145.02

It was a cold night at 16 degrees. At 8:10 p.m., I pulled into a Hannaford To Go parking space at JFK Plaza, called the number listed on the sign in front of me, as instructed, and a pleasant young woman named Katie answered. She asked what number space I was parked in — number 5, I said — she asked how I would be paying for my order — by debit card — and she said she would be out with my order in a few minutes.

Four minutes later, Katie came out of the store pushing a big, two-tiered cart, the handle of which had a small credit card machine attached. She took my debit card, ran it through and proceeded to load my order into the back of my small sport-utility vehicle.

Everything was packed neatly into paper bags with handles. I told Katie I felt a little guilty about ordering three bags of cat litter because they are so heavy, but she just smiled and loaded them in. I asked her when the store started Hannaford To Go and she said Dec. 19. When she was done, she thanked me, I thanked her and she produced a box of milk chocolate covered caramels with sea salt.

“Would you like a free gift?” she asked.

Well, if that wasn’t the icing on the cake. Of course I accepted.

It was 8:20 when I drove off — just 10 minutes after I had arrived.

Once home, we unloaded the car, placed the bags on the kitchen island and started checking the items I had ordered. Everything was there and I was impressed with  how fresh the produce and meats were — just as I would have chosen them. Even the iceberg lettuce was the exact size and softness I like. The dairy items were cold, just the right temperature.

Everything was packed well. The only blip I saw was that, instead of ordering what I thought was a bag of mandarin oranges, I had erroneously purchased only one orange. I laughed, because my friend who encouraged me to try Hannaford To Go had the same experience, except that she thought she was buying a bag of potatoes when she actually only bought one potato.

My store receipt accurately listed everything I had ordered, plus the seven paper bags for which I paid 5 cents apiece (I deemed that a small fee for what I got). Attached to my receipt was a $10 coupon for my next Hannaford To Go order of at least $50. Another perk!

Since using Hannaford To Go, I have been developing a mental list of the advantages and downsides to the service.

For people who have mobility issues, this is a wonderful option. In winter when it is cold and we are deep in the heart of flu season, it’s nice not to have to go into a crowded store. If I were to continue to use the service, I believe it would make me become more price conscious, as prices are clearly marked beside each item online.

The downsides? Well, I guess I could name a couple. Walking is good exercise and part of me felt a little lazy having someone else do my shopping. Though I have to admit that after a long day at work, it was awfully nice. Second, there is a service fee of $5 for orders under $50, if you want to call that a downside. For what you get, it seems pretty cheap.

Finally, I rarely shop at Hannaford at JFK Plaza. For years, I’ve used the store at Elm Plaza as it is closer to my house, I know where everything in the store is and the employees there are super friendly — and familiar.

My conundrum: The Hannaford at Elm Plaza doesn’t have Hannaford To Go.

A question: Will it, ever?

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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