Grocery Pick-Up: Explained

Grocery Pick-Up: Explained

- in Food

What a time to be alive! For centuries, humans have hunted for their food: whether that was with a crossbow in the wild, or by simply perusing the aisles of the grocery store. But now? You can order your groceries with a click… literally, and someone else does the grunt work. How crazy is that?

Grocery pick-up is a relatively new service. You place your order online and schedule a time to pick up your groceries. When you arrive at the store, you park in a designated spot, and, after letting them know you’re there, your personal shopper brings your groceries out and loads them into your car for you. That’s it.

I have to admit, I wasn’t so sure about this whole thing at first, but it sure is taking the grocery industry by storm. I used to say, “I like to shop in person,” or “It takes just as much time to shop in the store as online” — both of which are totally true statements, but pretty much irrelevant when I don’t want to get dressed, have two kids in tow, or just don’t have time in the afternoon to shop and have plenty of time relaxing in bed the night before. All of a sudden convenience trampled on my excuses and I decided to take the plunge, but it only left me with more questions: 

Why is this free (or relatively inexpensive)?

How does this benefit the store?

Is this the future of grocery shopping?

Wal-Mart, Target, and usually Giant Eagle offer their grocery pick-up at no cost. Does that make anyone else stop and think, Why? There has to be a gimmick? It seems like nothing these days is free without some sort of “catch.” But as far as I can tell, there isn’t one. 

So why is it free? The stores obviously have to designate their employees to the task of gathering your items — that still costs them money because they pay their employees, right? And it’s not like they do it because they need to make their stores less crowded with shoppers or something — that surely isn’t the issue. So what is it about me picking up my groceries that benefits the store?


Grocery pick-up benefits the store. Why? Because you’re shopping there. You are bringing your business to them and, by default, taking it away from somewhere else. One of my friends works for a local Wal-Mart in the grocery pick-up department and she said that grocery pick-up makes up over 1/3 of the total sales at her location. That’s crazy!

I’m not sure who started doing grocery pickup first, but either way, it was genius; offering people convenience for free in exchange for their business is a no-brainer. The only problem is now nearly every store is offering it, and they have to. If they don’t, they sacrifice potential business; they don’t really have a choice. They’re competing for your grocery budget, and who can argue with convenience? 

For the consumer, this is awesome! Right now all the major grocery stores are clamoring for your business. Not only are they pining for you to use their pick-up service and all the convenience it has to offer, but they’re slashing prices and offering extra ways to save to make your desire to shop there even greater. It’s fantastic — for the time being. Eventually this “price war” will end. Maybe someone will win, or maybe all the major grocery chains will find other creative ways to get you to shop there and then jack up the prices while you’re hooked. Who knows?

But for right now, take advantage! I really like the grocery pick-up service. When I was nine months pregnant, it was an absolute life saver. Sure, I could send my husband to the store for me, but I’d fully expect at least 12 phone calls, several missing items, and a lot of unnecessary purchases. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Giant Eagle’s Curbside Express

I’ve used Giant Eagle’s Curbside Express on multiple occasions. The first time I used the service, I just wanted to see what all the hubbub was about, and I had a great experience. My “personal shopper” was Mona; she called me when something wasn’t in stock and happily grabbed me the items I forgot to add to my list. When I arrived, she explained the whole process to me and loaded the bags in my car with a smile on her face.

Note: Giant Eagle no longer calls for substitutions if an item is out of stock, but you can specify in the notes when you order that you would like them to call if you don’t want to wait around when you get there while they grab a new item.

The second experience I had with Curbside Express was, to put it simply, abysmal. At least half my order was incorrect, if not more. I received wrong items, wrong quantities, things I didn’t want — it was awful. I was pretty disappointed and contacted Giant Eagle — they responded by crediting my account $25! I was then able to use that credit for Christmas dinner shopping, which honestly couldn’t have been better timing — it totally made up for all the mistakes! I haven’t had any issues with Giant Eagle’s pick-up service since, and I take advantage of the service literally any time I can!

Target Drive-Up

I’ve used Target Drive-Up a handful of times, and I have to be honest — it’s super handy. One advantage? No human interaction. Now, I’d call myself a people person. I really do love interacting and talking with people, but sometimes I just enjoy being in my own personal bubble, especially when I’m in grocery shopping mode. Everything is done via the Target app — shopping, payment, and notifying Target that you’ve arrived. It’s so ridiculously simple and convenient. I love it!

One of the best parts about Target Drive-Up is that almost everything in the store is eligible to be picked up. I’ve ordered cat litter, dish soap, mascara — I’ll do my grocery shopping at Giant Eagle and my supply run at Target and I’m all set! Sometimes Target even offers promotions if you use Drive-Up, like $15 off a $75 order. Cha-ching!

Wal-Mart Grocery Pick-Up

Okay, I gotta be honest here: I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I just don’t live close enough to one for it to be worth it to do pick-up. However, I have plenty of good friends that have used Wal-Mart’s grocery pick-up service frequently, so I asked them to help me out!

Like Target Drive-Up, everything can be done via the app — no human interaction required. You can call when you arrive if you’d prefer, or you can just notify Wal-Mart of your arrival on the app. Like Target, you can even let them track you as you drive to the store (which I personally think is super creepy, but that’s just me!).

There are certain advantages to Wal-Mart Grocery Pick-Up that, as far as I know, neither Target nor Giant Eagle offer. For example, if you choose an item that is out of stock, as long as you choose to allow substitutions, Wal-Mart will replace your item with a bigger quantity or higher quality version of the original item, but at the cheaper price. Sometimes they’ll even include a goodie bag or sample of a new product with your order. You can’t argue with free stuff! They also usually make a point to show you the produce you ordered (although I’m sure you could ask to see your produce with Curbside Express, too).

My friend that works for Wal-Mart Grocery Pick-Up made a point to tell me that they are very intentional about making the experience as easy as possible for the customer — you can’t get much better than that!

Grocery Pick-Up Disadvantages

As with anything, there are disadvantages to picking up your groceries instead of shopping for them.

For one thing, you can’t check expiration dates. I’m one of those people that, when I go shopping for milk or yogurt or bread, I grab the item with the furthest expiration date. You can’t really do that with grocery pick-up, unless you want to specify that request in the notes when you order. Personally, I’d rather not be that picky since my personal shopper is literally doing my shopping for me and I don’t wish to annoy them with my specific requests (again, that’s just me!).

Secondly, you’ll get the occasional incorrect item. This can always be corrected, but is no doubt a slight inconvenience.

And lastly, you can’t pick your own produce. Even if you see it and ask for a replacement, it will take extra time for them to grab it for you. Occasionally I’ve gotten a bad bulb of garlic or some bananas that were much too green, but honestly? Those rare occurrences are hardly a deterrent for me, especially when I can contact the store and have the problem resolved either by an account credit or coming into the store to receive a new product that’s up to my satisfaction.

All in all, these disadvantages do not keep me from using the service. The advantages far outweigh the downsides, in my opinion!

Pick-Up Service Comparison

Before deciding which service you’d like to try out, here’s a quick comparison of all three:

Giant Eagle Target Wal-Mart
How to Order Website App Website or App
Cost Usually free (occasionally a $4.95 charge) Free Free
Minimum Order $35 None $30
Items Available Everything Almost Everything (only select grocery items) Groceries and Health & Beauty
Prices (Compared to In-Store) Same* Varies Occasionally Same
Discounts Allowed Paper Coupons, GE E-Coupons, and Fuelperks+ Cartwheel Only None
Pick-Up Time Scheduled (at least 4 hours in advance) Any Time (after you are notified that your order is ready) Scheduled (at least 4 hours in advance if ordered before 1 p.m., next day if ordered after 1 p.m. )
Pick-Up Timeframe 30 Minutes Long (limited slots available) Within 7 Days of Order 1 Hour Long (number of slots available per timeframe dependent upon specific store)
Payment Cash, Card, or Gift Card Card Card
Notification of Arrival Phone Call Tracking or Notify by App Tracking, Notify by App, or Phone Call
Out of Stock Items Substituted (may select option to allow or not allow when ordering, offered upon arrival) Refunded Substituted or Refunded (may select option to allow or not allow when ordering, specified in email, offered upon arrival, refunded if not accepted)

*Because Giant Eagle runs weekly store ads, if you order your groceries to be picked up on a Thursday, unless ordered that day, the sale prices will vary. Giant Eagle ads/sales run Thursday through Wednesday, so make sure to double check when sale prices end.

So is this the future of grocery shopping? Probably. It’s not uncommon knowledge that traffic in malls is declining because of the convenience of online shopping, so perhaps grocery pick-up is following along that trend.

In any case, I suggest trying it out! You might be surprised how much you like it, or you might absolutely hate it. You won’t know until you give it a shot! Now, if only Aldi did grocery pick-up…

Editor’s note: While other grocery stores in Northeast Ohio do offer grocery pick-up and/or delivery, Leah was only able to focus on the businesses located near her home. This list is not intended to be inclusive of all options, but serves as a reference for the pros/cons of grocery pick-up, as well as a few examples.

About the author

Leah is a wife, mom of two girls, avid writer, and frugal-living enthusiast. She currently lives in Brunswick and greatly enjoys her daughters Lily and Lacy, cooking and baking, typography and hand-lettering, and playing her baby grand. Her passion is to help others find great deals and save money with the ultimate goal of becoming debt-free and building wealth.


  1. You are a great writer! I order toilet paper and Kleenex from and my granddaughter orders from Boxed or Hollar sometimes.

    P.S. I am you dad’s cousin Becky Leeman. Hope to see you and your babies at the reunion!

  2. Edward Hetrick

    Wow girl! That is a GREAT article!

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