Single? Poor? Some online grocers don’t want you…

I’ve been shopping for groceries online since there was just Tesco, when their virtual store came on a CD and was loaded into your PC. The software was subsequently updated every time you logged in – not an edifying experience, pre-broadband.

A lot of things have improved since then, as is to be expected, but some have taken a decided turn for the worse since the last time I looked at this a couple of years ago.

For openers, let’s be clear about one thing, no matter how popular it might be with vendors – there’s never any justification for a minimum order value – you’re paying for the bloody service whether you order £20 worth or £200. Indeed, as delivering a £200 order will use more fuel than a £20** order, there’s an argument for a surcharge on large orders. Especially as 10 £20 orders will yield far more delivery revenue than one £200 order (delivered free).

**It also takes far longer to pick.

Sainsbury’s, if you’re poor, or a singleton (or both), will rip you off by imposing a surcharge on orders under £40. Their normal delivery charges start at £2.95, but are subject to this caveat:-

Orders below £40 will be delivered for a maximum £6.95 charge.

So what’s the minimum sub-£40 charge then? The clear implication is that there is one, though in my experience it’s the same as the maximum (they do need to clarify this – presumably they do at checkout?), and is the reason I now shop at Tesco, who charge me £3 no matter how little or how much I buy (my orders are usually £35-ish – getting it over £40 often means buying stuff I neither want nor need). They don’t have a minimum order value (I checked the Help pages to be sure).

Tesco has no minimum order value, and no delivery surcharges. Plus it’s usually easy to get the lowest delivery charge during the day. I shop Friday for delivery on Tuesday afternoon, which leaves ample time to change the order if I need to.

Tesco is also the only one to allow you to specify alternatives if your chosen items aren’t available, thus you will always get something you want. The others simply allow a choice of substitutions (unpredictable – allow substitutions at Sainsbury’s and you’re liable to get all own-brand stuff, as I did once; not allowed subs there since), or no substitutions – not helpful (note – it’s a while since I used Ocado, they might have changed, but I doubt it).

Tesco will deliver your order into your kitchen if you wish (I suppose the others do too, but if that’s a service you need, do check).

A few years ago Tesco had problems with “van breakdowns”. After the third time I challenged them to deny they weren’t consolidating unpopular time slots – they didn’t. They’ve been OK this time round though.

Ocado is quite definitely the enemy of the impecunious and the single, a pity as their quality is excellent (though their pickers leave something to be desired):-

The value of the trolley needs to be over £40.00 to be able to checkout your order. The (delivery) prices above are based on a standard order size of £75.00 or more. For orders below £75.00, there is a minimum charge of £3.00 and a maximum of £6.99.

As their normal minimum delivery charge is £2.99 (over £75), £3.00 makes no sense unless it’s a surcharge – they should clarify this.

Asda, despite telling you in their TV ads how wonderfully cheap they are, impose a £25 minimum order value, thus negating the point of being cheap  (with plans to increase it to £35, currently being trialled in London). The information, though, isn’t up front, but buried in the bowels of the Help applet. No delivery surcharges. Arguably the worst website of the bunch, though.

And that’s pretty much it, until Morrisons get their act together and introduce home deliveries.

Finally, you should be able to mooch around the online stores, checking prices and delivery costs, without having to create an account and log in, but you can’t.


14 thoughts on “Single? Poor? Some online grocers don’t want you…

  1. i do a monthly shop at Tesco online rather than a weekly one. this means only one delivery charge per 4 week month and i usually opt for a Tuesday aft delivery tween 2-4pm for £3.50 thus saving £10.50 per month on delivery alone/plus i can buy more of the BOGOF items too that if i shopped weekly i wouldn’t be able to take advantage of. they bring the groceries right indoors for me and put the bags on the settee which enables me to put more away myself than if they were put on the floor. they also put the heavier items (i.e. boxes of 6 x 1litres of milk or packs of 8 x 500mls of spring water) in a designated place ready for my daughter to put away for me later in the day. takes me ages to put the rest away bit by bit but that’s my exercise for the
    i rarely shop at Asda online since they started the £25 minimum order even tho my order is always over 100quid a month. and never shop at Sainsbury’ at all.
    i too wish Morrison’s would do an online service but don’t look like they going to.

  2. Hi Ron, as ever a useful and informative subject. You did, however, miss out one other store that delivers, certainly in my area, Iceland. I’m not single, though the “poor” bit applies still, and ,if we don’t get a rapid change in so called government it’ll be worse than poor! I have used Iceland, Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda, Tesco are the best of them, by a long mile but Iceland are also reliable, they just don’t offer the same range of non frozen goods. Both Tesco and Iceland have brought deliveries in and put them where my wife and I could reach them to pack away, and on a couple of occasions as I was the last drop on the Iceland route the driver has packed the frozen stuff into the freezer, while I boiled the kettle for a cuppa! Since we no longer have a viable milkman here, he cut the round to just once a week, we are reliant on deliveries when my health gets so bad that I can’t drive. For all the things that Tesco gets wrong, the deliveries seem to work well, for us at least!
    Right I’m off to post the “No Trick or Treat” notices, the first ones started around here this evening! It’s yet another Evil American thing that is polluting our youth, should be banned along with fireworks and carol singers! (Yes I’m a full blooded Victor Meldrew!)

    • Iceland doesn’t count as home delivery though, Peter, because, like the Co-op, you have to do your shopping in-store first – seriously unhelpful. Waitrose operate the same system, which is why they’re absent too – Ocado is their online operation.


    • just off the supermarket subject for a sec… Peter.. are you against carol singing from a religious point of view or monetary? if the latter im with you as it should not be done for gain.its supposed to bring cheer into the homes of people at christmas.

  3. Thank you for this Ron – as poverty increases it is helpful to know which is the least bad of the majors. Tesco seems to bear the most opprobrium but there is a reason why it is number one 🙂

  4. Agree despite bashing Tesco get for trying to take over the world for budget shopping they are best. Also you can book slot several days in advance and just buy one thing, securing delivery time at busy holiday periods.

  5. Thanks Ron, useful info! I personally find Sainsburys to have the worst website, but it’s a close competition 😉

    Another consideration about stores is whether they will deliver to flats – I bought only from Asda because they were the only shop who would deliver above the first floor! Being told you have to take it up yourself, when you are disabled and thus unable to leave the flat? Not really an option.
    I believe in the T&C for the other stores, it’s “at the discretion of the store/driver” as to whether they will take it to a higher flat if there’s no lift, but their “discretion” for our local stores was – no.

    I find the minimum order charge ridiculous and difficult too – it means we absolutely have to buy large amounts in advance.

    Asda now do a thing where they will show you when a delivery van will be in your area anyway… but they don’t reduce the delivery cost for those slots! At least they do offer slots that are cheap though, but it means you pay a lot more for peak times.

    Anyway, since I now live in a more accessible location, I shall check out Tesco. I recall they do a mean Tuscan Bean Soup. Yasss!

  6. Pingback: Food for thought — North/South Food

  7. One advantage of using Sainsburys deliveries intermittently, is that if you don’t use them for a while, they’ll send you a voucher for a tenner off your shopping – but you do have to spend around £80 to redeem it. However, it’s not a bad discount if you can afford to stock up.

    • Hmm . . . Never happened to me, though Ocado have made lots of similar offers over the past year.

      However, £80 (£75 for Ocado), just confirms what I’ve said in this post.

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