COVID STORIES | STAYING SAFE IN TEXAS
Ordering Groceries Online Through H-E-B Curbside & Delivery
Texas’ favorite grocery store is a leader in social distancing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic
Before the coronavirus, we used to write down our grocery list on a notepad, drive to the closest H-E-B (down the street), spend 30 minutes to an hour getting what we needed and coming home to put it all up in the kitchen. But when things started to get bad and the news began promoting social distancing and masks, our habits changed quickly.
One of the first thing’s I did was try H-E-B’s home delivery. When my mom’s birthday was a couple of days away, I thought it’d be nice to deliver groceries to her house which is an hour away from ours. I was able to place an order and schedule it to be delivered but the only problem was, the earliest delivery date available was 2 weeks later. I placed the order and forgot about it until we started getting the notices by email and text that the delivery date was coming up. There’s an hour window of time that they tell you they’ll drop off the groceries and to keep social distancing practices, they leave everything at the front door.
After placing an order for delivery for my parents, I placed an order for ourselves for Curbside pickup — where you can order groceries online, a personal shopper does the shopping for you in-store, and you go pick them up by parking in a designated parking spot and text the number of the spot your in so when you arrive, so their “partner” can come outside and place the groceries in your trunk. They ask you to pop your trunk open, not get out of the car, and after they put the groceries in your trunk, they ask you to close trunk.
In my experience, it took a long time to find all the groceries we needed on the website the first time I tried it. After that first experience it gets easier — especially if you’re ordering the same items. What takes a lot of time is browsing all the available items. It’s like the first time you walk down every single aisle in the grocery store to check out what they have. After about an hour of online shopping, you’re given a ‘time’s up’ warning and have to check-out or risk losing your pickup date/time. For reference: this time limitation caused us to go from picking up in 3 days, to picking up in 6 days.
Now there’s a note on the website that says orders are only available 7 days in advance. That may also depend on where you are and the capacity and availability of personal shoppers vs online orders of the store you select to reserve a time-slot from. Try selecting a different store than the one you normally go to if you’re having trouble finding the items you need or are looking for an earlier pickup date. In our case we used to shop at the H-E-B that’s 5 minutes away from our house. But that one’s smaller, so right now we’re ordering from a bigger store about 15 minutes down the road.
Once an order is placed, there was a limit of 4 items you could add to your cart, up to 4 hours before your scheduled pickup time. Since I ran out of time to shop and I didn’t realize there was a time limit, I ended up scheduling two orders. I checked out the items I already had and placed another order for the items left on our list that we needed. One was scheduled to be picked up on a Wednesday morning and the other to be picked up a couple of days later on Friday afternoon. I added 4 items to the first order but I forgot to add the additional items I needed for the second. So this week, we’re missing dates, biscuits, and vegan salchichas (sausage links) — not a big deal. Since our last order, they’ve increased the add-on limit to 10 items.
We’ve now picked up two rounds of groceries and are about to place our third order. It does make us feel a lot safer not having to go inside the stores anymore where lots of people were walking closer than 6 feet from each other the last time we went inside. Not everyone was wearing masks and no matter how safe we try to be, we can’t account for others’ actions. We did notice the lines forming outside of the stores now to try to limit the number of people inside so I’m hopeful things are better now.
My heart goes out to all the partners (that’s what H-E-B calls their employees) who are working in stores during this time — those who are working with masks and gloves, disinfecting all the items, surfaces and shopping carts for everyone’s safety. Thank you all so much for all you do.
There are also partners who aren’t as worried or at least as cautious as others. The last time we picked up groceries Curbside at the store on Louetta Rd in Houston, we saw two partners putting grocery bags inside someone’s popped SUV trunk but only one of them was wearing a mask. The other had hers hanging off of her ear (*pictured below).
When we bring our items home, we unbag everything on our kitchen table and wipe every item down before putting it up in our fridge and pantry. Yes — it’s a pain. But contracting the virus would be worse so we don’t complain, and tag team our new routine. Once everything is put away, we wipe the table down too.
We’ve been surprised at some of the items we’ve ordered online. Sometimes, the store doesn’t have the item you’re looking for so they substitute it for another item and if there aren’t any items to substitute it for, they remove it from your order. They call you the day you’re supposed to pick up your order to notify you of these kinds of changes and make sure the substituted items are okay with you.
For example, a partner called to let me know they didn’t have the large bottle of cranberry apple juice I ordered so instead they gave me 3 small juices. In my parent’s case, they received everything I ordered for them but my mom mentioned a week later that the 2 mangos and the cantaloupe were rotten so she threw them away. Normally my mom would go back to the store and exchange or return items like that but she said it’s not worth it right now. I agree.
I’ve also mistakenly ordered items without paying attention to how many ounces are on the labels. Be careful. I thought I ordered a large bag of maduro (sweet plantain) chips but it ended up being a tiny bag. I also couldn’t order our usual carton of oat milk until today, almond milk was the only dairy free alternative we saw available online but they’ve since added our favorite oat milk to online options.
That said — these are minor drawbacks and in the bigger picture, we’re grateful for this service that helps so many more of us stay safe and able to distance ourselves from each other until the pandemic passes. There are a lot of people upset about the limited number of time slots available and having to order in advance. They’re definitely taking to Twitter to voice their complaints. I don’t fully understand all the anger and frustration with having to order in advance during this time. Hopefully, we can all keep a positive attitude and work together to get used to this new routine for the time being — and be grateful that opportunities like this even exist. It’s a privilege.
Support for Seniors 60+
If you’re a senior or have members of your family who are seniors, here’s an interesting story. Yesterday for Easter, I walked my parents through ordering Curbside online for the first time. If we can do it, so can you and your family. My parents turned 74 and 80 years old last month. They were able to start grocery shopping on my dad’s phone within minutes while my mom video called me through Facebook Messenger, pointing the camera at his phone to show me what they were seeing as I walked them through the steps. I’m pretty sure they’re going to love ordering and picking up groceries this way, even after the pandemic.
H-E-B has also partnered with Favor Delivery, so now seniors ages 60+ can get groceries delivered on the same day for an additional $10 which goes straight to the Favor “runner” as a tip. There’s a 25-item limit per order. There’s also a Senior Support Fund that people can donate to where 100% of contributions are applied to seniors’ orders to ensure low-cost access to home delivery during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Seniors can call the H-E-B & Favor Senior Support Line, staffed by H-E-B & Favor volunteers, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week. Volunteers will apply contributions from this fund to seniors’ orders to help cover the cost of home delivery.”
The Senior Support Line is: 1–833–397–0080.
If you and your family is like us and are doing everything you can to help flatten the curve, consider trying out H-E-B Curbside and Delivery — and share this with others in your family who are still going to the grocery store, with or without a mask. Texas’ favorite grocery store calls it #TexansHelpingTexans. ❤