Before social distancing took over our lives, you could easily go online and have your groceries or food delivered to your doorstep. But the COVID-19 crisis has forced companies to take precautions that deprioritize the speed of their delivery services for the safety of both customers and employees alike.
Amazon, for instance, is no longer doing Same Day and 2-Day deliveries—Prime members who used to get their orders within one and two days now have to wait anywhere between three and seven days, or perhaps longer.
Other companies that offer delivery services, especially groceries, also have limited slots and longer wait times due to heavy demand.
This is where curbside pickup comes in. Low-contact pickup services took on new importance and popularity following the pandemic. For people who simply don’t have the time to wait several days to get their food or groceries, curbside pickup is a faster option over conventional delivery services.
But is curbside pickup safe? And what are the places that offer the best curbside pickup services?
What is Curbside Pickup?
This is how a typical curbside pickup goes: you place an order on an app or on the website, then you drive to the physical store. When you arrive, an employee will bring your order over and will either load your order/s in your car’s trunk or set it outside for pickup.
There are stores that set up designated pickup spots away from the front of the store to further minimize person-to-person interaction.
With curbside pickup, you don’t even have to leave your car and enter the store’s premises to browse its shelves for goods or collect your order.
Some companies that offer curbside pickup services will contact you to confirm that your order is ready for pickup. Others, mainly restaurants that don’t have dedicated apps, require you to get in touch with them over the phone once you arrive.
Curbside pickup reduces unwanted social contact by allowing you to pay online and, in the case of grocery pickups, allowing you to keep a safe distance from others by having your orders placed in the trunk instead of handed to you.
Compare this with a conventional drive-thru, such as those at restaurants, coffee shops, and pharmacies—you give your order to the employee, pay them for the goods, and wait for them to hand you what you bought. You’ll still have to be pretty close to the cashier or server in order to give your payment and take your order, although most restaurants are implementing their own unique measures to further reduce contact during the process.
Is Curbside Pickup Safe?
Curbside pickup seems to be the most logical solution for customers, store employees, and employers alike in these trying times of government-enforced social distancing and overloaded delivery services. By keeping interaction time to the bare minimum, it shrinks the window of opportunity for airborne transmission of the coronavirus.
However, the approach isn’t foolproof. According to health experts, if you touch an object or surface contaminated by respiratory droplets from a person with COVID-19, the virus can spread to your hands. And if you touch your face, which most people have a habit of doing, you risk the pathogens entering your body and infecting you.
In other words, curbside pickup isn’t 100% safe. However, there are a few things you can do to safeguard against the virus during these food or supply runs.
What are the Best Practices for Safe Curbside Pickup?
By limiting the risk of COVID-19 infection, curbside pickup is arguably safer than the traditional means of shopping, although ordering through deliveries remains the safest option since it doesn’t require any social interaction. But you can take it to the next level with these simple safety measures.
Use a face mask
Always cover your face with a face mask or cloth when you go to public areas. Even if you stay in your car and only open the door to grab the item, keep your face covered.
Practice good hand hygiene
You’ve heard this many times already, but one of the best defenses against COVID-19 infection is practicing good hand hygiene. Clean your hands regularly, preferably with soap and water to kill or inactivate any microbes that may have ended up on your hands.
Furthermore, wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after handling anything touched by other people, such as the goods you obtained via curbside pickup service.
Clean the surface of packaging and goods
The CDC advises sanitizing the surface of any object that often gets touched or handled by many people. You can extend this safety procedure to the items you obtain via curbside pickup. Spray disinfectant on the parts of the grocery or shopping bags that you will touch or hold. If you bought fruits and vegetables, rinse them thoroughly under running water.
For products that come wrapped or stored in packaging, clean all surfaces with disinfectant wipes or by spraying them down with at least 60% alcohol.
Curbside Pickup Services You Can Use Right Now
So are you ready to try curbside pickup? Here are some of the retailers and restaurants that offer this service:
Texan supermarket chain H-E-B started its first curbside pickup service in Houston in 2015. The option got so popular with shoppers that they filled the available time slots quickly.
H-E-B recently imposed a limit on how many days ahead a customer can schedule an order. You can only place an order up to seven days in advance. If you send your online grocery list days ahead, the staff can collect the items before the store’s opening time and during non-peak hours.
If you want to pick up your groceries the very next day, H-E-B will charge you a personal shopper fee of $4.95. Orders placed more than two days out are free of charge.
To use the H-E-B curbside pickup service, download the app or visit the retailer’s official website. Simply add items to your cart, select curbside pickup, and select your desired pickup time (this may be difficult, as slots usually fill up quickly). Finally, check out and pay for your items.
Take note of your chosen pickup time slot. On the day, send a text message to the number on the sign to announce your arrival once you’re near the designated pickup point. An H-E-B employee will bring your groceries to your vehicle.
Walmart offers two types of curbside pickup services. Its Grocery Pickup service includes all items in the grocery department, while Non-Grocery Pickup covers the rest of the departments and some non-perishable food items like cereal.
To place an order with either Grocery or Non-Grocery Pickup, visit the service’s website or download and use the Grocery app. You can also shop using the dedicated Walmart app and access Walmart Grocery from there.
Navigate the app to find the products you want and add them to your cart. Next, select your Walmart store and reserve a time slot. Then, checkout and pay for the items.
You will get a confirmation email. Since same-day pickups are virtually impossible these days, there will likely be a few days between the day you ordered and the day you actually get to pick up your order, so you will have time to add or remove items if you happen to need more items or change your mind about something.
Watch the video above for more instructions on Walmart Curbside Pickup.
Like Walmart, Target offers curbside pickup services through its Drive-Up service. It offers both grocery and non-grocery goods.
Use the Target app to place your order and choose Drive-Up as the means of delivery. Once your order is ready for pickup, you will receive a notification and a separate email.
Choose “I’m on my way” on the app’s Discover tab to let Target know that you’re en route. Park at one of the waiting spots reserved for Target curbside pickup customers.
An employee will come with your groceries and scan the barcode on your app to confirm the order.
Keep in mind that, due to high demand, Target has made most of its items unavailable for shipping or pickup. When shopping, check if the item is eligible for Drive-Up before proceeding with the order.
Delivering quality products and services to the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, Wegmans Food Markets is arguably America’s most beloved supermarket chain. And in recent years, it has partnered with Instacart to enable grocery delivery and curbside pickup services.
Instacart’s Personal Shoppers select the items, bring them to the checkout counter, and pack them. A Wegmans employee will then bring the grocery bags to your waiting vehicle.
You can place an online order using Wegmans’ proprietary app or an Instacart app. Wegmans curbside pickup hours are between 9 A.M. and 9 P.M.
Items may be priced slightly higher than in-store prices to cover the cost of Instacart’s shopping services.
Formerly called Clicklist, Kroger Pickup lets you order fresh meat, produce, and seafood online. You can leave special instructions about the items you want, such as restricting the bananas to ripe yellow ones only.
You can avail of Kroger curbside pickup services at 1,600 stores. The supermarket charges you $4.95, or $7.99 if you want to expedite the order.
The Midwestern pioneer of the supercenter concept, Meijer offers its Pickup service in select areas. The curbside pickup service is also available to Meijer Home Delivery members.
Meijer teamed up with delivery company Shipt to enable both delivery and curbside pickup.
It charges $4.95 for each order.
Discount supermarket chain ALDI offers its Grocery Pickup services at select stores in specific areas. You can place an order for fresh food items and everyday essentials at their Shop.ALDI.us website.
ALDI charges a small fee for curbside pickup, plus the items may be priced slightly higher than in-store. To qualify for curbside delivery, the order must amount to at least $10.
You also get charged a small fee for every grocery bag.
If you have an Instacart account and app, you can also do your shopping from there, but note that some items on the ALDI website may not appear on the Instacart app.
To start, pick ALDI from the list of stores. Then, add items to your online shopping cart, select a time slot for curbside pickup, and checkout and pay when done.
Giant Eagle provides curbside pickup services for its customers. The supermarket currently runs a promo where it doesn’t charge you for the service if you ordered $35 or more of items.
Shoppers who want to save on their grocery bill can bring printed coupons with them when they come to pick up their orders.
Florida-based Publix Super Markets is an old hand when it comes to curbside pickup. It ran a pilot program in Atlanta and Tampa from 2010 to 2012 but discontinued the service due to discouraging results.
In 2017, Publix took a second shot at curbside pickup. With the help of its delivery partner Instacart, the new Publix Curbside Pickup service took off.
The curbside pickup process for Publix is the same as other Instacart partners on this list. Visit the link above for more details.
Hankering for juicy riblets and other stalwarts of the American casual dining experience? Applebee’s To-Go takeout service now offers curbside pickup alongside conventional delivery services. You can order online through the restaurant’s website or the mobile app.
If you love Tex-Mex classics like baby back ribs and sizzling fajitas, you’ll definitely appreciate Chili’s curbside pickup service. Order online using their website or app and wait at their designated pickup point until an employee brings you your meal to enjoy at home.
Back in 2017, when it still went by its old name of Dunkin’ Donuts, America’s favorite coffee and donut chain tested a curbside pickup system for its loyalty program members. It was an experiment to see if its stores could attract new customers without having to build proper drive-through facilities.
Today, Dunkin’ curbside pickup sales continue to go strong. It helps that the company treats DD Perks Rewards Programs members to promos like free donuts every Friday if they order a drink.
Other Curbside Pickup Services You May Need
Aside from groceries, supermarkets, and restaurants, there are some specialized retailers that let you pick up your purchase outside their store premises.
Almost all Best Buy stores offer contactless pickup services. If a store stocks a consumer electronic item, you can likely order it and pick it up from the store’s curbside within the hour after you make the purchase.
Buy Buy Baby not only kept their store doors open, but they also made it possible for you to buy what you need without stepping through the doors. Instead, you can order online, drive over, and pick up your purchase without ever leaving your car.
The store guarantees that your order will be ready within two hours or less.
Visit the Buy Buy Baby website to place an order. When you browse the product offering, make sure the items you want remain in stock and can be picked up at the nearest store.
Once you reserve your order, you will get a confirmation email and, later, a head’s up that you can pick up your purchase. When you arrive at the storefront, call the store so that an employee can bring your order to you.
Aside from the standard in-store pickup service offered by any Home Depot, some stores recently added the option of curbside pickup for customers who ordered online.
Contact your local Home Depot and ask if it offers low-contact pickup.
If your line of work requires a steady supply of arts and crafts materials, or you just want to spruce up your living quarters to fend off cabin fever, contact the nearest Michaels.
Several stores offer curbside pickup with a cutoff time of 6 P.M. To place an order, browse the website for items labeled “Free Store Pickup.”
Now, we can’t forget about Fluffy, can we? Your pet’s needs are essential, too!
Petco entices customers to take advantage of their curbside pickup service by slapping a 10 percent discount on those orders. You can expect to pick up your pet’s food and supplies within a few hours after you made the purchase on the Petco app or on the website.
Finally, for people who use their home as their office, most Staples stores offer curbside pickup. Call the local store in advance to find out if it offers contactless pickup.
Office equipment and supplies marked as “Pick up in 1 hour” are eligible for curbside pickup. Once you have placed your order, call the store and let them know that you’re on the way to pick up your order.