If you are avoiding the shops or are unable to leave your home during the Covid-19 outbreak, it is worth knowing your online shopping options. Picture: 123RF/MELPOMEN
If you are avoiding the shops or are unable to leave your home during the Covid-19 outbreak, it is worth knowing your online shopping options. Picture: 123RF/MELPOMEN

As the coronavirus spreads, more people are practising social distancing, and many will need to self-isolate in the months to come.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize last week estimated that 60%-70% of the population would contract the virus and about 20% of those would be serious cases.

If you are avoiding the shops or are unable to leave your home, it is worth knowing what your online shopping options are. We tested online shopping and compared a basket of goods at Pick n Pay, Checkers and Woolworths.

All the retailers have implemented limits on items to avoid the irrational panic buying that has occurred in the past few weeks. It also seems that the online grocery shopping services are not working as well as they normally would, due to high volumes and “unprecedented demand” – with Pick n Pay and Woolworths both only able to deliver more than a week after our test order was placed.

First, there was the grocery basket comparison:

Pick n Pay 

The process to register and sign up for online shopping was quick and easy. I hit a stumbling block when I tried to send myself a password reminder and realised that the system still had my old contact number from a few years ago.

The helpline (0860 3030 30) was able to update my details within minutes and the actual online shopping was quick and easy. However, every type of rice I selected, including the Tastic 2kg rice, was out of stock.

The earliest delivery date available was eight days after I placed the order and Pick n Pay had the highest delivery fee of R60. The limit for purchasing most items was six per customer.

Pick n Pay also seemed to be the only retailer that addressed hygiene and contact concerns when it came to deliveries, with a message announcing that no-contact deliveries had been implemented.

This means that when the driver gets to your address, they will place the order at a safe distance for you to fetch it. The driver then records your name, the date and time of delivery in front of you and you don’t need to sign any paperwork.

Woolworths 

Woolworths also had a quick and easy sign-up process for online shopping and my first shop qualified for free delivery. The milk was the only item not in stock.

The limit for purchasing staple items such as rice was five per customer.  

It was all quite smooth until I got to the checkout. I tried to complete the transaction four times over the space of several hours and was repeatedly told “the service is not working”. 

The last time, a banner popped up at the top of the screen advising “some customers are receiving error messages. Bank systems are busy, but please keep trying while we investigate”. 

The earliest delivery slot for the Woolworths grocery order was 17 days from when I placed the order due to “unprecedented demand”. 

Checkers

Although Checkers does not deliver, it is currently piloting its Sixty60 programme in parts of Cape Town and Johannesburg such as Willowbridge, Rondebosch, Melrose and Bryanston.

It is not available on the website but is an app that must be downloaded to your phone. You shop on the app and your groceries are delivered within 60 minutes. There is no delivery fee while the app is in its pilot stages.

Reports from consumers on Facebook are that the app does seem to be a bit slower currently due to high volume usage, but still manages to deliver your groceries in a short space of time once you have placed your order. Checkers is limiting people to 30 items per order and a purchasing limit of three per item.

I thought it was worth doing a cost comparison and Checkers emerged as the cheapest basket. Even if you factored in a lower delivery fee of R50, Checkers would still have been cheapest at R209.95. The Bokomo Weetbix does seem grossly overpriced in comparison to the other retailers.

Stay safe when shopping online 

  • Don’t pay for your online shopping using a public Wi-Fi connection.
  • Never save your personal and banking details on any merchant website. If the option presents itself, always click ‘No’.
  • Remember to log off immediately after you have finished shopping.
  • Ensure you download the latest antivirus software on your PC and mobile device.
  • If you haven’t done so already, register with your bank for notifications of any transactions that take place on your account.
  • Use strong passwords for your login details – include numbers, symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters. Change your passwords regularly and don’t use the same password for more than one shopping site.

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