We Tried This: Instacart

Let someone else do your Costco and Foodland runs with this new service.

Editors’ note: The HONOLULU Magazine staff is always excited to try new things. With this web series, we bring you activities we tried for the first time.


The personal shopper from Instacart, which started grocery-delivery service in Honolulu this month, delivered groceries from Petco to my house.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox


Starting October, Instacart, a San Francisco-based, same-day grocery delivery service started by a former Amazon employee, launched in Honolulu and Kahului, offering customers the convenience of ordering groceries online (or through an app) and having them delivered directly to their front door.


While Safeway lauched its own delivery service last October, the chain supermarket is part of this program, too, along with Coscto, Foodland, Times, Petco and CVS (Longs Drugs). (Costco recently started a home-delivery service, but it’s not available in Hawai‘i right now.)


SEE ALSO: We Tried This: Safeway Delivery Service


The delivery fees vary. For regular delivery, fee is $5.99 if you spend more than $35 total; if you spend less than $35, it’s $9.99. If you want delivery in an hour, the fees jump to $7.99 and $11.99, respectively. There’s also something called a “busy pricing fee” for orders scheduled during peak times.


You can also sign up for an annual membership starting at $79 a year, with the biggest perk being a limited number of free deliveries per month if you spend more than $35. Only the Unlimited Plan ($149 a year) offers free, unlimited deliveries.




It’s simple: Log onto instacart.com or download the app on your smartphone, create an account (or sign in via Facebook) and begin shopping. Pick a store and browse its departments (produce, deli, bakery, personal care, pets). You can search for specific goods, too. Once you find the item you want, add it to your shopping cart, pick your delivery time and check out when you’re done. You pay for the total amount, even if you’re buying from multiple stores.


You can find just about everything you need, including all the popular items from these grocery stores (think Kirkland toilet paper from Costco and Signature Café soups from Safeway). But you won’t find everything. I couldn’t search for specifically locally grown produce, for example. But I was impressed to see a bunch of Hawai‘i-made goods available, including Big Island honey, Kona coffee, NOH spices, even locally raised beef.


What I got from Petco and Safeway.


Warning: The prices are often higher than what you’d find in the brick-and-mortar store. According to the site, Instacart adds a markup to items from Safeway and Times to cover the cost of the service. Petco, CVS and Foodland say their prices are the same as in-store prices. And Costco says its prices vary.


It also pays to shop around on the site. Prices for the same goods vary from store to store. For example, bananas at Foodland were $2.49 a pound; the same fruits were 99 cents a pound at Safeway.


And you can’t order alcohol. This was a huge disappointment. (By comparison, Safeway’s delivery service does.)


Personal shoppers hired by Instacart pick up your items and bring them to you in their own cars. (It’s not like Safeway, which has a fleet of refrigerated trucks.) There’s one shopper for each store, so if you’re buying from Safeway, Costco and Petco, as I did, you’ll have three different people driving to your home. And, unlike the Safeway delivery service, these drivers accept tips. You can also opt to tip them online.


Once you’ve placed your order, Instacart will send you live updates on  your order to your smartphone or inbox. The updates include the name of your shopper, when she started shopping for you, when she’s done and in her car, and when she’s heading to your house.


Petco and Safeway delivered in the two-hour window. The shoppers—one was also an Uber driver—brought the groceries to my doorstep. I signed for them and off they went. There were a few substitutions made that I had been notified about, but otherwise, everything I wanted had been delivered. Easy!


The shopper from Costco, though, never showed up. I got an email from “Sarah with Instacart,” who explained that  the shopper had an emergency and had to cancel the shift. I could either opt to reschedule the delivery for the next day or cancel the order altogether. I chose to reschedule and received my Costco goods—yes, toilet paper, among other things—the following afternoon.



What you can order from Costco—and without a membership!


Anyone too busy (or lazy) to shop, lives in a condo or can’t get around easily. It’s better if you’re familiar with the products sold at each store; browsing millions of items can be overwhelming and more time consuming than just browsing the aisles yourself.


If you don’t have Costco membership, this is a great option since you don’t need one to buy goods from here.



The way we shop at Costco and Petco, we could definitely benefit from the extra help lugging bags of paper towels and dog food up our stairs. But I actually enjoy walking up and down the aisles at grocery stores, which always sparks my need to buy items not on my list. But I can’t think of anything better than never having to park at the ‘Iwilei Costco parking lot again.



  • Don’t rely on this service for specific products or items you need urgently. You may not always get what you want or in the time that you want it.

  • It’s better to have a list of what you need or want before scrolling through the site. If you’re just browsing, the experience can be a major time suck.

  • Tip your driver, either in person or online.