Butte residents have a few new options when it comes to the ways they can shop for groceries, thanks to initiatives retailers have recently rolled out.
Everywhere you look these days things seem to be on demand. Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have been available to Montanans since 2016, and last summer Bozeman-based Café Courier launched its Butte service, which delivers meals to customers from select restaurants.
Now grocery purveyors have jumped aboard the on-demand model.
Since June 13, Walmart customers have been able to order their groceries online and pick them up the same day at the store on south Harrison Avenue.
To use the service, shoppers purchase their groceries on the web at grocery.walmart.com or through the company’s smartphone app, where they can choose a pickup time. There’s no additional fee, and customers pay for their groceries online.
Next, shoppers pull up to a new pickup area on the north side of the store, where they are greeted by employees who hand them their orders.
Clad in bright orange paint and demarcated with an orange carport to match, the new pickup zone is hard to miss.
For those who don’t want to go through the trouble of getting into their vehicle to get their groceries, they can get them delivered from Safeway via a third-party service called Instacart.
Similar to a ridesharing service, shoppers place an order and “hail” an Instacart driver on the web or via an app. The drivers, meanwhile, are independent contractors who sign up to be part of the service.
Instacart started serving Butte in June 2018 and offers grocery deliveries from Safeway in addition to delivery from CVS and Petco. Customers can sign up for a monthly membership for $10 or a yearly membership for $99 and get free delivery for orders $35 and up. A la carte services are available for non-members starting at $3.99 for orders of $35 or more and there is a five percent service fee.
Petco store manager Charles Keltz said to his knowledge there haven’t been any shoppers who have taken advantage of the service from his store. Nonetheless, he said he felt the delivery option was a good idea and would be beneficial for customers who aren’t able to make it to the store.
Butte resident Casey Keller drives for Instacart and says he regularly picks up groceries for customers from Safeway.
Keller says he makes around $10 per order and also get tips and serves between three to five customers per day. Being successful with the company, he said, requires consistently accepting orders.
Keller says he doesn’t see his customers as lazy but instead sees them as people who are looking for more time to pursue their interests, do the things they enjoy and spend time with their families. Overall, he said, he feels customers want more “time freedom” — a popular phrase in the service industry.
Keller, who’s been driving for Instacart for about a year, said he’s currently practicing his own version of time freedom with a nontraditional working life. In addition to driving for Instacart, he also drives for Uber and operates a photography studio from his home.
“I just like being busy,” said Keller describing his lifestyle, adding that he likes to be independent, so working for the two companies appeals to him.
A veteran, Keller said he also sees his work with the two companies as a way of providing service.
“It’s just kind of who I am,” he said.
Butte resident Jim Miller says he’s been in the delivery game for a long time.
Five years ago Miller started the delivery company Let Us Run, which will deliver to customers just about anything that will fit into his vehicle. Recently, Miller traveled to Bozeman to get a hot tub part for one of his customers. He also traveled between Townsend and Kalispell to pick up and deliver two hound puppies. He’s also delivered gas to stranded truckers, and he says the weirdest request he’s ever gotten is an order for two goldfish from Walmart.
Unlike his counterparts, Miller's customers order the old-fashioned way — by telephone. Many of his customers are people looking for convenience, but he also has a lot of senior customers and people who have difficulty leaving their homes.
Miller works from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday and only does grocery deliveries on Saturdays, which require two days' notice. He charges $6 per bag of merchandise — which he calls “items” — and $2.50 for dinner deliveries. Long-distance deliveries he charges extra. If there are changes to his regular schedule, he posts them on Facebook.
Miller says giving back to his community is important to him. He’s the man behind Butte’s Backpack program and, in addition to helping out his customers when he can, he offers free lunch delivery and coffee delivery during the day, though customers still have to pay for their items.
Miller says he gets questioned a lot about why he offers free coffee and lunch service. To some it might not make sense, but he says he feels as though he’s providing a service.
“People need it,” he said. “That’s another way of giving back to the community.”
Miller said he hasn’t been hampered by the presence of Instacart and Café Courier in Butte. He said he has a loyal customer base, which he’s developed through goodwill.
“Butte knows who I am,” he said.
Spokespeople from Safeway couldn’t be reached Friday. Spokespeople from Instacart and Walmart responded to queries from The Montana Standard, but declined to be quoted on the record.