Friday, October 13, 2017

Instacart Review – Working as a Full Service Shopper

A few months back I was browsing job listings and found one for a company called Instacart. I had not heard of it before, but it turns out Instacart is a grocery shopping and delivery service that is available nationwide. It allows customers to order groceries from many of their local stores through the Instacart app or through the website. I enjoy grocery shopping and have some experience with delivery, so I decided to apply.

Applying and Getting Started
The online application was incredibly quick. As I remember, it did not even ask for much other than basic information. A couple weeks later I was invited to schedule an “in person” session. At this session, I was able to ask questions, do a practice shop, and get set up with an Instacart credit card. After this, I was able to start picking hours. From what I understand now, they have tried to phase out the in person session so you will be able to get your card by mail.

Before getting started, I did the tutorials, read all the information in the help center, and tried to learn as much as possible on sites like Youtube where other shoppers have posted about their experience. While Instacart provides you with the basics you need to know, there is a lot more information out there to learn. I eventually found a Facebook group that is active and has a lot of tips and advice from other shoppers.

First Impressions and First Day
On my first day, I was scheduled to work a shift from 8-10am. They send you a message 30 minutes before your shift starts that tells you they are looking for an order for you, or that there is an order ready for you that will start at a certain time and location. Since it was my first day, I did not really know where I was supposed to be so I went to the Whole Foods where I had the in store session. I kept an eye on the app and waited for an order.

Turns out, that day and time it was slow so I ended up not getting any orders. I soon learned that you do not have to head out to a store until they actually assign you an order. If you live within your zone, you can actually stay home until they have an order ready for you.

Shopping and Using the App
The next day I started getting orders. I was a little nervous at first, but overall the job is pretty easy. You are given a list of items to find in the store. Most of them will have pictures and details to help find them. Once you find the item, you use the camera on the phone to scan the barcode. This will tell you if you found the right item.

If you can't find something, or something is out of stock, you have the option to find a replacement or to refund the item. You can also message the customer during the shop to get feedback, for example if something they wanted was out of stock and there are a few other options available.

Once you are done, you go to checkout and use your Instacart card to pay for the order. Usually this goes pretty smoothly. So far there was only one time where I had an issue where the card got declined but customer support was able to fix it fairly quickly.

After you pay for the order, you pack up the groceries and navigate to the customer address given in the app. Once you get to the customer's house, you give them the groceries, mark the order as“Delivered” and you are all set!

Overall Impression
I have been working as a Full Service shopper for a few months now and I really enjoy it! I like the independence and flexibility of the schedule. Also the money is pretty good considering the job is not very difficult and does not require much in terms of qualifications or advanced training.

As a Full Service Shopper, you do the shopping and delivering. For some markets, they do have positions where you can do shop only or deliver only. I enjoy the diversity of doing both as it keeps you moving and makes it so it does not become boring.

How much you will like this job can also depend on your location and zone. Some zones are more busy than others. Also the pay rate can vary quite a bit depending on which market you are working in. My zone is somewhat newer so it is not very busy but they do offer an hourly guarantee so you will be guaranteed to make a certain amount per hour, even if you don't get that many orders during your shift.

As I got into the social media groups, I noticed that many people out there working for Instacart are not happy with the company and some of the changes they have made recently. Apparently it used to pay better and because of a change that was made, it caused the tips to go down which people were not happy about.

Personally I don't have a problem with the company and I think the pay is pretty good at least in the zone where I am working. When I worked at previous jobs I used to dread going to work each day. With Instacart I actually look forward to working each day. If you like grocery shopping and driving and it sounds like something you might be interested in, I recommend checking out Instacart to become a Full Service Shopper.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Youtube Channels To Check Out for 2017

Each year we come up with a list of the best Youtube channels, for example last year with the Best Youtube Channels of 2016. This year, instead of waiting until the end of the year to share some of the best new channels, I figured we could give a sneak peak of some of the new channels to check out for 2017. This list features channels that have not been covered in any years prior. Here are some of the best Youtube channels for 2017 so far:

1. FLEB (Puzzles)
Fleb is a puzzle enthusiast and designer who makes videos about different kinds of puzzles. In each video, he tells us a little bit about the puzzle and then goes over the process of how to solve it. In case you do not know much about puzzles, you may be surprised at how many different types of puzzles are out there and how much creativity goes into making them.
In this video, Fleb goes over how to solve the X Box mechanical puzzle.


2. See Jane Drill (Do It Yourself / Home Improvement)
Leah from See Jane Drill makes some of the best and most easy to understand do-it-yourself type videos. I found her channel when searching for tips on one of my own home improvement projects. She is very skilled and knowledgeable in this area and she makes videos that are very helpful when fixing things or doing new projects around the house.
In this video, she goes over how to unlock a bathroom door if someone accidentally gets locked inside.


3. Katie Ryan (Funny Characters / Vlogs)
Ava from the Katie Ryan channel is a young girl with a big personality. She is known for her characters which are basically exaggerated impressions of adults. She is the star but sometimes her mom and dad make an appearance. The channel is relatively new but she has already developed a following on other social media channels. Don't be surprised if you see her with her own TV show some day.
Here is a compilation video of one of her most popular characters "Charlene".


4. Pump Chasers (Workout and Lifestyle Tips)
Chris Jones from Pump Chasers is a trainer known for his work out videos, but he is much more than just a trainer. His videos are vlog style and cover everything from workout and nutrition to business and lifestyle. He has a charismatic personality which makes the videos fun to watch even if you are not into working out.
In this video, he goes over the true meaning of one of his more controversial phases.


5. Vlog Creations (Funny Vlogs / Pranks / Stunts)
Ross from Vlog Creations is most well known from his main channel "Ross Creations" where he does stunts and pranks. He started the Vlog Creations channel to film more of his everyday antics and daily life. While it does not have the same wow factor of some of the things from his main channel, it is still very entertaining and even better than a lot of the other prank style channels out there.
In this video, he goes on a private waterslide, picks up a family of hitchhikers, tells people he is going to call the cops, and runs into a guy on the beach who has a problem with him.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ben & Jerry's vs Halo Top Ice Cream Taste Test – Mint Chocolate Cookie vs Mint Chip

Recently I was doing some grocery shopping and saw the Halo Top brand of ice cream which had some flavors that looked interesting. I did a little research on it and it seemed to be getting pretty good reviews. I also read that it had become the top selling pint ice cream brand in the US. This is pretty impressive considering it is a relatively new company, so I decided to try it out to see how it compares to another well known ice cream brand, Ben & Jerry's.

I don't eat as much ice cream as I used to, but my favorite flavor of all time is Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie. I saw it was on sale recently so I decided to pick up a pint of the Mint Chocolate Cookie as well as the Halo Top Mint Chip so see how they compare. The prices for the pint were pretty similar with Halo Top being a little more expensive.

Comparing the nutrition facts, Ben and Jerry's has a lot more calories and fat per ½ cup serving. It is also more dense, for example a serving of Ben and Jerry's is 106g while a serving of Halo Top is 64g. So in terms of calories, you are getting more for your money with Ben and Jerry's but if you are looking for something lower in calories and fat, Halo Top would be the way to go.

Upon scooping them out, the Halo Top has a more icy consistency compared to the Ben & Jerry's which has more of a smooth, squishy texture. In fact the first scoop of the Halo Top went flying out of the pint while the scoop of Ben & Jerry's sticks to the spoon. I found it interesting the Halo Top packaging has a light green color often associated with mint chip, but the ice cream inside is actually more of an off white color. The Ben & Jerry's has more of a pure white with the cookie speckles mixed in.

So how do they taste? The Halo Top tasted ok. The mint ice cream seemed to dissolve fast in mouth. The mint flavor was ok but not great. The chocolate chips tasted pretty standard compared to chocolate chips in other ice creams. After eating a few spoonfuls, I was a little unimpressed with the flavor. Maybe I went in with expectations too high. But considering how it is so low in calories, fat, and sugar, it is actually not too bad.
In comparison to the Halo Top, the Ben & Jerry's just has a much better taste as can be expected since it has more fat and sugar. It is more creamy, savory, and sweet and is something you want to eat more of where as with the Halo Top, after a few bites, I didn't really want to eat any more. For me, with this comparison, the Ben & Jerry's still comes out well ahead in terms of taste and flavor.

I can see the appeal of the Halo Top though. If you are someone who really likes ice cream, but you do not want the high calories, fat, and sugar, Halo Top is a good alternative. It gives an ok experience and you don't have to worry about the nutrition. For me, I don't mind the extra calories, in fact, I have been trying to eat more calories so the Ben & Jerry's takes the win in this case. It would be nice if it was lower in fat, but in small servings, it is ok to have as a treat once in a while.

What are your thoughts on these ice cream brands? Do you have another favorite brand besides Ben & Jerry's or Halo Top?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pogo 18oz Water Bottle Review

I have been using the Bobble water bottle for some time now and while it is great for home use, I find it to be a little too big to take on the go so I started looking for some smaller options. After doing some research, I found the Pogo water bottle in an 18oz size which looked to be perfect! It was about $6 which was quite reasonable compared to some of the other brands so I decided to pick one up.

The Pogo water bottle has a flip up top which protects and seals the drinking spout. They call it a "chug lid" which allows you to drink the water quickly without restriction. This bottle does not have a built in filter like the Bobble, but I have been using it in combination with my  Pur water filter to fill it with fresh water from the tap.

I got the grey color bottle but it is also available in other colors like blue, pink, and purple. Upon trying it out, the size works out pretty well. It is able to fit in the cup holder in my car and fits well into a reusable lunch bag.

The top unscrews to fill it up and allows for easy cleaning. The flip up top snaps down to seal the opening to prevent it from leaking. I found it did a good job at keeping it water tight and it does not leak when turned upside down. The cap also has a rubber loop in case you want to hook it on to something to make it easy to carry.

So far it has been working out well. I especially like the cap design which covers and seals the drinking part. It is also dishwasher safe which make it easy to clean as well. I will update this article with a long term update once I have used it for several months. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Don't stick a key or metal in 12v car outlet - Blown cigarette lighter fuse

The other day I was cleaning my car and I noticed it was dirty inside the cigarette lighter 12v electricity port. Without thinking I took my car key and started scraping the inside to try to clean it up a bit. Immediately there were sparks! I didn't even think about the fact that even though the car was off, there is still power supplied to this port and the metal key managed to trigger an electrical flow.

Luckily the key I was holding had a plastic rubber base so I did not get electrocuted but it still surprised me! I was hoping I did not damage anything serious. The car started up fine and other power features such as the power windows were working fine.

Then the next day I went to plug in my car charger for the phone and it did not work. So apparently the sparks did cause a problem. I did a little research and found out it was most likely a blown fuse. A fuse is a little thing that will break if it is overloaded with electricity which is what happened when I put the key in the outlet.

I looked them up and they are pretty cheap, only a few dollars. Also, it looked like it was easy to replace them which was nice. So I headed over to the auto parts store. I popped the hood to find the fuse box and the blown fuse. Sure enough, the fuse was clearly broken right in the middle.

I was thinking I would have to buy a new one but right in the lid of the fuse box, there were a bunch of spare fuses! The one I needed was there so I was able to swap it out right away without even having to buy a new fuse. I'm not sure if all cars have spare fuses like this, but in case you are going to change a fuse, check the lid in case there are any extras provided with the car.

So I put in the new fuse, plugged in the car charger and it was good as new! It was nice to have an easy car repair that did not cost any money for a change. Lesson learned, don't stick a key or anything metal in the cigarette lighter / 12v port even if the car is off.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Spectrum Walnut Oil Review

I try to incorporate healthy oils into my diet on a daily basis in order to get calories from healthy fats. Not surprisingly, my go-to oil is olive oil which is very common and fairly affordable as well. I usually get extra virgin olive oil in the bold or robust variety for the best flavor.

While olive oil is great and can be added to many dishes, I started to become a bit tired of it so I started to look for some alternatives. There are several olive oil alternatives out there such as peanut oil, canola oil, and safflower oil. I was looking for something that would have a good taste so when I saw there was an option for walnut oil, I decided to give it a try.

I found Spectrum Walnut Oil at Target. It is also available at other retailers. It was about $7 for a 16 oz bottle which is not exactly cheap especially compared to olive oil, but I decided it was worth a try.

Upon trying it out, I found the taste to be quite good! It definitely has a subtle taste of walnut. The oil itself is light in texture and light in color. I found it went very well with things like bread or dishes such as rice or pasta.

The nutrition facts are very similar in comparison to olive oil and it also has omega 3s so I would consider it a good alternative to olive oil. I would probably get it again, but I might try out some of the other oils as well to see how they compare. If you are looking for a good alternative to olive oil, I recommend trying out walnut oil.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Google Maps vs Apple Maps vs Waze – Which is the Best Navigation App?

Recently I started a new job that requires a lot of driving to different locations so I have been trying to find the best navigation app to use. So far I have tried Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze. Here I will recap the positives and negatives of each of these navigators to help determine which is the best one to use.

Google Maps
If you have ever looked up directions on the computer, you have probably used Google maps, so it will be a natural transition to use it for navigation. Google Maps is very detailed especially when it comes down to building and structures. It has visual representations of businesses and residences and has most of the stores labeled so you can see exactly what they are.

Google Maps has the power of Google search behind it so it is very good at looking up addresses. In terms of options, I would say it is in the middle of Apple Maps which is more simple and Waze which has a lot of customization and extra features. The map is pretty easy to use but takes a little while to learn what everything does.

Navigation tends to be pretty good for the most part but I did notice some issues, for example in several cases where you would want to make a left to turn into the destination, it will tell you to go up to the next intersection and make a U-turn. It could definitely use some improvement in this area.

Overall it is a solid choice for navigation but could still use a little improvement in some areas.


Apple Maps
If you have an iPhone, Apple Maps comes pre-installed and ready to go. I found it to have the most pleasing look of the 3 options. Also it is the most simplified and easy to use. The buttons are big and there are not a lot of distractions. This can be good if you just want something easy, but for those looking for more options and customization, you may like Google Maps or Waze better.

Although the map is very easy to read, it is not as detailed as Google Maps. For example it does not have the structures of businesses and residences on the map. Navigation is clear and I like that the audio navigation is loud so you can hear it when you are driving without having to turn up the volume. I noticed on Google Maps and Waze, even on the loud setting they can barely be heard in the car.

For accuracy, I found it to be similar to Google Maps in that sometimes it takes you a bit out of the way or tells you to make a U-turn when there is no reason to do so. I did have one issue where a destination was actually not in the right place on the map so I was not able to find it when I got there. I had to open Google Maps to find the correct location in this case.

Overall if you are looking for an occasional navigation and something that is the most simple and easy to use without all the bells and whistles, Apple Maps is the way to go.

Waze
Waze takes a bit of a different approach by making the experience more interactive and social. It allows drivers to contribute a lot of information such as where there are police, road hazards, or construction. Waze has a lot of customization settings but because if this, it can seem a little busy with too much going on.

One thing I didn't really like was it has a lot of extra stuff on the map that you don't really need. For example it has icons for restaurants and even advertisements for products. I'm guessing they are getting money for those which helps keep the app free, but personally I don't want ads on my map when I am just trying to get from point A to point B.

One other thing I don't really like is that you have to set the app to use your location “Always” even when you are not using the app. There is a sleep mode you can put it in, but again, you should not have to manually put it in sleep mode when you are not using it.

As for navigation, I actually found it to be a little more accurate than Google Maps and Apple Maps. It took me to the right locations and did not tell me to go out of the way or take unnecessary U-turns. On the other hand, I found it was a little more difficult to get the app to find an address with a search as it would pull up many results and you are not sure which one to pick.

Overall, it has a lot of potential and is a good option if you like the user contribution aspect and are looking for a navigation that is more engaging than just simple directions.

Verdict
After trying out all 3, really there is no clear winner. There are some things I like for each of them, but at the same time, they each have their flaws as well. I like the look and simplicity of Apple Maps. I like the detailed map and search ability of Google Maps. I like the accuracy and user contribution of Waze.

Which one am I going to use? Right now I will probably use Google Maps because it is very detailed and is pretty reliable at finding an address with a search. I do wish it was a bit easier to use like Apple Maps. Also I wish the voice navigation was louder by default without having to manually increase the volume of the phone just to hear it while driving.

These seem to be the big 3 when it comes to navigation apps, but I may continue to look for other options in case there are any other navigation apps that are better. Do you have a favorite navigation app of these 3 or another not mentioned here? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.