Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shipt vs Instacart – Which grocery shopping and delivery service is better to work for?

App based gigs are really booming right now and grocery stores are taking advantage of this trend by partnering with services such as Shipt and Instacart. These apps allow customers to order groceries from their local stores and have them delivered quickly. I have worked for both of these companies and have found each has their own strengths and weaknesses. In this article we will compare what it is like working for Shipt and Instacart.

Getting Started / Applying
Both companies are fairly easy to apply for and do not require too much experience or prerequisites. You will need your own car if you will be delivering. Driving record and background is also checked to ensure there are no issues. There are basic training tutorials for both that need to be completed before you start. If you are accepted, you receive a company credit card and can begin scheduling hours to shop.

Basics
While both services work a little differently, the main concept is the same. You are given a customer's list of items and are assigned to a store to shop for them. In the store, you scan the items using the camera on your phone. You check out using the company pre-paid card. Then you deliver the order to the customer. It is pretty straight forward and not too hard as long as you are organized and enjoy grocery shipping.

Scheduling / Getting Orders
This is one of the biggest differences between the two. With Instacart you are able to schedule hours for the week starting at a certain time. Some people who maintain a high amount of hours each week are able to schedule earlier. You are only allowed to schedule for hours that are open so it can be hard to get hours depending on how many shoppers are in your area and how busy it is.

With Instacart you basically have to be on call when you are scheduled and if there is an order, they will send it to you during this time. You are expected to accept it and be on your way to the store quickly once you are sent an order.

With Shipt, you are able to put yourself on the schedule for any hours you want, and they will send you orders that are to be delivered during those times. They send you the orders ahead of time so you will have time to prepare and plenty of time to shop for them.

Using the App
Both the apps for Shipt and Instacart work fairly similar. They each use a scanning feature to check off items on the list. They also allow you to contact the customer by text or phone if there are any issues or questions. I find Instacart's app to be a little more responsive and the scanning feature works better. I also like that they show the pictures of the items in the list without having to click on each one manually to see the pictures as is done in the Shipt app.

The Shipt app does have some benefits of its own for example you can customize the layout of the categories which can make it easier to navigate the shopping list. Also I find the customer text communication to be more reliable with Shipt.

One really helpful feature with Shipt is they tell you the item location such as which aisle it is in. I believe some stores with Instacart have this feature but none of the stores I have shopped for in my area have this option.

Delivering
The delivery procedure is very similar between the two. Each gives you the delivery address which opens up in your map app of choice and then you just use the navigation for directions. Once you arrive, you give the groceries to the customer and mark it as delivered. That's about it!

So what are the strengths and weaknesses for each?

Pros for Instacart
- Better pay. While the pay can vary greatly depending on which zone or location you are working, I found that when comparing similar sized orders, Instacart pays significantly more per order. Shipt does offer bonuses sometimes, for example if an order is getting close to when it needs to be delivered and no one has picked it up yet, they may offer to pay more.

- Better bar code scanner. It's really amazing how well the Instacart scanner can pick up the bar codes. You can hold it at any angle or distance, moving around, crinkled packaging, and it will still pick it up. I find with the Shipt scanner, it takes much longer to read and sometimes it will not read at all even when it is very clear, still, and centered.

- Images in shopping list make it easy to scan quickly. In the Shipt app, to see the pictures, you have to click on each one individually which takes up time.

- Less things to worry about. With Instacart, it is more automated, for example it lets the customer know what you are doing from the time you start to the time you mark the order as delivered. With Shipt you have to text them to let them know when you start and when you are on the way. Also with Shipt for some reason you have to fill out a tax exempt form for each order. You also have to scan the receipt and take a picture of the receipt, all steps which make the process more difficult compared to Instacart.

- More stores to shop for. It can vary depending on the area, but for example in my zone, Instacart partners with about 10 different stores and many locations for each of these stores. With Shipt, my zone has only 1 partner and one store so it is much more limited in terms of shopping locations. Shipt may grow over time, but right now it seems to be more limited.

Pros For Shipt
- Better transparency. With Shipt, you are given all the order details ahead of time so you know what you are getting into. For example, you know the customer name, address, number of items, and list of actual items in the order before you commit to head out to the store. With Instacart, this information is hidden and most is not revealed until you are at the store or have completed shopping for all the items.

- Better morale / community. Browsing the Facebook support groups for each service gives two very different impressions. With Instacart, most of the posts tend to be negative and complaining in nature while most of the posts in the Shipt group are more positive. This could be because the Shipt group is managed by Shipt, while the Instacart group is managed by the shoppers, but the difference in morale is very noticeable.

- Easier to schedule. With Shipt, there is no fighting for hours or constantly checking the app for new openings. With Instacart, everyone is trying to schedule at the same time and it can be hard to get hours.

- No Timing. With Shipt, since you are given the order details ahead of time, you can go to the store as early as you want so you can give yourself as much time as you need. The shopping is not timed either. With Instacart, everything is timed and you are expected to act immediately when you are sent an order.

More details for finding items. For many stores, Shipt gives the aisle and exact location in that aisle for the items. This makes it much easier to find items especially if you are unfamiliar with the store layout or if something is very hard to find on the shelf.

Conclusion
As you can see, there is no clear cut winner as to which grocery delivery service is best to work for since each has their own positives and negatives. While Instacart tends to pay better, the morale of the shoppers tends to be lower. With Shipt, it does not pay as much, but shoppers tend to be more happy overall.

The good thing is, with these apps, the developers are constantly working to make them better so hopefully they can both get better over time. Businesses like these in the gig-based economy can change overnight so it is a good idea to keep your options open. If you like grocery shopping, I recommend trying out both Shipt and Instacart first hand to see which one you like best.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Season 2 Review


The 2nd season of A Series of Unfortunate Events was released on Netflix recently and I just got a chance to complete the full season. I was pretty excited to watch it after having enjoyed the 1st season last year. Season 2 picks up where the last one left off and covers books 5-9 of the novel series by Lemony Snicket.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it is a fictional series that has a unique visual style and almost a world all its own. The 3 main characters, the Baudelarie siblings lose their parents and are bounced around from guardian to guardian as the notorious Count Olaf tries to figure out how to get their fortune they stand to inherit.

The series has a good amount of humor, creative characters, an adventurous story line, and is just overall fun to watch. I had not read the books prior to watching the show so it is all new to me, but as I understand, it follows the original material very well and fans of the books seem to enjoy it as well.

Violet and Klaus, the two older siblings do a great job as they strive to find decent living conditions and find out more about the organization their parents belonged to. Their baby sister Sunny is one of my favorites who is super cute and surprising helpful and talented when she is needed. Neil Patrick Harris plays Count Olaf with an over the top personality who is evil yet funny at the same time.

There are many new stand out characters such as Carmelita, the rude obnoxious girl who they meet at their boarding school. Also Esme Squalor who makes a great addition to Count Olaf's troupe as is the Librarian who joins forces to help the Baudelaries.

The 10 episodes cover the middle 5 books of the series and each one takes place in a different location so there is a good amount of variety throughout the season. It should come as no surprise given the title of the series, that it seems the Baudelarie orphans just cannot catch a break. They are resilient though and one can only hope one day some good fortune may come their way.

So should you watch this show? As the theme goes “Look away, look away.” But really you should watch it because it is a great show! If you are looking for a creative and imaginative family friendly series that is fun and has great characters and visual style, I highly recommend checking out A Series of Unfortunate Events!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Fixing a zipper that keeps getting stuck and won't close

I have a jacket that I like but recently it started having trouble with the zipper. It would get stuck and sometimes it would zip up half way and sections of the zipper would not close together so there would be openings where it is supposed to be zipped. This became very inconvenient because I could not rely on the zipper to work properly, so I started looking for solutions to fix it.

First I tried putting some oil on the zipper to make it go more smoothly. This worked a little bit but after a few days it would start getting stuck again and had the same issues with the teeth not closing like they should. I also tried to use a small pliers to see if I could adjust the slider piece in case it was stretched out. Unfortunately I was not able to do much with this.

Finally I decided to look for a replacement zipper slider. They come in different sizes and styles so you have to to try to find one that is the same size and for the same materials, for example metal or plastic. They usually have a number on the back. Mine had a 5 and a 6. Also you can measure the width of the zipper when it is closed to get the millimeter measurement.

I went to a hobby store and found some replacement zippers for a couple dollars in size 5 which looked to be about the same so I picked them up.

The next part was kind of tricky because you have to figure out how to remove the original zipper slide. They usually have pieces at each end of the garment that prevent the zipper from coming off the top or the bottom. I tried to pry one of these pieces off but it was really stuck on there. Finally I just decided to cut off the piece at the top which would allow the zipper to slide off the top of the jacket. I never zip the jacket all the way to the top so I figured it would be ok.

Once the old zipper slide was off, I put on one of the new zipper slide. I tried it out and sure enough, it worked! I was able to zip the jacket and it did not get stuck or have any sections that were not connected. So it looks like it was in fact an issue with the original zipper slide. It is possible it may have worn out or stretched out over time.

If you are having a similar issue with a zipper, I recommend try replacing the zipper slide like this as it is an affordable option and is pretty easy to do. Also it is much better than having to buy a new jacket!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Netflix Picks and Recommendations for 2018

Last year around this time, I did a recap of some of my favorite shows and specials on Netflix and since some time has gone by and new titles have been added, I figured I would make another list of recommendations to check out. Here are some of the tv series, comedy specials, and movies worth checking out now on Netflix:

Glow
Set in the 80's and based on a women's professional wrestling organization, Glow is one of my favorite new series available now. It features Alison Brie and Marc Maron as well as a large cast of characters as they try to put together a women's wrestling show from scratch. There is a good deal of drama, emotion, and even a great soundtrack! 

Haters Back Off
I reviewed the first season of Hater Back Off last year which I really enjoyed. Recently I got a chance to watch the 2nd and final season which was very good as well! It is about a girl who wants to make it big as a singer and entertainer but is oblivious to the fact that she really does not have that kind of talent. This show is not for everyone but if you like quirky off beat style shows, I recommend checking it out. 

Somebody Feed Phil
Phil Rosenthal, the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond has started making documentary style shows such as “I'll Have What Phil's Having” and his most recent series “Somebody Feed Phil”. In these shows, he travels around to different countries and tries out some of the best local food. If you like travel shows and shows about food mixed with a little bit of humor, this is the show for you. 

Ozark
Ozark is about a family man who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd and ends up laundering money and working with drug cartel leaders. If the description sounds similar to Breaking Bad, it is because it is very similar. While it may not be quite as good as that show, it is still very suspense filled and enjoyable to watch. If you like thriller type shows, I recommend checking out Ozark. 

Ryan Hamilton – Happy Face
If you have not heard of comedian Ryan Hamilton yet, now is a good time to check out his new comedy special. His routine is professional and well polished and covers many original topics in a funny way. His style and even his voice can be compared to Jerry Seinfeld, so if you like Jerry, chances are you will enjoy this special. 

Fred Armisen – Standup for Drummers
One of the most unique and interesting comedy sets I have seen recently belongs to Fred Armisen with his Standup for Drummers. It is a combination of stand up comedy mixed with musical drumming performance and really shows a wide range of talent in both areas. Even if you are not familiar with drumming, this special is very funny and educational as well! 

Dave Chappelle – Equanimity
No stranger to the stand up comedy world, Dave Chapelle has some new specials on Netflix now including this new set entitled Equanimity. Dave has confidence and stage presence and is not afraid to talk about controversial issues and tell it as it is while maintaining a sense of humor. 

Crisetla Alonzo – Lower Classy
Another funny special is this one by Cristela Alonzo where she talks about her life growing up and some of the events that shaped her life to what it is today. It a good mix of comedy, nostalgia, and even some emotional stories mixed in at the end. 

The Founder
Also streaming now is the movie The Founder which is the story about how McDonalds was started and how it grew into the biggest fast food restaurant in the world. It stars Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the man behind the success of the franchise. It is an interesting story and fascinating to see what can result from hard work and perseverance. 

If you have any favorite series, specials, or movies on Netflix now, feel free to recommend them in the comments below!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tub Spout Dripping – How to fix with new cartridge and tub spout diverter

For a while I noticed the tub spout in my shower had a slow drip when it was turned off. While it wasn't losing that much water, it was more of an annoyance because it would not stop dripping. Also even when the diverter on the spout was pulled up to turn on the shower, water would still drip out the bottom. I did a little research to figure out what needed to be done to fix these problems.

For the the slow drip when turned off, the cartridge needed to be replaced. This is a cylinder piece that is behind the handle that lets you turn the water on and off and adjust the temperature to either hot or cold. This can be done on your own, but I did have some help to replace this part. The exact steps to replace can depend on the model of cartridge and faucet you have but mainly it involves taking off the handle and pulling out the old cartridge for replacement. Also make sure the water is turned off before taking out the old cartridge.

Once the cartridge was replaced, it became so much easier to turn the water on an off. If the knob or handle in your shower is hard to pull or turn, chances are it could use a new cartridge. Not only is it much easier to turn on and adjust but now it no longer has the slow constant drip when the water is turned off.

Next it was time to replace the tub spout with the diverter. I picked up a universal tub spout at the hardware store for about $15. There are a few different kinds of spouts and different ways they can be attached. Mine was a screw on kind but some have a little screw on the bottom that must be unscrewed to pull it off. For the screw on kind, you just twist the spout in a counter clockwise direction. It might be a little difficult if it is stuck on there so it may need a little effort.

Once it is off you will be able to see how to attach the new spout. If it is a universal spout, it will have directions on how to attach the new spout. Also it is recommended to use plumbers PTFE tape to put around the threaded parts to help seal the connections. I actually had to adjust it a couple times and re-tape it a couple times because it was dripping from the back when I first put it back on.

Also before putting on the new spout, I noticed there was some space around the pipe and the wall where you could see in. I decided to cover up this extra space with some clear tape to help prevent any water from leaking through and going behind the wall.

As I installed the new spout, my main concern was that it might not line up exactly right, but the way it threads on a little bit at a time and has the rubber washer inside, it gives it some ability to adjust more than you might expect. To get a good seal, I found it became pretty snug with the spout facing upward and then I just turned it an extra half turn to line it up with the bottom. This gave it a secure fit and seal so no water dripped out.

Once it is all done, test it out to make sure everything is working well and there are no leaks from any of the connections. If there are still leaks, you might have to try it again and add some more tape and try to tighten it a bit more. Hope this helps and good luck!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Amazon Locker Review – Trying out the self service delivery option

Recently I was making a purchase at Amazon and while I usually have it delivered to home as usual, I noticed they had an option called Amazon Locker where you can have it delivered to a secure location near by. This option is particularly useful for areas where it is difficult to have packages delivered safely. I never had a problem with the traditional delivery, but I was curious to try out this service so I decided to give it a go.

At checkout, it asks for your location to help find the nearest Amazon Lockers. I found one near by located in the Whole Foods a couple miles away so I set it as the delivery point. What's nice is there is no extra charge for this service so anyone can use it to have packages delivered without having to pay anything extra.

Before placing the order, I played around with the shipping options to try to compare the prices. Amazon seems to make this more difficult than it needs to be because it will not tell you the cost of shipping until you get to the end. I usually go with the free shipping but I was in a bit of a hurry so I tried out the 1 day shipping. Somehow it gave free shipping even with this option. I'm not sure how that happened, but usually it would charge for the 1 day shipping.

So the next day, I keep an eye on the tracking but it does not show up on time as expected. The tracking showed they tried to deliver it late at night after the store was closed so they were not able to get in to access the locker. A little inconvenient but it should be delivered first thing the next day right?

Another day goes by and still it does not get delivered. So I contact customer service to see if they can check on the status. They said it was supposed to be delivered on the first day or the 2nd day but for some reason it was not. They said they would send out a new order and the original order would return to them.

Again this was more of a delay than I expected, but the new package did show up in about 1 day. They emailed me an access code and barcode to take to the locker. I went to the Whole Foods and found the Amazon Locker up at the front.

With the barcode from the email pulled up on my phone I approached the screen and scanned the barcode to the scanner. Immediately a locker opened up and I was able to retrieve my package. It was surprisingly simple and fast once it actually got there. I figured there would be a bunch of screens to go through and it would be confusing, but it was about as simple as can be.

Later that day I get another email saying the original package has now been delivered. Somehow it must have gotten re-routed back to the locker. It said if it is not picked up within 3 days it will return automatically for a refund, so I let the 3 days pass and it was picked up to be returned back to Amazon.

Overall, even though there was a little bit of a delay and confusion on the shipping, I would use the Amazon Locker service again. I think it is a great way to have packages delivered securely especially if the item is valuable and you do not want it left outside unattended. I recommend giving it a try in case there is one near you.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Fetch Rewards Review – Trying out the receipt scanning rewards app

As someone who does a good amount of grocery shopping, it peaked my interest when I heard about apps that allow you to earn rewards by scanning receipts. In the past, I had looked up several of these apps, but none of them ever panned out or turned out to be worth the trouble.

Recently, someone recommend trying out Fetch Rewards. It is an app for iOS and Android that lets you earn rewards points for scanning your receipts, so I figured I would try it out. Downloading the app and setting it up was pretty easy. They don't ask for too much information other than the basics like name, email, and phone number.

You can start off with 2,000 points by using a referral code such as Q8RWJ. This is pretty good because 2,000 points is equal to $2 worth of rewards and you can start redeeming rewards at 3,000. I used a code and it applied the points to my account after I scanned my first receipt.

The rewards are e-gift cards to many popular retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart etc. They start at $3 for 3,000 points and go up as more points are earned.

So how does the app work? Basically you just use the app to take pictures of your receipts. It gives you points for each receipt and gives bonus points if items on your receipt are from the participating brands. These are popular brands that you will recognize in most stores. As long as the pictures you take are clear, it usually processes the scan within a few seconds and awards the points.

In case there is an issue or the images were not clear, it may say “processing” an can take a little longer. I have found that even when they have to check it, the turn around time is usually pretty quick. Also make sure to double check that you get credit for all your items. Sometimes items do not get picked up in the scan depending on how a store lists them on the receipt.

For example say you buy Lays chips, but the way it was listed on the receipt did not get recognized by the app, you may have to put in a request for it to be reviewed so the proper points can be added. They are good about this and usually they review and give you the points within a few hours.

You are able to scan receipts from the past 14 days so if you have some older receipts, you may be able to scan them right away. They have a limit of 14 receipts per week. I had some saved up from the past 2 weeks so I scanned them in. I actually got to 3,000 points within about 1 day so I was ready to cash them out for a reward.

I decided to redeem them for a Target e-gift card. At first when I went to redeem, it said I did not have enough points even though I did. I sent them an email to see what was going on. Then I checked later in the day and it worked so maybe it needed some time to process before redeeming the points.

Redeeming the points was pretty easy. They send a confirmation text and then they send you the code for the gift card. I double checked the balance on Target just in case and sure enough it had $3 credit.

So I would say if you do a lot of grocery shopping it is worth trying out the app to scan your receipts. It can take a while to earn the points, but if you start with the 2,000 from the referral code, you can get to 3,000 points pretty fast.

I will probably stick with it since it is kind of fun and pretty easy to scan the receipts. If you would like to try it out, you can download it for free from App Store or Google Play.