Does online grocery shopping deliver on its promises?

Consumer Reports News: August 02, 2011 04:53 PM

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Going to the grocery store isn't usually considered a fun outing, especially if it's only to replace everyday packaged items like paper towels and dog food. So the idea of buying those items online has its appeal. Consumer Reports put 10 items in virtual shopping carts at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and a smaller retailer and compared prices and convenience.

Of course, grocery shopping remains a necessity for those of us who aren't willing to let an online grocer smell the cantaloupes and squeeze the tomatoes. And fresh seafood? Thanks, but at those prices we'd like more than a mug shot.

But shopping for household staples like detergent and toothpaste can save you a trip to the store when done online. You can also save time by creating a standing list of items you routinely buy. But how are the prices? To find out we recently browsed the aisles of Internet giants Amazon.com and Walmart.com, as well as Alice.com, which sells many products direct from manufacturers. We also priced items at an A&P and Walmart in Westchester County, N.Y.

The 10 items we put in our cart included cat food, coffee, cereal, diapers, dishwasher tabs, laundry detergent, mouthwash, toothpaste, vitamins and window cleaner. Nearly all were the same brand and size; if not, we picked a comparable brand or slightly different size and noted the price difference.

Walmart.com would have delivered the goods for about $121, or 22 percent less than the local A&P, including shipping. The nearby Walmart offered prices similar to its online store. Alice came in at $146, and shipping is free for six items or more. Our tally at Amazon was $172, thanks to the $60 shipping fees for items from third-party vendors. Claimed delivery dates varied by retailer too. To find out if you'll save money shopping online, take your latest grocery receipt and comparison shop.

Kimberly Janeway

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