The COVID-19 pandemic has been a disaster for most U.S. industries, especially those reliant on customers showing up in person. Airlines, hotels, restaurants and bars, and live events have all been decimated by the economic fallout.
Without minimizing the disease’s worsening human toll, it’s increasingly clear the grocery industry is a rare bright spot amid the economic upheaval. That’s partly due to panic-buying by consumers worried about weekslong quarantines and vulnerable populations like the elderly, who expect to shelter in place for even longer.
But supermarkets’ resilience in the pandemic is also due to technological innovations — specifically, grocery delivery apps and online ordering platforms that didn’t exist during previous global pandemics of COVID-19’s severity. (The last official global pandemic, the H1N1 swine flu contagion of 2009, was far less deadly than COVID-19.)
For shoppers in parts of the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States, Peapod is a go-to grocery delivery app.
Although it’s developed by a Chicago-based team (Peapod Digital Labs) and owned by a Dutch conglomerate (Ahold Delhaize), Peapod-branded online grocery delivery is primarily available to customers in New York, New Jersey, and New England. The app facilitates ordering and delivery or pickup from about 400 Stop & Shop supermarket locations throughout the region. Peapod previously operated across a much broader swathe of the northern United States and served multiple grocery chains, but it has ceased or rebranded operations in the Midwest and most of the mid-Atlantic since 2018.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in Peapod’s present trade area, the app is a worthy rival to national competitors like Instacart and Amazon Fresh. But while it has many important features and upsides for busy shoppers, there are also downsides for some customers.
How It Works
Getting started with Peapod is easy. To create an account, enter your zip code and email address and create a unique password. Then, enter your store loyalty card number if you have one. It’s not required to create your account or place an order on Peapod. But there are advantages, such as member-only deals and access to information from every past Stop & Shop order you used it for. If you don’t enter one upfront, you can do so at any time afterward. Once you’ve entered your delivery address, you’re ready to complete your account and begin shopping.
Placing Your Order
Peapod has several tools to help you put your order together.
First, you can always search for specific products using the search bar at the top of the page. This method gets cumbersome for larger orders but is definitely useful for small orders.
The Browse Aisles tab allows you to browse Peapod’s virtual store by department, such as produce, meat, and seafood. It’s useful if you know the general products you need but want to browse different brands, sizes, cuts, and the like.
The Specials option under the My Shop tab shows discounted products, most of them on sale for no more than a week. If there are goods you’re brand-agnostic about, it’s an excellent way to save.
The Past Purchases option under the My Shop tab shows everything you’ve purchased in the past. You can choose to see anywhere from one month back to all your past purchases. Use this feature to quickly add anything you regularly buy to your shopping cart without searching for it each time.
The Loaded Coupons option under the My Shop tab lets you add Stop & Shop digital coupons to your Peapod order and apply the savings before you check out. Through the Peapod app, you must click out to Stop & Shop’s website, browse its coupon inventory, and digitally clip the coupon to Peapod. That means creating a Stop & Shop login if you haven’t already.
Placing & Receiving Your Order
When your order is complete, click the cart button in the upper right-hand corner of your screen to view your cart and check out.
In addition to the goods you selected, the cart shows your price broken down into several components: subtotal (the pretax cost after any savings), tax (if applicable), and delivery fee. The delivery fee varies and depends on user demand, but it can rise as high as $9.95 per order in my experience — and could go higher, as Peapod doesn’t say whether there’s an upper limit.
Pickup is available at many Stop & Shop locations, though Peapod temporarily suspends that option at times (including during the COVID-19 pandemic). Pickup generally costs less than delivery and can be free, depending on location and demand.
Peapod doesn’t add a service charge or driver tip to its orders. If you want to tip, you can add it to the total charged to your card or hand the driver cash when they arrive.
Peapod has some additional features worth detailing, including a paid membership plan that offers free or reduced-price delivery and contactless delivery and pickup options.
Order Genius is an AI-assisted Peapod feature that analyzes your purchasing patterns, recommends a list of products to purchase each time you use the tool, and allows you to accept or reject its suggestions before checking out. Order Genius uses information collected by your store loyalty card every time you swipe, not just your Peapod order history, so you can use it on your very first Peapod order.
Express Shop is a timesaving feature that suggests standard necessities to add to your shopping list, such as eggs and milk, and allows you to add anything it doesn’t list manually. When you’ve finished customizing Express Shop, hit “Continue” to see Peapod’s entire inventory of relevant brands one category at a time — for example, first eggs, then milk. Choose your preferred brand for each category, add it to your cart, and then click through to the next category.
When you’ve gotten through the entire Express Shop list, check out as usual. When you return for your next order, any custom entries remain on your list, though you must select your preferred brands again.
PodPass is Peapod’s membership-based free or reduced-price delivery option. For a flat fee, PodPass members enjoy a $6.95 credit against the cost of each delivery for three, six, or 12 months, depending on which plan you choose, after which membership auto-renews.
The $6.95 credit is usually enough to offset the entire delivery cost, but any additional delivery fees or surcharges remain the member’s responsibility. PodPass members never pay for pickup.
PodPass has six plans: midweek delivery only (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) or seven-day delivery, all available for three-, six-, or 12-month periods. Pricing ranges from $25 plus tax on the three-month midweek plan to $119 plus tax on the 12-month seven-day plan. PodPass members can cancel at any time without further obligation, though PodPass payments are only refundable during the first seven days or until you make your first pickup or delivery order, whichever comes first.
Unattended Delivery Option
During the COVID-19 outbreak, Peapod is offering an unattended delivery option that allows customers to receive grocery deliveries without any human interaction. According to Peapod’s coronavirus information page, customers interested in this option can use the “special instructions” field in the ordering app to communicate their preferences.
Peapod also offers contactless pickup. When you choose this option, you simply pull up to your grocery store’s designated customer loading area, and a store employee runs your order out to your car.
Peapod’s top advantages include widespread pickup availability, contactless delivery and pickup options for busy or vulnerable customers, a high-tech ordering experience, and an extensive membership-based delivery discount program.
- Widespread Store Pickup Available. Store pickup appears to be widely available throughout Peapod’s 400-strong store network. It’s convenient for shoppers who live or work close to stores, especially during periods of high demand for delivery.
- Contactless Delivery and Pickup Options for Customers With Health or Safety Concerns. Peapod’s contactless delivery and pickup options are welcome for customers with health or safety concerns — whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic, general concerns about susceptibility to illness, or wariness of interacting with delivery drivers they don’t know.
- Multiple Tools for Faster Ordering. Peapod offers a high-tech shopping experience bolstered by several useful tools: Order Genius, Express Shop, and the past purchases list, among others. Not all these tools are particularly sophisticated, but they’re helpful nonetheless.
- Wide Range of Free or Reduced-Price Delivery Options. PodPass membership options range in cost from $25 to $119 (plus tax) — something to fit just about every shopper’s budget. On average, your PodPass subscription pays for itself with one order per week, if that.
Peapod’s major drawbacks include geographical restrictions on service, a tendency for delivery prices to spike during high-demand periods, limits on PodPass discounts during busy times, and some noticeable user experience issues.
- Limited Availability. Peapod’s grocery delivery and pickup service is limited to New England, New York, and New Jersey. If you don’t live in its trade area, you can’t use the Peapod-branded app, though you may benefit from Peapod Digital Labs-produced apps used by other Ahold Delhaize subsidiaries.
- Delivery Prices Can Spike During Periods of High Demand. Peapod’s delivery fees are volatile. During periods of very high demand, they can spike to nearly $10 per order, regardless of cart size. That includes during the COVID-19 pandemic, when peak demand has been constant.
- PodPass Isn’t Guaranteed to Cover the Entire Delivery Fee. PodPass covers up to $6.95 in delivery fees, but customers are responsible for any demand surcharges above that level.
- Digital Coupons Don’t Automatically Apply to Products on Peapod. Unlike Instacart, Peapod doesn’t allow shoppers to apply digital coupons to their purchases automatically. You must go to Stop & Shop’s website and clip the coupons there, then transfer them to your Peapod account. While it’s not a huge inconvenience, it does add time and friction to the order.
- Some App Functionality Issues. Peapod’s online ordering platform and app are a bit laggy, though this could be a function of server overload due to high demand periods. I also experienced some errors on the rest of the website, such as blank pages where text should have been.
Peapod is not a coast-to-coast grocery delivery and pickup provider. It’s only available in a small but populous footprint stretching from southern New Jersey to Maine. That’s a shame for those of us who can’t order groceries through Peapod at present. Hopefully, Peapod’s parent company will reconsider its trade area in the future.
Is Peapod your go-to for online grocery ordering and delivery, or do you prefer a competitor?