In India we have a facility in grocery shopping that I have not seen elsewhere...door delivery. Just phone up the grocer and soon, you will have your goods delivered to your doorstep. Coooool, huh? I am sure my overworked friends abroad would just swoon at the thought of this convenience.
But...it's not unalloyed bliss as one would think. I have always avoided having stuff home-delivered...because....
a. Very often, stuff that is close to, or sometimes even past, the expiry date, is sent over.
b. There is sometimes an error in the totalling of the bill. Suffice it to say that I have NEVER seen an error on the side of less. It's always an error for a couple of rupees more. The shopkeeper smilingly apologizes when you go over and point out the mistake. "These computers madam..." he says with a shrug. (If I have to go back to point out the error in the bill, I might as well go and do the shopping myself. And it's PEOPLE who enter the prices into that computer Mr Shopkeeper!)
c. When I go in person, I also can look around and spot good offers that I may not know about. I once got disposable razors for Rs.10 each (I am not kidding)...got a whole bunch of them!! And there might be offers with what I am buying, that don't reach me during door delivery, that I can ensure, come with my purchase.
d. Definitely, the cost of home-delivery is built into the price of the product. NO store that gives door delivery sells below MRP (Maximum Retail Price). By buying at my regular kirana shop, I save several HUNDRED rupees...the shopkeeper told me that he would not deliver home and add that cost to the groceries.
e. I find it VERY difficult to sit at home waiting for the delivery boy to arrive. Of course, he will come by just as I am ready to go out somewhere, or, even if I am at home, let me get a really important call, whether it is from a friend or Nature, and the doorbell will ring...
f. When I keep going to the kirana store myself, they know me and I know them. I have an excellent return/exchange policy for which I need not buy industrial quantities of anything. They know I am a genuine buyer and they accept returned goods. It won't work with a different "boy" delivering goods each time,and the store not knowing you.
g. The trip to the kirana shop is much more personal than any Nilgiris or Fab Mall or Food World visit. "Oh, I see you have a new nephew working today," I say to the head of the extended family. (It's a VERY busy shop, with the local small shopkeepers also buying there...that tells you about the prices.)The shop is run by a Rajasthani guy who has at least 22 helpers at last count. Their lovely silver-and-ruby earrings glint in the sunshine as they hum about taking down stuff. The shopkeeper has provided employment to dozens of his relatives, some of whom have set up their own shops now. The shop fellows are too busy and too social-class-conscious and don't-be-familiar-with-a-lady-conscious to give me more than a smile, but they do that. I am content.
h. Several times, I have seen them nodding to regular customers when they are short of cash. "Come back later and pay". I have done this once myself...and I could go back only after two days.
i. By handling the stuff themselves instead of having the customer handle them, the shopkeepers save tremendously on pilferage. And that benefit benefits the customer. Just ask any dept store how much they lose to shoplifting...and how they build that cost into their sales.
j. I don't have a full-time job and can spare the time for this kind of shopping. That said, I often find that waiting in the lines at the new departments stores takes up the same amount of time as I spend...and there's no helpful young shop assistant carrying my stuff to the car, refusing a tip, and walking away with the usual half-smile that is his social "goodbye".
Wal-Mart is trying to enter India....I don't think they will ever be able to put my Rajasthani guy or his umpteen brothers, out of business.