Shopping at the Curb


Shopping at the Curb

Regardless of shopping trends, I still like to go in a store and buy the things I want. It feels like a small accomplishment to search and gather. Like I’ve conquered a deficit, or met a need, and spent my time industriously. 

If I’m sending a gift, I often order it and have it delivered to the recipient to save myself a trip to the post office. 

I order any tech items like headphones and cables online. Big box stores that sell technology and appliances give me the hiccups.

I tried grocery delivery months ago and found myself under-served. Soggy produce that went from the box to the trash happened too many times for me to justify the cost-to-convenience ratio. 

I briefly considered curbside pick up for dry goods and dairy, but a million other people with the same idea clogged up the schedule and pick-up windows became scarce.

Besides decreasing the frequency of my shopping trips, I wasn’t inspired to make any changes to my in-person/online shopping habits.

However, recently, I needed to buy a medium-sized piece of furniture and had to choose between three different ways to convey the item to my home: delivery, conventional shop and load, and something the store called “click and collect.”

Delivery was going to take 3-25 weeks; going into the store, by my estimate, was going to take two hours; and the curbside option offered a 4-hour pick up window and a guarantee of 20 minutes from my “click” to my “collect.”

I decided to abandon my policy of suspecting the worst of online and curbside shopping.

Throughout the last few months, I have watched the world for parking trends unique to extraordinary current events. I’ve watched for a lot of things, but this one came easy, and was compulsory, because I work for Parking Today.

I’ve seen empty parking lots, paid parking given away for free, parking lots turned into restaurants, parking lots re-surfaced and re-painted, parking lots used for contactless pick up, and parking lots used to store new Toyotas. There is a lot going on in the parking industry – there always is.

So, I placed my order and ventured to the store toward the later end of my pick-up window. I parked in the loading zone and got in line at the loading dock. 

After a few minutes, I snagged a store employee and asked if I was in the right place for an online order.

I was not. He gestured north and said vaguely that I needed to get in a numbered spot and scan the barcode. I’m no millennial, so this was not exactly enough instruction for me. 

It’s hard to watch people who can’t drive in reverse, but I was patient, and after a few minutes, carefully backed into stall No. 6. Face to face with the barcode, I read the directions three times before I figured out that I could ignore it altogether and just send a text to the number underneath it. 

The woman in the stall next to me was also confused by the sign, so I shared my newfound experience.

I received a confirmation text that my purchase was moving up the line and would be out shortly. The text requested I tap the URL provided and there I gave my name, stall number and the make/model/color of my car.

Within 20 minutes, I got another text saying my order was on its way and I should be prepared to show identification. Done and done and I was on my way home.

The loading zone and ride-share area are two parking and transportation challenges that complicate parking lot design. Curbside pickup needs to be added to that list. 

It will require a designated area that allows for high turnover, but is close to the store, building or warehouse. People will want to park there and find a simple process for gathering their goods.

Curbside pickup is something happening in parking lots that isn’t going to go away later. My prediction is it will expand as a service and become a permanent option for shoppers, because it works, even for those of us who hesitate. 

Now that I’ve taken the leap, I’m confident I’ll try it again.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
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