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By Brad Tuttle
Updated: April 15, 2020 9:22 AM ET | Originally published: April 13, 2020
Shutterstock

No one wants to go to the store nowadays. Traditional shopping in the age of quarantine and coronavirus brings with it the obvious health concerns. Shopping can also be a hassle, what with shortages of key products like toilet paper, as well as long waits outside stores that are limiting how many people are allowed inside.

So what’s the best way to buy the stuff you need without going to the store? Online shopping is ideal, of course, but it’s difficult if not impossible find online grocery delivery available lately. And if you’re shopping for something other than groceries, sometimes you need your order faster than it can be delivered practically. That’s where curbside pickup comes in.

More stores have introduced or boosted curbside pickup during the coronavirus pandemic. Curbside pickup options vary widely among retailers — some are much better at it than others — but the concept is pretty much the same no matter where you shop. You place an order online, and instead of selecting that it be delivered, you opt for in-store or curbside pickup. The order is followed by a confirmation email, which tells you when your items will be ready for pickup. Once you’re at the store, you alert sales clerks of your arrival via phone or location-based electronic check-in, and an employee comes out with your goods to complete a full contactless transaction. Often, all you have to do is pull up and pop the trunk.

While the service makes a lot of sense nowadays, it’s not always smooth sailing. Many stores are operating with reduced hours, and curbside pickup time slots are sometimes limited — especially for groceries. What’s more, it can be difficult to tell in a glance if a retailer promoting “Curbside Delivery” on its website actually offers the service at a nearby store. Curbside pickup is often available only at select locations, and even when a retailer want to offer it at a store, it might be overruled by state or local regulations banning all nonessential sales — curbside pickup included.

Even with the frustrations, shopping with curbside pickup can be much less of a headache than physically going to the store, and it just might save you time. Here’s what you need to know about stores with curbside pickup, including Walmart, Best Buy, Home Depot, and more.

Walmart Curbside Pickup

Walmart offers curbside grocery pickup in some locations. But unfortunately, finding a time slot open for grocery pickup at Walmart is just as difficult — meaning, basically impossible — as it is to find an opening for online grocery delivery with the retailer. In-store pickup is available at Walmart for a wide range of non-grocery merchandise. But in most cases, you’ll have to get out of your car and wait inside the store to gather your merchandise. Walmart also has free delivery for most (non-grocery) items, with a minimum purchase of $35.

On Wednesday, April 14, Walmart announced it would be reserving the 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. time slot every day for pickup orders retrieved by older customers (60 and up), first responders, and shoppers with disabilities and high-risk factors. That’s in addition to special senior shopping hours offered daily by Walmart and other major retailers. Of course, just because Walmart is reserving a special hour for senior pickup orders doesn’t mean that you will be able to find a time slot available.

Target Curbside Pickup

Most Target stores have a designated “Drive Up” section in the parking lot, where online shoppers can pick up orders. Target says orders can be brought out to shoppers’ cars within two minutes of arrival. Unfortunately, groceries, food, and adult beverages are not available for Drive Up or in-store pickup at Target during the coronavirus pandemic. If delivery is preferable, you can get free shipping from Target on most non-grocery orders of $35 or more, and Target RedCard users get free shipping with no minimum purchase required.

Grocery Stores With Curbside Pickup

Ordering online grocery delivery has proven next to impossible for many shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic, due to overwhelming demand. Curbside pickup of groceries is the next best option if you’re trying to save time or simply avoid being inside a store.

But it’s also very difficult to find grocery stores with curbside pickup available lately. Some supermarket chains, like Stop & Shop, have temporarily paused their grocery pickup services. Other grocery stores, such as Safeway and Whole Foods Market, still have curbside pickup, but the service might not be offered at all locations — and finding a time slot available can be just as impossible as online grocery delivery. In fact, Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh aren’t accepting new customers for grocery pickup and delivery right now; to order, you must request an invitation the use the services and wait to see if you’re approved.

The only real way to see if curbside grocery pickup is a feasible option for you is to try to place an order with your local store. Our advice is to look first for available time slots, before you bother placing any groceries into an online shopping cart. Look to smaller mom-and-pop grocery stores in your area too, because many have launched or expanded their curbside pickup and delivery services because of the coronavirus. You can head to the websites of local independent stores to find out about curbside pickup options, or check out Mercato.com, which partners with hundreds of small grocers around the country to arrange online grocery delivery — and, in many cases, store pickup as well.

Another option to consider is using Instacart. The service is best known for using independent contractor shoppers, who pickup orders at major retail chains like Costco, Aldi, CVS, BJ’s, and Wegmans, and deliver them right to customers’ doors. Instacart also offers curbside pickup with select grocery stores, including Aldi and Wegmans.

Before ordering groceries for curbside pickup (or delivery) with Instacart, take note that there are fees for using the service (they vary widely), a 5% tip is added automatically to orders, and that the price you pay for items via Instacart can sometimes be higher than what you’d see in the store. Like many other delivery services, Instacart is facing unprecedented demand, and time slots may be limited for delivery and curbside pickup.

What’s more, in recent weeks many people have taken to social media to complain about Instacart — including gripes about simply how difficult it is to contact customer service and lodge a complaint. But the company says it is taking steps to address the problems, including doubling the number of customer service representatives over the last two weeks.

More Stores With Curbside Pickup

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble says that curbside pickup is available at some stores. But when we looked at various locations around the country, most were listed as closed “at the request of local public health officials,” with no pickup option possible.

Buy Buy Baby

Buy Buy Baby offers curbside pickup at all of its stores. To place an order for pickup, first find the items you want to buy online — and look specifically for what’s in stock and able to be picked up at your local store. You’ll receive a confirmation email after your order is reserved, and a notice about when the order is ready for pickup. Once you’re at the store, you’ll have to call to have the order brought to your car.

Best Buy

Nearly all Best Buy stores are offering curbside pickup now, and a company spokesperson says orders can be ready for contactless pickup within one hour of purchase. Best Buy says that curbside pickup is available for basically anything that’s in stock at the store you are visiting, though the selection is obviously larger if you order items for delivery. Free shipping is available for orders of $35 or more.

Big Lots

Curbside pickup is available at most Big Lots stores right now. The retailer says shoppers should order online for in-store pickup, and wait for an email conformation. Then, after driving to the store, pull up curbside, call the store’s local number, and wait for your order to be brought out.

The Container Store

The Container Store says curbside pickup is available in select locations. However, we looked at multiple locations around the country, and virtually all were closed — with no pickup available.

Dick’s Sporting Goods

Dick’s offers contactless curbside pickup from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at many store locations. (Here’s where to look to see if a nearby Dick’s store has curbside pickup available.) As with other stores, product availability is limited and can vary widely from location to location. If you’d rather have orders delivered, Dick’s Sporting Goods offers free shipping on most purchases of $49 or more.

DSW

DSW has curbside pickup service in a select few stores that are still open. But in most cases around the country, DSW stores are closed.

Home Depot

Home Depot offers regular in-store pickup in all locations, and curbside pickup for online orders has been added as an option in select stores recently.

Kohl’s

Kohl’s “Drive Up” option is available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at many Kohl’s locations. Orders can be available for pickup within two hours of purchase, and you’ll receive an email saying exactly when your order is ready. But shopping for items with Kohl’s curbside pickup availability can be frustrating. It’s impossible to search strictly by what’s available at your local store, so you must browse item by item, size by size, to see what’s in stock at stores near you. It’s much simpler to order items for delivery, and Kohl’s free shipping is available for purchases of $75 or more.

Lowe’s

Like rival home improvement rival Home Depot, Lowe’s has expanded curbside pickup recently, but it’s often hard to tell which locations offer the service. Our advice is to call your local store and ask before placing an order to pick up.

Michaels

Curbside pickup is offered at select Michaels stores until 6 p.m. daily. As you browse online, look for items marked “Free Store Pickup” to ensure they’re available for you to buy and swing by to gather that day. Or get free shipping with online orders of $59 or more.

Nordstrom

Nordstrom says that curbside pickup for online orders is available in select locations. However, most if not all Nordstrom stores are closed, with no order pickup available. Free shipping is available on most Nordstrom.com purchases, with no minimum purchase requirement.

Office Depot

Office Depot offers curbside or in-store pickup in most locations. You can search Office Depot locations to see if curbside service is available at your nearest store, and then place your order accordingly. Free next-day shipping is available on many orders of $45 or more too.

Petco

Petco is offering an extra 10% off for all curbside pickup orders right now. The retailer says orders are generally ready for contactless pickup “within a few hours” of purchase. Alternately, fast free shipping (1-2 days) is available for most orders of $35 or more.

Staples

Staples says it has curbside pickup at most stores, though the retailer’s website says you should “call your local store in advance and we’ll have [orders] ready.” Look for items marked available as “Pick up in 1 hour,” and then call after placing your order to request curbside pickup. Staples is also offering free delivery for orders, with no minimum purchase required.

More From MONEY:

Coronavirus and Online Grocery Delivery: Everything You Need to Know

Can I Get a Refund? How Return Policies Have Changed Because of Coronavirus at Target, Costco, and Other Major Retailers

All the Stores With Special Hours for Seniors and Other Vulnerable Customers During the Coronavirus Crisis

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