New service delivers Reading Terminal Market goods to your doorstep

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The same-day grocery delivery service “InstaCart” is known for partnering with major chains including Whole Foods, Acme and SuperFresh.

This fall, the company’s personal shoppers will be picking up goods for Philadelphians in a very different location: The Reading Terminal Market.

On a recent weekday morning, a few shoppers were weaving through aisles at The Terminal, one of the country’s largest and oldest public markets. A man wearing tinted glasses was playing the piano, sending the music to hang in the air among the vendors selling produce, baked goods, Chinese food, smoothies, gyros and much. much more. 

It’s the perfect time to stop by, said Deatrice Chappel of West Philadelphia. It’s not yet crowded with tourists and people on lunch break from jury duty.  She said she tries to avoid the market on weekends and other peak times.

“I like Halterman’s — the meat market over there,” she pointed out. “I like this fish market right here in front of me.”

Chappel loves the market, and she isn’t enticed by the idea of having someone else do her grocery shopping for her.

“I like seeing what I’m buying,” she said.

Some people, though, are happy to avoid the task.

‘Embedded shoppers’ at the ready

George Shotz, who manages InstaCart operations in Philadelphia, said he hasn’t shopped for groceries in six months. He appreciates the convenience of not having to trek to the store and navigate the crowds. And, he said, InstaCart’s personal shoppers are well trained.

“We want to make sure the expiration dates are good. We say things like, ‘You want to get a banana that’s yellow with a green hat.’ Right?” he explained. “Cause that can last four to five days.”

Reading Terminal Market general manager Paul Steinke said wandering around the market is part of its appeal.

“However the era of grocery-delivery service is upon us,” he conceded.

Steinke said the grocery-delivery service will be a perfect fit for some people who would like to stop by in person.

“There are customers who love the market, but can’t get here as often as they would like for a variety of reasons,” he said. “So this gives them the opportunity to take advantage of the offerings of our merchants.”

The delivery fee is just under $4 for orders of $35 or more with goods delivered in just two hours. For smaller or faster deliveries, charges are a little bit higher.

Shotz said the shopping at the Reading Terminal Market will be a little different from other retailers.

“We are doing ’embedded pickers’ because the market is so massive and there’s lot of different merchants people can be ordering from,” he said.

Shotz said those “embedded pickers” will be stationed at the market and ready to shop when given the go ahead. “Then, as soon as it’s ready, a driver will come up into the loading dock, ‘boom,’ grab the bag and head right to the customer’s house or wherever their location is.”

InstaCart hopes to have most of the terminal’s wares available for delivery by the end of the year.

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