JONESBORO, Ark. – Grocery delivery is supposed to be a way for busy people to save time but it ended up costing a local consumer at least half of a day making financial and police reports after the grocery delivery shopper appeared to go on a buying spree for himself.
The consumer was this reporter.
How It Happened
The order was made through the Kroger app with online delivery service Instacart on Monday. Within seconds of placing the order, at 10:50 AM, a text message confirmed that “Jonathan B just started shopping! We’ll notify you if there are any changes.” But they didn’t mention any changes, ever.
Instead, a man who was presumably Jonathan B. arrived with what appeared to be eight bags in one hand, dropping several of them during the process of handing them over. He seemed nervous and was gone before I could realize he didn’t leave a receipt.
While some of the items ordered were delivered, several never arrived. Numerous items on the original order had been deleted while even more items had been added in their place. Standing out among salads, chicken, and tofu products was a $10.99 bag of chocolate candy. This was the attention-catching red flag that led to a deeper look. That is where we found a pattern.
For example, next to one legitimate order – a bag of Tyson Home-Style Chicken Fries – the shopper took it upon himself to buy four additional bags of Tyson brand chicken. Next to another legitimate item – a box of InnovAsian General Tso’s Chicken, the shopper bought himself a box of InnovAsian Orange Chicken (he ended up keeping both). Following a trip to the dairy aisle for a legitimate purchase, he added two gallons of milk and two boxes of cereal for himself, too.
As the shopper added items to the cart he intended to keep, he would delete legitimate choices from the cart to balance out the order. The total cost remained close to what the original order was for – but with about 40% of the groceries missing.
The process was further complicated by Kroger apparently keeping no retrievable record of the original order selections vs. what was finally delivered. As buyers often have to replace out-of-stock items with substitutes, they have the ability to modify the order from its original state. Usually, each modification is sent to the customer – but not in this case.
$60.18 in groceries was paid for and never received. The overall total was $168.13, making it something that could have slipped past unaware or busy customers.
- InnovAsian General Tso’s Chicken Breast – $6.99
- InnovAsian Orange Chicken Breast – $6.99
- Kroger 1% Lowfat Milk – $1.89
- Kroger Toasted Flakes with Strawberry Cereal – $2.29
- Kroger 2% Reduced Fat Milk – $1.89
- Kroger Crunchy Raisin Bran Cereal – $2.29
- Kroger Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese – $2.89 (he kept one; I had paid for two)
- Mars Chocolate Favorites Mini Size Candy Assortment – $10.99
- Tyson Honey BBQ Bone-In Chicken Wings (2) – $11.98
- Tyson Honey BBQ Chicken Strips (2) – $11.98
Jonathan B. stopped responding to inquiries after finishing the delivery. He had previously responded to a question asking him to pick up an item not added to the cart (which he didn’t get).
What Happens Next?
The first step was to cancel the guy’s tip which is the only option Kroger offers on their website for unsatisfied customers.
The second step was reaching out to Kroger via customer service phone line. Once I had explained the entire problem, the customer service rep accidentally hung up on me. A second call occurred with a supervisor promising to refund the fraudulent charges.
Next, I contacted Instacart, the company that actually does the purchasing of the groceries. My call was routed to a foreign call center where there was a severe language barrier affecting communication with agents. If only to make them aware for the benefit of future potential victims, I asked for and patiently spoke to a supervisor to explain. He was in denial at first, until I explained to him the pattern of removing items and purchasing similar items to ones left. He promised to immediately look into it and cancel the shopper’s status with the company if it was as it seemed.
A report was filed with the Jonesboro Police Department. An affidavit will have to be completed with the city attorney’s office to pursue charges, the sergeant said, since it ended up being a misdemeanor count of fraudulent use of a credit/debit card.
One can’t ignore the suspicion that this may not have been the first time this occurred. After posting about the experience on Facebook, several people replied saying they knew of this happening to others. If you or someone you know has experienced a similar situation, please reach out to at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stan Morris Reporting