By Hannah Berman

In order to remain in business and service customers, many stores are taking online orders. Supermarkets, Costco, and most pharmacies do not take phone or email orders; the shopper must access the store’s website to place an order.

As a seriously incompetent user of anything relating to technology, it took some time for me to get the hang of things. Here I credit one of my daughters for her patience in teaching me how to navigate a shopping website. I learned from her that all one needs to do is to click on the picture next to the description of the item one wants. Shoppers may then indicate the desired amount by clicking on either the plus or the minus symbol. If one elects to purchase a quart of milk and then decides she wants two quarts, she simply navigates to the plus sign. Each time she clicks on it, she is requesting another quart. If she ultimately decides that she has ordered too much, she may click the minus sign, and one quart will be removed. The best part is that one may repeatedly edit her order up until the day of delivery. I never thought I would feel this way, but not only is it easy to do, it’s actually fun. The proverbial fly in the ointment is the delivery time.

Because supermarkets are inundated with orders, delivery is slow, and a shopper may have to wait a week or more before receiving the order. As I recently discovered, the fly in this ointment has company — there is a second fly: the shopper is not always happy with what is delivered. This is especially true when one orders produce, and I am speaking from personal experience.

Last week, I ordered five of what I hoped would be medium-size, firm, yellow bananas. My hope was that they wouldn’t be too green since very green ones sometimes never ripen. I also didn’t want overripe bananas that are soft and in the process of turning brown. What I received on the day of delivery were five huge bananas with multiple brown spots. They were the size of a 12-inch ruler and there were soft spots on all of them. In short, they looked gross.

Hoping, however, to salvage something, I cut one in half, thinking that there might a tasty edible piece in the middle. The skin was noticeably thick and very hard to peel but I persevered and managed to cut a small piece for myself to test the waters, so to speak. One small bite told me that something was not right. I spied a small blue label on each of the bananas, which led me to believe that they were Chiquita bananas. I’m not sure what made me take a second look, but I did. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that they were not bananas. They were plantains! Apparently the individual who had shopped for me didn’t know the difference between the two.

The six navel oranges I had ordered were also a problem. Instead of large, firm oranges with a thick skin, what I got were small oranges, some with a wrinkled skin, and not a belly button in sight. They were not navels but juice oranges. While they were edible, they were not what I wanted. Unfortunately, my disappointment didn’t end there. I had also ordered brown, thin-skinned pears known as Bosc pears. I only like Bosc and never eat Bartlett, Anjou, Asian, or any other type of pear. At first glance the fruit looked fine, but that was before I discovered that they were actually green pears that were so overripe they had turned brown!

Placing an order for poultry is also iffy since the store’s shopper, who may know very little and who doesn’t pay attention to what he or she is doing, may mess up. If I want white-meat chicken, it means that I do not want drumsticks or thighs. When I order any chicken, I want it in its original birthday suit, which is with the skin still attached. I don’t eat the skin, but I prefer to cook chicken with the skin on so that it remains juicy. I can do my own peeling of the skin when I sit down to eat it, thank you very much. Obviously, I have no way of knowing who did the shopping for me, but I have solved the problem by deciding that my best course of action is to order only groceries and dairy products from now on. My fruits and veggies will have to be ordered from a produce store.

One of my mother’s favorite expressions was “beggars can’t be choosers.” Those of us who fear stepping foot into a store now fall into the category of being a beggar. We have learned another hard truth. Previous to this horrific current state of affairs, my friends and I did not classify ourselves by age. We went happily about our business of living our lives. While we knew that we were in our seventies, we never stopped to think that we would be classified as elderly. Personally, I cringe each time I hear that word, and it is a word that is used often by medical experts. Doctors refer to “elderly” people as being the most vulnerable because most of us have underlying medical conditions and therefore have compromised immune systems. Having an underlying medical condition is bad. Having a compromised immune system is bad. Being vulnerable is bad. Being referred to as elderly is a lot worse!

Right now, life is not as pleasant and as worry-free as it once was. The president, the vice president, and many experts are advising us that certain states are “beginning to open up,” but those who are at the greatest risk are reminded to stay indoors. If we do venture out, we must wear a mask and be sure to stay six feet away from anyone not living in our house with us. Those of us who continue to isolate have two choices. One is to rely on friends and relatives to do our food shopping; the other option is to shop online. That means that a store employee will shop for us and the store will deliver the items.

Based on my online shopping experience, while placing an order is fun, having others select the food for us is not. It will remain like this until we feel it is safe for us to go into a supermarket and make our own selections. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.

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