A Tale of Online Shopping

It is not that often that my job invokes nostalgia. But the past couple weeks as I was researching the August cover story on Online Retailing, I found myself missing my grandfather.

Last spring my grandpa passed away. The previous fall, his wife of 67 years, my grandma, passed away. (Coincidentally, today is her birthday.) It was clear to those who knew him that he did not want to be without her. The reality of it was though that because of my grandma’s dementia, she had been, in many ways, long gone before her passing, leaving all the day-to-day housework to her one and only.

Grandpa cooked, Grandpa cleaned, Grandpa walked Grandma around the house when she got lost.

Grandpa also did all the food shopping. He loved to go to the grocery store. Despite his bad knees, he liked to wander the aisles leaning on his cart, peruse the DiGiorno pizza flavors, stock up on Campbell’s Vegetable Soup and chit chat with the ladies he passed. He wasn’t necessarily looking for any new foods; he just like getting out and about.

The local grocery store was an Associated Supermarket, and the guys that worked there were nothing but overly helpful to him, running around collecting everything he a question about.

I can only imagine what they thought when he came shuffling in bent over his cart, stopping every few feet to figure out which items he was standing alongside. It must have been along the lines of, “Doesn’t he have anyone to help him shop?”

Thing was… he did. My mother would often pick things up for him that she knew he used, but if you asked him straight out what he wanted, he would say nothing… “he was going to the store later in the week.”

Grandpa was fiercely independent. Stubborn to the bone.

Finally, mom had the idea to show him how to order groceries online through Peapod, which associated with Stop & Shop in our area. Years earlier he had owned his own computer and learned how to use the Internet. He showed the world that an old man could learn new tricks. But unfortunately technology advanced faster than he was interested in moving, and when he started receiving emails with photo files so large that they clogged his slow connection, he ditched the thing.

So to order groceries online Mom would bring over her laptop, but he was not impressed. He had all sorts of reasons, but really, deep down, I think he just did not want to rely on my mother to help him make his purchase.

However, he learned soon after his trial run with online ordering, that he could order over the phone. Now, someone of a younger generation would think “Phone? How the heck do you know what to order?”

Well, Grandpa had been ordering the same frozen pizzas, cans of soup, TV dinners and cold cuts for years and years. He knew what he wanted and he was not interested in “trying new things.”

So he would call up, read his list, pick his delivery time and wait by the door. The groceries would arrive and Grandpa would fill up his cupboards.

While he would have preferred to make the trip to the store himself – apparently Peapod never gave him the correct Oscar Meyer Bologna – his legs were not as ambitious and without Grandma to cook for, his passion was diminished.

In writing the August story on Online Retailing, many people discussed the benefits of online retailing for elderly people. I found it a bit hard to believe that that a lot of elderly people were picking up a laptop and learning the internet just to order groceries.

But one expert on the topic put it into words I could relate to. “Elderly people like the option because it allows them to stay independent,” she said; “It allows them to keep their dignity.”

Yes, it does. Yes, it did…

… and anything that could kept my grandpa happy deserves a high-five in my book.

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