Thursday, May 6, 2010

Need a Job? Try Grocery Shopping for Others

In these times of a tough economy, many people are losing their jobs. Most often, they start looking for a new job, but that can take time. One way to bring in a little money, or to supplement your income, is to perform a grocery shopping service for other people.

How to get started on a shoestring budget
If you can't afford to spend a bunch of money on advertising, and most of us can't, there are some other ways to get out the word about your grocery shopping business.

For one thing, if you have a printer and paper and ink, you can design some small flyers; I'd suggest at least 2 per sheet of paper, though you can do more. Then just walk around to targeted neighborhoods and hang flyers on the doors of the houses. One flyer per house, please. You're going to be doing a lot of walking for this, and you should expect immediate results; it can take a few weeks, and sometimes a few thousand of the flyers delivered, before you begin to reel in the customers. Try not to lose heart in the meantime. Also, remember to target your neighborhoods; no offense is meant, but generally, lower income neighborhoods are not going to have people who can afford someone to do their grocery shopping. You need to target the better-off neighborhoods. Also, as an example, I've found senior citizens and those with a disability are more likely to need a grocery shopper than a young couple.

Also, I'll suggest visiting many of your local grocery stores. Talk to the managers. Let them know what you're doing. Most stores will have some kind of community board where you can hang one of your flyers, but remember to ask at the front desk because many stores have some kind of rules for posting on their board. Most store managers will be happy to hear about your service because they sometimes get calls from customers wanting some to deliver groceries; if possible, leave a flyer with the manager and/or at the front desk so someone at the store will have your information to give to asking customers.

What should you have on your flyer? Keep it simple. A contact phone number and an e-mail. You don't need to get specific, so keep it short and to the point, just let potential clients know you deliver groceries. If you want to get fancy, you can find one of the free Web site builders online and create your own little grocery shopping Web page.

Don't forget you can also advertise for free at some online places, craigslist being one of the most popular.

I've found word of mouth helps greatly, too. Make sure to let friends and family know what you're doing, because some of them might even be your first clients. Also, once you become comfortable with a customer, don't forget to suggest to them to pass on your name and contact information to their acquaintances.

How does it work?

This is how I do it: A customer calls me with their shopping list or gives it to me in person, and I pick up cash from them at their home or residence. I go do their grocery shopping, making sure to hold onto their change and a receipt. I promptly bring the groceries, the change and the receipt(s) back to the customer. That simple.

But why operate in cash? For a few reasons, but mainly because of potential concerns over identity theft and credit/debit card miss-use. If a customers hands you cash and you return their change with a receipt showing what you spent, there can be little question about the customer losing money. But if you feel comfortable taking blank checks or credit card information from customers, and they feel comfortable with it, do what you will.

How much to charge?
The price you quote your clients is really up to you, of course, but keep in mind you need to make it worth your while. Is $10 enough per grocery delivery? Probably not in most cases. Remember that unless you take a bus or some other service (and even that costs money) you'll likely have to drive to the grocery store and to your client's residence or office, and that costs money. My suggestion, for most regions, would be to charge $20 for the first hour and $10 per hour after that. Most shopping jobs won't take more than an hour anyway. Of course you can charge a little less or a little more depending upon where you live, but don't be afraid to haggle with your customers a little if they seem open to it. If you offer $20 per grocery trip and a customer only wants to pay $15, think about if it's worth it to you, and whether or not this customer has the potential to become a regular client. You don't want to scare off any potential customers, but you can't go broke delivering groceries for other people.

Know your stuff
It might help if you've worked in a grocery store before. You'll be a little more familiar generally with how and where items are placed, and you might be more familiar with prices and receiving practices within stores.

It also helps to be familiar with many different stores in your region. When shopping for yourself, try out different stores. Figure out the layouts for the stores, and keep track of the sale items for each store.

The more you grocery shop for others, the easier it becomes and the faster you'll become, especially when you have regular customers for whom you shop on a regular basis. You'll become familiar with where items your client often buys are located in a store. You'll get a little faster over time. In my experience, by the third or fourth trip, you can do most clients' shopping in a half hour or less (though I suggest always charging for at least a full hour because you've got to make money at this, too).

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