Online supermarket shopping

Online Supermarket Shopping

Our Secret Shopper takes a look at the online supermarket shopping website's for Tesco's, Waitrose (Ocado) and Sainsbury's (Asda wouldn't deliver to the address) and rates them for ease of use and quality of service.

Our shopper is a 'young' mum (I'll get shot for that!) interested in buying the weekly groceries for a family of four (2 adults and two small children). The attraction is the convenience of shopping in the evening after the children have gone to bed and not having to drag them around the supermarket. The average price of the groceries for the week is typically£80-90.

Each supermarket online store was visited and used twice in the period of a few weeks. The table below compares how quickly the groceries could be delivered for each of the orders, what the delivery charges were, how long it took to initially set up your first shopping basket, how long it took to do the second shop and what the quality of the fresh produce was like.


Earliest delivery slot

Delivery charge

Time to complete 1st order

Time to complete 2nd order

Quality of fresh produce*


1st 5days
2nd 3days


2 hours 30 minutes

30 minutes

Very good

Waitrose (Ocado)

Next day

Free with orders over£85

2 hours 30 minutes

1 hour 30 minutes

Very good


1st next day
2nd 5days

Varies cheapest£4.49

2 hours

45 minutes


*Note this is judged on the basis of the samples of produce that were received and may not be representative of all produce from these stores.

Sainsbury's Website

1st Shopping Delivery 



Two items of fresh produce did not have a date that Sainsbury's were happy with, had option to return these. Products were of very good quality though so they were kept.

First delivery items were all of good quality.

2nd Shopping Delivery 



Favourites list contained items bought previously in store as well as on line. This helped to make the shop quicker as a lot of the items came off this list.

Again all fresh produce had long use by dates and was of very good quality.

Waitrose / Ocado

1st Shopping Delivery


The delivery man went through whole order to check everything was there. There was one item missing. This was taken off bill immediately

2nd Shopping Delivery




1st Shopping delivery

The first attempt to order from Tesco took over two hours to put in shop -Tesco had delivery details from old address. Changed delivery address and whole order was lost. Complained to administration and apparently that's normal. Well its not normal on any other site I've purchased items from!

2nd Shopping Delivery

The second time I tried to order Tesco had problems with their computer and I could not access their home shopping page after logging on.

3rd Shopping Delivery



4th Shopping Delivery



Overall the shopping experience online is a lot less traumatic than dragging two small (under 5) children round the aisles once a week. Whilst it can be painful to set up and sometimes things go wrong, at least I can sit there in peace and quiet with my cup of tea deciding exactly which chocolate I should buy!

So, who do I use? Currently Sainsbury's as they keep sending me offers of free delivery along with vouchers to cash in my Nectar points. I would also use Waitrose again as the produce is generally excellent, but I'm afraid Tesco's loses out.

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"Some of the commenters seem to think that everybody has the option of going to the supermarket any time they want, but some of us live in areas where the nearest small supermarket is 20 miles away on a road frequently blocked by snow. Online deliveries are a Godsend, and Tescos and Asda are the only ones who deliver here. Asda failed to deliver my (large) order, failed to let me know, and failed to deal with my query effectively the next day. Tesco delivers every time, on time, in heavy snow at times, with courtesy, good quality produce, long use by dates, really useful shopping list facility on website, only complaint is that the range of products online is not huge compared with in a Tesco extra store, perhaps because the deliveries are coming from a smaller store."


"some people are never happy unless they are complaining. when substitute goods are included, then the company are obviously trying to be helpful. if you can't cope with the odd hiccup, then get off your arses and do your own shopping."


"in answer to Sarah why do people use home delivery I normally wouldn't but I have to have surgery and will not be able to lift anything. I live on my own and I rely on public transport so for me and the many other people who are unable to get out or don't want to take the children to shops I think it is a godsend I have read the comments with interest & shall let you know how I get on although work colleagues have offered to shop for me "

dawn london

"We've just had a Tesco delivery and numerous BOGOF deals have not been credited. Called Tesco and got £12 credit applied. Just wondered how many people don't notice ! Admin: Not my wife for sure!!"


"can people not manage to go to a shop themselves? I would never allow others to pick out my fruit, veg or meat, which leaves very little, so not worth it at all."


"I would have given up with tesco after the first failed attempt. You must be a very patient woman!"


"Sainsburys do have a free delivery is shopping delivered on tues/wed/thurs and is in excess of £75.00 - and agree quality of produce better than Tesco."

J Mitchell

"I had a sainsbury's grocery delivery today, and they charged me more than what the final order came to online. When I rang and asked why they say they can't guarantee prices and over the last few days the price of wheat has shot up!!!!!!! Surely when you place an order with them they should honour the price on the order"


"I used to have my groceries delivered from Asda,but so many times fresh produce was so short dated that i had to use the items before i really wanted.Gave up on Asda and for the past 2 years my shopping is delivered by Tesco..So far excellent service,rarely any substitutes.Anything that may be short dated they inform you on their website and also on the delivery notice.All delivery men/women have been exceptionally polite and take the time to have a chat.During the recent snow and ice they delivered my Christmas shopping on time and a complete order.Well done Tesco.Would choose them over Asda anytime :)"

Happy In Cornwall

"Teco cheapest delivery to me is only £3 and you can request long lifes etc on each item I was very impressed by how carefully they picked if you put in details. Eg they even managed to get me a marbled piece of stewing steak, "checked the onions not soft and big red peppers and garlic bulbs. Yep, I was a realy awkward shopper! The delivery driver offered to take everything right into my kitchen and was really nice and helpful. You can also insert "no substitutes" so you don't end up with 4 pints instead of 6 pints of milk.I haven't tried the others so I can only vouch for Tescos."

Angela O'Sullivan

"Sainsburys have failed to deliver. The first time they said it was due to computer crash but then turned out to be no drivers. We then scheduled it to next day and same thing happend but they failed to phone. Their response was pathetic and they didn\'t offer any compensation for our time wasted. DO NOT USE SAINSBURYS. They are apparantly short of drivers probably due to the way they treat them which is reflected in the way they treat their customers."


"I regularly shop online with Asda and Tesco and do have items missing etc but I have always found their customer services prompt to correct errors. I have just had a Sainsburys delivery and noticed that I was charged 10x for a pack of chicken so that it cost me £40. Sainsburys customer services are a waste of time. They can't do refunds so I was kept on hold for ages then told to wait for a phone call back which never happened. I phoned back again to be told that the person who should have been dealing with it had gone home! I'll never use Sainsburys home delivery again. "


"I am a pensioner living alone so it would be helpful to know what Ocado delivery charges are when spending a lot less than £80."

Lesley P. Humphreys

"I have ordered from Tesco\'s three times and every time there has been a problem as with other folk on here they try to charge you for missing goods please check your order also noticed that goods delivered cost more than when ordered as they charge you price in store on delivery date not order date.They also want another delivery charge to supply missing items, nice little earner.Will never use again as they refuse to hold an investigation into what happened to the missing goods what are they afraid of discovering. Have since used Asda with no problems so far and their delivery charge is cheaper than Tesco for same time slots. So check the prices you are charged as you may be in for a shock"

Stop Trying To Rob Us

"For those of us wanting to reduce our plastic bag consumption, Tesco is the only one to offer delivery without bags, and they offer rewards for doing so. Sainsbury's tell me that it is not currently economical for them to do so.... and I do not think recycling bags is good enough... which reduces their green credentials, in my eyes... "


"Arived home from work ten minutes before my Tesco delivery due. Shopping bagged but set down on the pavement in the rain. Driver on the phone in the van. Walked into my house and twenty minutes later the driver knocks on the door with my shopping. On the basis that it had been sat there (incl my frozen goods) for so long I refused to accept it. Got on the phone, three phone calls later I got a refund on the goods but not the delivery! Absolutely appalling. A total joke!"


"I used Asda twice in last month. First time was good. Second time they gave me expired milk and website kept crashing repeatedly. After delivery, it was hell getting through to their customer services - lines kept getting cut off so had to try next day. After an hour plus on the phones , having to redial a few times, I was told I'd get a refund for the milk. Plus the 2 hour slots aren't great. Their prices are cheap and products good, but their home shopping service is pants and they need to improve. So tried Tesco today. I'm impressed with their 1 hr delivery slots. Prices a bit dearer, but for online shopping prefer Tesco over Asda for the time being. Will try Ocado next."

SC, London

"i am still waiting for my Asda order, 1/2 hour later than my delivery slot! will never use again. very shoddy as they didnt tell me they were going to be late untill after my slot had finished"

sad shopper

"Thanks - this is exactly what I was looking for! Cheers for the information."


"I have no idea what you idiots are whining about. Every time i've ordered from Tesco's, they've delivered everything i specified and everything had excellent shelf-life. "

Grumpy Sod

"I've tried several, and although they've all got their shortcomings, I prefer Ocado. Sainsbury's: I have to admit I only tried them once, a few years ago. I ordered 24 product lines and 6 of them were out of stock - that's 25% failure which I feel is unreasonable. They did provide substitutes, but one one them was quite bizarre: they gave me lime juice instead of limes - useless as I wanted to put a slice of lime into a wheat beer! I wanted to give them another go a few months ago, but my personal details were out of date, and when I tried to change them, their website wouldn't allow me. So it's impossible to try them again even if I want. Asda: they sent two delivery people - both monosyllabic apes. One of them walked into the door frame on the way out. Can't remember what grocery quality was like. Waitrose Deliver: I tried them just once. The website was very frustrating - I found that you could not make some products substitutable and others not (their website is buggy). I only ordered three product lines: a large quantity of wine, and two small items. When I opened my door, the delivery man thrust a small carrier bag in my direction, and when I said I'd ordered a load of wine, he took offence saying "Well, that's all I was told to deliver!". 33% failure is not acceptable, and the delivery person's manner was not acceptable, so I'll never try them again. Ocado: The most user-friendly experience (except for one delivery) out of all, and bizarrely one of the cheapest. I've used them about 20-30 times now, and they've only once or twice failed to deliver a promised product (but gave a reasonable substitute) - a failure rate of less than 1% which I think is excellent. Only once has a product arrived damaged but they gave a refund within one working day. The downside to Ocado: a delivery man didn't read the delivery instructions properly and seriously upset me as a result. I complained to Ocado customer services, but they fobbed me off. In revenge, I used Tesco from then on for months. However, I decided to give Ocado another go, and they have been superb. The website is so much smoother than Tesco's, and what's more is that Ocado are very slightly cheaper than Tesco: I did a like-for-like comparison of a genuine weekly shop, and Ocado wrere 31p cheaper than Tesco (£61.61 v. £61.92). (I had done a similar excercise once before, and Ocado were only very slightly more expensive than Tesco, so I don't think it's a fluke.) Tesco: Very rough round the edges: their delivery people are only bothered about getting in and out quickly and have no time for pleasantries. (They're never actually rude, though.) I've used them maybe 20 times, and they've always been reliable. They have substitutes occasionally, but within a reasonable level (less than 5%) and provide sane substitutes. They once delivered the wrong product, but it was a very subtle slip I didn't even detect myself for a few days (3 of product A and 1 of product B, instead of 2 product A and 2 product B). No product has ever arrived damaged. Surprisingly they aren't cheaper than Ocado in my experience."

Brian, Hove

"I actually found this page when looking to see if other people had the same problems I've had with on-line shopping. I've used Tesco on-line for a month and a half and finally I'm fed up with the quality of the fresh produce and its used by dates. i actually feel they palm off goods close to expire on on-line shoppers, as you really have no options other than sending it back. the drivers have been mostly nice but had one guy who moaned about the stairs and told us we shouldn't try to be environmentally friendly and go for the no bag option because its more difficult for him to deliver. after reading here I think I will switch to Sainsburys for my on-line shop."

M Garcia

"I have shopped with Tesco and found the drivers very helpful very fair substitutes and easy to decline as we are both disabled it is nice to have a helpful driver,when I checked my order and found a jar of expensive coffee I rang Tesco and they thanked me for being honest and told me to keep it with thier thanks,have tried Sainsburys and agree there delivery charges are excessive also only a 1 hour delivery slot,I think it is swings and roundabouts. I tried Asda and found there stock is far less than Tesco have not tried Waitrose so far.Being pensioners Sainsburys prices are so much higher,it would be nice if they could get together and sort out for old age pensioners,one thing in the snow they could have had Tarzan delivering I was so grateful."


"Tesco customer services are useless, three phonecalls, god knows how much spent on premium rate call charges and 15 days later still waiting for a refund despite full assurances that one has already been given. You get told a completely different nonsense story by each operator just to fob you off."

mr onderson

"I started shopping online about a year ago and used Tesco and Asda once each. The quality of the fruit and veg from Tesco were much better so I continued using Tesco. However since the start of the year their service has been terrible. Twice so far this year they have not turned up, the first time I got no call no warning and no apology. I had to call them the next day (lines closed after 11pm). The 2nd time they called me on the day my delivery was due, apparently their systems were down. The only option I was given was to log online and do my shopping again. I am now going to start shopping with Sainsburys, doing my first shop today...fingers crossed they are more reliable than Tesco. "

C Kelly

"Good evening all, Yesterday I ordered on line to Tesco. The schedule I choose was between 15:00 and 17:00, on Wednesday 24/02/2010 (today) the time I'm writing this...20:11 and still didn't arrive my order. NICE I'm so angry, so upset...I've been signed off work because of anxiety and stress yesterday and this is the best way to relax and chill. Cool. I phoned them at 18:30. The woman that doesn't seem pleased to talk with me told me that the delivery will be in an hour. So...AVOID TESCO. Never again, it's useless, stressing and awful."


"The cost for Waitrose was misleading. If you order from Waitrose direct, and not via Ocado, the delivery is free over £50 not £85, and there's no delivery charge at all if you order one of their 'entertaining' products."

Teresa Wilson

"yes very interested as used asda and found all items were as good as if I had gone to the store myself. As disabled the southport store provides 3 sdcooters 1st class help for the disabled carry out to the car etc and cannot fault on line service if supermarkets offered more free delivery over £50 then would use more often. when on limeted income cannot afford the delivery costs "

j lloyd

"use tescos all the time sometimes the drivers are rude and lazy sometimes the drivers are great very polite and helpfull tonight the driver was a real jerk i have bad back and knees asked driver to carry up stairs which they always do and he moaned then walked out when i said i wanted to check it we were missing 2 products never mind i phoned cs and they refunded product and gave a ecoupon there cs are always helpfull "


"I hav eso far tried sainsburys, tesco and Ocado as i am a working mum and don't want to waste the time I have with my daughter going round the supermarket. i order all my green groceries and meat from which is sourced from local farms but i get one delivery a week from a supermarket to cover other things. I only spend about £20 to £30 a week and find the delivery charges misleading as when you book your slot they have one price but in the small print they say that unless you order over £50 you end up paying in general £6 delivery. Tescos had the cheapest delivery charge for smaller orders but I preferred the Sainsburys website and the drivers from Sainsburys and Ocado were so much nicer than the Tescos man. have not tried Asda yet so might do next week to see what their delivery charge is, but I only pay £1.99 for my buy local stuff that I hate paying so much to the supermarkets."


"Hi The experience you have will depend on which local store your groceries come from. The big stores are also Online stores and take their stock from the shelves for your order. If your nearest big ASDA is run better than your nearest big Tesco then you will think ASDA online is better. The groceries are picked in the store, so some Sainsbury's are better than others etc, depending on where you are in the country and who is working that day. The only exception is Ocado who have specific stores, and they are more expensive."


"We use Ocado, brilliant use by dates - better than in store, and minimal substitutions, they did have to cancel due to snow, but I was texted, emailed and the order was ready to reorder on the website - really easy. We did try the other two, but found the use by dates and subs really fustrating."


"I would like to see all the main supermarkets offer FREE DELIVERY to Pensioners on Pension Credit and to the Disabled. Sainsbury's have free deliver Tues, Wed and Thurs for those spending over £100, nice for those who have cars and money, but for those who are struggling and can only afford £20 or £30 a week on their food shopping, the delivery charge is a bit much. We do not have a car, my husband has a heart condition and I have arthritis of the hips, shopping for us is a complete nightmare, I would love the luxury of shopping online, but cannot afford the delivery charges. I shall be writing to Sainsbury's head office about this."


"We used Tesco online delivery this week. The slot was 9-11 pm. They didn't turn up. They didn't phone. They didn't apologise. The customer service line closes at 11 pm. The next day I was 45 min trying to find out what had happened to the order and the next delivery daye was 2 days away. Issue still unresolved. Advice - try a different grocery chain."


"I used Tesco Home Delivery service for over 6 years, the only free offer during that period was a pack of hot-cross buns,however, they did not arrive. On occasions Tesco substituted WHITE bread for WHOLEMEAL, Tesco delivered without a receipt on several occasions. The service was poor to bloody awful. No worries, now ASDA deliver in my area, prices and service so much better."


"I think Sainsburys are very poor. Every week I receive shortlife or damaged items, items are missed off, silly substitutions are made, the delivery is late, bags are forgotten, special offers are not honoured. If there is something that can go wrong, it often does."

T Doyle

"Tesco advertise that they have reduced delivery charges but it still cost me £5.99 for delivery for £105 of shopping which i think should be free if over £50"


"Will get this article updated soon, but for now.
We've been using OCADO most since it was written. They always text to say who is coming, in what van, when it will arrive upto a day in advance. They also say if all the items will be present. If they are going to be early they phone to ask if its OK!
All the delivery men (in my case) offer to carry the bags into the kitchen for you and they are all very polite. If its late at night they are quiet in knocking in case you have kids. The food is good, fresh and they keep sending money-off offers.
Honestly, we have found them great!"


"Use Waitrose/Ocado more often I find that they are much more reliable than both Tesco and Sainsbury's however the decision is yours but I find the quality of food so much better too, and the promotional offers lower the price of many common produce and therefore can be compared on price with Sainsbury's."


"I always use an online delivery service for my groceries and find that ocado are excellent - the food is excellent quality and the delivery slots are 1 hour not 2, the products mostly available and the deliveries accurate.
However today i had booked a delivery by Tesco who i have not used for several months and was horrified by the service i received. the delivery was booked from 5-7pm.
I arrived home at 5 on the dot to find a card through my door claiming that the delivery had been attempted at 5.05pm - obviously not possible - so i called the number on the card and they spoke to the driver who refused to return!
I will not be using Tesco again as this is indicative of the service i have experienced from them before. Shame but more trade for ocado and Sainsbury's :)"

R Russell

"We also used to get our groceries delivered from decribed here endless problems with nonsense subs, delivery being late, items badly packed & transported, wrong amount of items delivered & charged for (but refunded when complaint). Gave up after a year to avoid the hassle. Changed to Sainsbury's so far so good!"

P Machado

"i would like to comment on sainsbury's home delivery. i have been a customer for 5 yrs now and not once have i been happy with them, food with poor use by dates on, items missing, surly delivery people and customers services giving you the 3rd degree when you call to tell them items are missing. iv'e had enough..i will be sticking to asda from now on."


"have just used ocado and were very good. Will try sainsbury next but might steer clear of tesco...they are too big anyway."


"We used Tesco for the first (and last) time this week. Their computers failed so could not deliver as scheduled, then delivered 2 days later but charged us with the new prices (all bogoff deals finished by then) despite promising not to. £180 more than expected. Customer services were hopeless - we are still waiting for a refund 6 days later."

J ohn

"We've been shopping with Waitrose/Ocado for a year now and we are very happy with their produce as well as the customer service."

Mrs M

"We shopped online with Tesco for over a year. Consistently the same problems: senseless substitutions (No corned beef? Here, have Steak & kidney pie! No apples? Here, have a pineapple! No cat food that brand in stock? How about dog food!)Produce in poor shape, no paying attention to sales (order one item, there was a BOGOF not seen at time of order, only send one item OR not giving a sale price that was on at time of purchase), poor choices on online menu, problems delivering very early or very late, bringing baskets to door but no futher (I'm disabled); not allowing use of club card coupons (even tho the coupons didn't say 'not for use online shopping')... we stopped after a year because the stress wasn't worth it. One day hubby said "Explain to me why we pay them to torture us this way?" It all depends on who is picking the order and the training they have had. When we called management, they were very responsive and sent flowers, but it still didn't overcome the stress and frustration: three days after the flowers we got our order, and their was dog food instead of cat food. "

Betty in the Black Country

"We use tesco and although bad at the beginning,they are excellent now and all the staff are friendly and the produce excellent. good value as well! Thumbs up for tescos! "


"Tesco online shopping, easy to use despite costing money to deliver ( i could swear i saw a spend over £25 and get free delivery ), changed address and lost whole order i justs spent 50 mins completing, not bad i have used em before"