Buehler's Fresh Foods in Delaware has added a service aimed at customers who don't want to spend time actually shopping in the store.

Buehler's Fresh Foods in Delaware has added a service aimed at customers who don't want to spend time actually shopping in the store.

The "Click Load & Go" program began July 13. Customers can go online, create an account and do their shopping from the comfort of their homes, offices or any place with Internet access, said Bob Buehler, vice president of marketing and merchandising for the 13-store Ohio chain.

A personal shopper downloads the order onto a hand-held reader, fills a grocery cart with the order and stores it until the order is picked up. Perishables are placed in a refrigerator or freezer.

Customers drive up to the store at the time they specify and the bags are loaded into their vehicles.

After presenting any coupons or a Buehler's Advantage Card, the customer may pay with a check, credit card or debit card, store manager George Wisener said. The store does not accept cash for security reasons.

In the first 10 days since the program's inception, 46 people have used the services of personal shoppers Becky Vance, Kathy Conley and two others.

As she loads groceries, Vance said she is often thanked by the customer.

"They love it," Vance said. "They don't like shopping."

"I had a lady who came in the other night all the way from Westerville," Conley added.

The first shopping experience is free, said Deb McKee, service and facilities manager of the Delaware Buehler's. After that, the cost is $7.95 per order or $24.95 for unlimited shopping within a 30-day period.

The program's personal shoppers take their job seriously and make their selections as if they were taking the groceries home, Wisener said.

"I pick what I would want. No one wants to get home and find their strawberries are moldy," Vance said.

"They pick the highest quality on the shelf," Wisener said, noting that the shoppers will reach to the back for the best "sell by" date on milk or open a package of strawberries to make sure the fruit is in good condition.

If a customer wants green bananas or very ripe avocados, that specific request can be made when ordering. And if there are questions, the shoppers won't hesitate to call a customer.

"I did that when I had two loaves of the bread a customer wanted and one had a shorter expiration date than the other," Vance said.

Customers need to give the program's shoppers at least three hours to fill the order, Wisener said, before scheduling a pickup time. Only two times are slotted every 30 minutes so there is never a line of cars waiting.

Some items, such as birthday cakes, must still be ordered 24 hours in advance and IDs must be presented before alcohol or tobacco products are loaded into a vehicle, Wisener said.

The program also applies to items other than groceries, according to McKee. She cited an example of ordering a furnace filter from the Ace Hardware store that adjoins Buehler's.

"They just need to specify that on their order and we'll get it for them," McKee said.

The Delaware store is the third Buehler's to offer the service, Bob Buehler said. The other programs in Medina and Brunswick have been successful, he said.

"We have customers asking for a shopper by name ... they like what they do for them," he said.

While customers range from the elderly to young professionals, the majority are middle-aged, two-income families who have little time to spend in the grocery store, Buehler said.

"This allows them to be with their family, doing other things," he said.

Information about the program is available online by clicking on "Click Load & Go" at www.buehlers.com.