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Keep Your Seatbelts Fastened, Grocery Shopping Going Digital

Tallahassee is about to join the digital grocery revolution as Wal-Mart prepares to offer online-shopping at area stores later this week.

Robert Rice’s company title is a long one, but it’s emblematic of the fundamental change the internet has brought to every day rituals like grocery shopping.

“My name is Robert Rice, R-O-B-E-R-T R-I-C-E, I’m the regional e-commerce market coach for online grocery pickup in the Panhandle and Lower Alabama.”

Rice’s job involves helping the world’s largest retailer and its customers transition into the digital age. That means training “personal shoppers” to fill online orders and have them waiting for customers at a prearranged time.

And for the customer it means completing a grocery run in five minutes without unbuckling a single seatbelt.

“And we are waiting for them when they get here in the car, and we put it in their car, and they drive away, never getting out of the car, never having to take their kids in the store any more.”

The service begins Thursday, but online orders are being taken now at Wal-Mart.com, Rice says. He says tens of thousands of customers have been taking advantage of the system since it was first offered a year ago.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.