My new favorite game when browsing Instacart for a simple search term like “chickpea.” We demonstrate this example browsing the canned and dried goods sections. The game is based on asking one question, and then observing your own responses and biases around them.

What is it?

  1. It's human food.
  2. It's dog food.
  3. Oh my god, I have no idea.

It’s human food

If 1, you should start by asking yourself why and how you categorize food in the first place. The fact that you draw a line between “human food” and “other kinds of foods” suggests that you might rethink the assumption that the tube passing through you is somehow superior to the tube that passes through another species. Given that this is a buying decision, you should do an assessment of the brand relative to other choices, and the best choice in the store relative to other stores. If there is no suitable replacement and the item is desired, “Add to Cart.” If the item is relatively high priced for the area that you live in, it’s your fault for living there and you should still “Add to Cart” because they’ve got you. You can’t suffer the commute time and energy to drive to an actual store, and you would internally combust to wait in the one open line only to have the sweet elderly person in front of you paying with pennies. Your final destination? You “Add to Cart” and rationalize the larger implications around this entire scenario and some of your other life choices.

It’s dog food

If 2, you feel shocked at having to do the closer inspection in the first place, because “Damn with our technology I shouldn’t even have to search, it should read my mind, transfer the bitcoin, and teleport the item into my outstretched arms with a thank you note and appropriate hashtag for me to take a picture with.” Once you escape from your narcissistic fantasy, you might go back into logical person mode and question the choices behind Instacart’s search algorithms that chose to design the system in a way to not give the result that was desired in the first place. You might then realize the problem is with you, and return to 1, because shame on you, dogs like chickpeas too.

Oh my god, I have no idea.

If 3, welcome to #merica. The dogs eat just as well, if not better, than you. Hey, you can pretend that you didn’t read the label and buy the delicious snack anyway, and you’ll probably be ok and have a great story to tell the guy by the coffee machine (Is this when it’s socially appropriate to say “YOLO”?). You are now free to enter your existential crisis and blame it on the chickpeas.

And this is a prime example about how I can start with a simple desire to search for frozen peas, and an hour later have completely forgotten about the peas but left with a newer level of confusion for the state of our society at large.

Suggested Citation:
Sochat, Vanessa. "Instacart Musings." @vsoch (blog), 11 May 2018, (accessed 16 Apr 24).