Online Shopping

well_chuffed, Going Postal
“Waitrose” by blech​is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

We’ve all done it, well most of us, haven’t we, oh OK then some of us have done it. Got an ID at an online grocery provider, logged on, booked a slot and ordered the goods, waited for the delivery and upon consummation, some have been happy, others not so pleased.

Having worked for two different companies, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, going out in all weathers and doing the deliveries, perhaps I can open a few eyes. Some customers seem to think that as soon as their order is received, the company gathers together their goods and waits until the delivery date to put it on the van and turn up at their address. If you think about it that is obviously not what happens but there’s nowt as odd as customers.

How does it all work then. The website and slot reservation are fairly obvious. There may be some behind the scenes jiggery-pokery calculating the routes in real time, I’m not sure if that really happens or not but there were allegations at one time.

Before the delivery a few things have to happen. The routes need to be finalised, that is the route for each van. The shopping has to be picked or shopped and put into baskets, the baskets have to be ordered by van and delivery number and finally loaded into the van before the driver sets off on his journey. A shopper/picker will invariably be doing several customers at the same time, the location of the goods on the floor is the controlling criterium. You have probably seen them with their trolleys and multiple baskets as they work their way round the aisles.

Delivery slots are mostly one hour, some were two hours. Again, nowt as odd as customers, some punters seem to think they are the only customer in that hour. In reality there may be five or six in an hour. I had more than one customer who was busy doing something else and we had to phone him and he arrived five minutes later. You don’t get an extra seven or eight minutes in the schedule !

The groceries can come from a shop or from a warehouse. I had experience of both. In the case of the shop the picking started at about 4am ready for vans starting to leave at 8am. In the case of the warehouse the start time was 10pm. The shop had four or five vans, the warehouse had well over 50.

Now we reach the part where you get a recommendation. The pickers/shoppers start with the earliest deliveries first and finish off with the latest deliveries. This may sound obvious but many people don’t give it a thought. What this means is that as the process goes on, stock will be decreasing. As a general rule, the earlier deliveries will have fewer substitutions while the later ones are likely to have more. A substitution is where what the customer ordered is not available and a substitute product is delivered. Some companies allow you to specify no substitutions. At Sainsbury’s the shoppers were told to use a more expensive product when substituting, you paid for what got delivered. At Waitrose you were never charged more and if it was cheaper, you paid less. The reasoning behind that was that it is not your fault that we don’t have the product. The oddest substitution was where a customer had ordered eggs and the picker had substituted a whole chicken.

As far as chilled stock is concerned, the expiry dates were a permanent bone of contention. You may notice that if you visit the shop, the sell by dates may only be a day or two in the future. If your delivery comes from a shop then your chilled stuff will have a very short life. At the warehouse they tried to have at least two days sell by and mostly it was more. The time allowed for a delivery did not account for the customer going through each item and checking the date. That’s what customer services are for. At Sainsbury’s we had one customer, she was a Sainsbury’s employee at another shop who would go through everything, we had a 20 minute slot for her and it just about worked out. She lived in Croydon in a street of terraced houses where there was absolutely never a spare parking space. You had to park at the end of the road and trot down several hundred yards with the barrow piled up.

You need to check out the infamous T&Cs but I think all companies allow you to return items, especially if they are substitutes or damaged in any way. The number of times I gave a customer eggs for nothing because one was broken was quite high. Waitrose tended to trust their drivers but Sainsbury’s were as tight as a duck’s arse. When you got back with the returns you usually had to get the duty manager to check them off with the handset using a manager login. I f***ing hate that company with a vengeance.

Having spent a lifetime in IT driving a desk, getting out and meeting people was a bit of an eye opener. Mostly a pleasant experience, you are after all delivering their groceries. Sometimes there were free gifts for the customers as well. Never had anyone return one of them though there were a couple of difficult or obnoxious punters where I somehow forgot the gift. It all had to come to an end because my knees gave out and I just couldn’t manage the work any more.

Remember, get early slots if you can though these days any slot is better than none.

Since I stopped they have started same day deliveries and unattended deliveries where you put a special keypad on your door, the driver has the code and can deliver while you are out. It is all filmed on a Go-Pro and uploaded so you can view it. I would never be so trusting, his mate might be following him in, you just don’t know and it wouldn’t be on the video.

© well_chuffed 2021

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