Published on: May 5, 2021
In my FaceTime video yesterday, I went all Andy Rooney and said that I was tired of getting stuck behind professional shoppers - like those working for Instacart - at the checkout line, and advanced the suggestion that there ought to be dedicated lines for those folks. I'm not alone in this; I know a bunch of people who feel the same way.
This prompted a lot of email.
One MNB reader disagreed:
Come on Kevin. What’s the difference if the person in front of you is a regular customer or shopping for someone else? I don’t get it. I usually agree with you but seriously this is ridiculous. Wanting to segregate “professional “ shoppers to use a rear entrance is also head scratching. Not sure what else to say. I’m at a loss for words here.
And, from another reader:
As always, enjoyed hearing your views, but have to ask: Aren’t the Instacart (and other “professional shoppers”) there to purchase for their customers? I understand and relate to frustrations of being behind large baskets in check out lines, but that happens with regular shoppers here in Texas (and I would guess in other states, too). Also, if a store is to set up a checkout line just for those Instacart type shoppers, how is that cost effective? Do they have to schedule when they shop so the store is ready for them? I seem to recall that this isn’t a terribly profitable situation for anyone at this point, so does your idea make it worse?
Look, I agree that front end frustrations are the downside of any shopping trip. I truly believe that was Kmart’s biggest offense and why they couldn’t make it in Texas (full baskets left at the front of the store when only one line was open is a big indicator of an issue). However, shoppers these days have alternatives. If it is happening when you normally shop, change to delivery or pick up or go at a different time. I am part of a regular crowd that is at the store very early in the morning on the weekends---this came out of wanting to pick our own produce and grocery subs for out of stock items and wanting to avoid crowds with the pandemic. Yes, things are not as scary as they were at the beginning of the pandemic, but the habit has stuck. It is actually a great time to shop as the shelves are newly stocked and the produce is fresher. Uh oh, now the secret is out!
One MNB reader responded:
I worked for Fairway Market for many years (I was a controller in the stores at first , and then Dir of FP&A at corporate). We DID have check outs for Instacart only (customers were not allowed).
I agree - have check outs dedicated specifically for pickup/delivery services (like Instacart). Like you said, it makes things easier for the customers who actually shop in the stores.
P.S. I remember Andy Rooney.
MNB reader Phil Herr wrote:
I do my regular shopping at a local Stop & Shop, where employees fulfill orders for remote pick up. I see them in the aisles, sometimes competing with me for space. However, they use the scanner gun to ring up purchases as they go. And I believe they check out behind the scenes as I have never seen any of them in a check-out line. Seems a pretty good solution. On the other hand, when I shop Stew Leonard's I find I do compete with the Instacart shoppers. You would think an organization as forward thinking as Stew Leonard’s would have figured this out.
From another MNB reader:
Yes, the InstaCart and other shopping employees is frustrating. But what I find frustrating is the way they treat you in the aisles. Since “time is money” to them they are rude, pushy and just downright impolite. I find this to be unacceptable and the shopping company needs to train their employees on how to be more courteous while in the store shopping. At the checkout, well if it is just one order, then it is just like any other customer. When they have two or three orders in one cart, requiring separate ring-out and specialized bagging so they can keep the orders separated, now that is FRUSTRATING.
From another MNB reader:
I feel your pain KC, however it makes me first look at the woefully understaffed checkouts at Shaw's, for one. Cashiers without baggers is the norm. I'm not a fan of Market Basket, for several reasons, but at least almost every register is open and with a bagger.
I see this daily … add a few Instacart orders to that and you have very long lines, on a day that may not be all that busy.
One more reader wrote:
The family needed a few items for dinner on Sunday so I ran up to Target. I have to say, I was almost hit by the Target online shopper with their ”specialized” red carts about 6 times. They had their noses glued to their shopping app and paid no attention to the shoppers in the aisle. I was in the process of picking up a box of cereal (literally reaching my hand out) and the young lady stepped in front of me and grabbed the last box. Since my hand was at the shelf, she was startled and said an awkward “excuse me” and took the box and ran. I am glad Target is growing their store pick-up for online orders, but it should not be to the detriment of their shoppers who still come onto their stores.
Maybe it is because I have spent 25+ years as a vendor visiting retail stores and was trained to: not take the close parking spots, ensure you stay out of the way of shoppers, help the shoppers find what they need, and most importantly, you might not work at the store, but you are representing them to the shopper, so go out of your way to make their experience a positive one. Retailers need to slow down long enough to understand the impact their strategy changes are having on the shopping experience of their actual shoppers. And yes, get off my lawn!
Apparently not the only person who feels this way:
I hate shopping with Shipt shoppers, they will run you over or cut you off!
From yet another reader:
Enjoyed your FaceTime this morning, I share the same frustration with Starbucks and the mobile customer…this pick up process has dramatically delayed the preparation time for the in house customer and it is becoming a problem. There is also a delay in Drug Stores that have drive up pharmacy, they need to have more people behind that prescription counter as the store personnel and in store customers appear frustrated.
By the way…nice Andy Rooney, brought back many good memories!
On the subject of Walmart's healthcare efforts, one MNB reader wrote:
One of the major problems as I see it in health care is the lack of transparency especially with regards to pricing. Health care billing is more conjured than calculated on some complex set of determinants from what insurance you have, to what state you get your care, to your ability to pay among a myriad of other factors. Our employers pay a portion of our premiums and at the end of the day the true cost of health care is all but oblivious and obscured from the consumer.
In my view capitalism and competition is the only viable solution that will benefit the patient in the long run. I applaud Walmart for getting into the fight to lower the cost of health care. I’m rooting for them to prove and show that capitalism and competition can work, but especially in health care.
One MNB reader commented on something that bugs me as well:
KC, I have to get this off my chest, it's a little thing, but a large company like Market Basket should get basic language/spelling correct in its signage. My problem with MB is the permanent signs that hang down at the beginning or end of each grocery aisle, letting us know what's in that aisle.
Every store I go into of theirs, the signs consistently read "can goods", "can fruits", "can vegetables", etc. A little nitpicking I know, but retail is detail. Unless I'm wrong, shouldn't it be canned? Help me out here!
I'm with you. Totally.
And finally, a comment about Kroger's new drone program:
Seems insane and impossible to implement reasonably. I live amongst 100’ tall Georgia pines, not much unnumbered air space! Can’t imagine these buzzing all over the place by the 100’s - 1000’s! What happens when one crashes and the damage it causes?
They're not going to use the drones everywhere … just the places where it makes sense. They won't use them in big cities, either … but that doesn't mean they can't be used in appropriate markets in appropriate cases.