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Though I wasn’t even going into the store during my grocery pickup from Walmart this week, I still wrapped myself in a facemask and gloves. Mainly because I was buying alcohol, and last time I did so from Walmart, I had to talk directly with a worker in a situation that was way closer than six feet, and I had to sign for the booze with my finger on a device that presumably had been touched by a ton of other people that day.
But it turns out that a lot has changed in the past few weeks and, at least at my store, Walmart was being more aggressive about safety than even I was. Gone was the tablet to sign; instead the pickup worker asked me to stay in my car, roll up my window and press my ID up against the glass.
Additionally, I saw someone, who I presume was a supervisor, shout out to a customer and worker that they were too close and needed to stay six feet apart.
I can’t speak for the working conditions inside or more broadly — Walmart doesn’t have the best reputation for the way it treats its workers — but from a grocery pickup standpoint, my Walmart is taking COVID-19 very seriously.
There were more changes that I noticed on this trip. Walmart added a bunch of new pickup spots as well. They, like every other grocer, are grappling with ways to keep up with the surge in online grocery shopping. Walmart reportedly saw a record number of downloads for its grocery app over the weekend, surpassing Amazon.
While Walmart scrambles to keep up with safety protocols and meeting demand, there are some signs it’s struggling. I had issues with the app this week, both ordering and coordinating pickup. Like, big issues that even re-installs wouldn’t save. This was confirmed on two separate calls with Walmart customer service, both of whom said there were widespread problems with the app.
Walmart isn’t the only grocer struggling as it tries to meet demand. Amazon announced yesterday that new Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods customers have to wait to be invited before getting deliveries. And ShopRite is putting online customers into a virtual waiting room before they can shop.
Accelerated is almost too soft a word for what COVID-19 has done to grocery e-commerce. With 31 percent of US households using online grocery as of last month, compared with 13 percent in August, retailers experienced a year’s worth of growth in a matter of weeks. Problems in the supply chain and logistics were bound to arise.
Thankfully, the hiccups I’ve encountered have been minor and few. Since I live in a more rural area, grocery delivery is hard to come by, and Walmart pickup has been a godsend for my family. I appreciate those workers still showing up everyday and stocking my trunk. I wish there was an option to tip them, but hopefully they can see my sincere appreciation through the driver’s side window.
Can a Software Upgrade Save Food 3D Printing?
But 3D food printing has stalled in recent years, and as Spoon Founder Mike Wolf reported this week, the answer to kickstarting it might be better software, writing:
[Marine Coré] Baillais, the founder of a French 3D food printing consultancy called The Digital Patisserie (La Pâtisserie Numérique), told me that the reason general purpose 3D printing software doesn’t work well is it’s designed to print with \materials like plastic filament, not food paste. This usually leads to less than optimal results because a food paste has unique characteristics that make it much different than filament.
It’s actually a pretty cool idea and you should check out his full story for more details (plus, Notre Dame inspired food printing).
During a Pandemic, Don’t Be a Pandummy
This should go without saying, but if there was ever a time to be kind and generous with one another, it’s during a deadly pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying economies.
So we were a little disappointed when reading stories about customers tip-baiting Instacart shoppers; promising a big tip for grocery delivery only to remove it once the job is done. That is (*#$@$^ evil. Don’t do that.
Third-party delivery services, which had some sketchy business practices even during better times, got a bit of a slap on the wrist from the city of San Francisco this week. Mayor London Breed ordered a temporary cap of 15 percent on delivery fees third-party services can charge restaurants during the shelter in place. One would wish that a new rule wasn’t necessary for something like that, but… here we are.
We understand times are difficult, to say the least. Be kind where you can. It makes a difference.
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