Walmart drops the $35 order minimum on its 2-hour ‘Express’ delivery service

In a move designed to directly challenge Amazon, Walmart today announced it’s dropping the $35 minimum order requirement for its two-hour “Express” delivery service, a competitor to Amazon’s “Prime Now.”  With Walmart Express Delivery, customers can order from Walmart’s food, consumables or general merchandise assortment, then pay a flat $10 fee to have the items arrive in two hours or less.

The service is useful for more urgent delivery needs — like diapers or a missing ingredient for a recipe, SVP of Customer Product, Tom Ward, noted in an announcement. They’re not meant to sub in for larger shopping trips, however — Express orders are capped at 65 items.

Today, Express Delivery is available in nearly 3,000 Walmart stores reaching 70% of the U.S. population, Walmart says. It builds on top of stores’ existing inventory of pickup and delivery time slots as a third option, instead of giving slots away to those with the ability to pay higher fees.

Like Walmart’s grocery and pickup orders, Express orders are shopped and packaged for delivery by Walmart’s team of 170,000 personal shoppers and items are priced the same as they are in-store. This offers Walmart a potential competitive advantage against grocery delivery services like Instacart or Shipt, for example, where products can be priced higher and hurried or inexperienced shoppers aren’t always able to find items or search the back, having to mark them as “out of stock.”

In theory, Walmart employees will have a better understanding of their own store’s inventory and layout, making these kind of issues less common. It will also have direct access to the order data, which will help it better understand what sells, what replacements customers will accept for out-of-stocks, when to staff for busy times, and more.

In addition to grocery delivery, Express Delivery competes with Amazon’s Prime Now, a service that similarly offers a combination of grocery and other daily essentials and merchandise. Currently, Prime Now’s 2-hour service has a minimum order requirement of $35 without any additional fees in many cases — though the Prime Now app explains that some of its local store partners will charge fees even when that minimum is met, and others may have higher order minimums, which makes the service confusing to consumers.

Walmart’s news comes at a time when Amazon appears to be trying to push consumers away from the Prime Now standalone app, too.

When you open the Prime Now app, a large pop-up message informs you that you can now shop Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh from inside the Amazon app. A button labeled “Make the switch” will then redirect you. Meanwhile, on Amazon’s website touting Prime’s delivery perks, the “Prime Now” brand name isn’t mentioned at all. Instead, Amazon touts free same-day (5 hour) delivery of best sellers and everyday essentials on orders with a $35 minimum purchase, or free 2-hour grocery delivery from Whole Foods and Fresh.

When asked why Amazon is pushing Prime Now shoppers to its main app, Amazon downplayed this as simply an ongoing effort to “educate” consumers about the option.

Walmart, on the other hand, last year merged its separate delivery apps into one.

After items are picked, Walmart works with a network of partners, including DoorDash, Postmates, Roadie, and Pickup Point, as well as its in-house delivery services, to get orders to customers’ doorsteps. This last-mile portion has become an key area of investment for Walmart and competitors in recent months — Walmart, for example, acquired assets from a peer-to-peer delivery startup JoyRun in November. And before that, a former Walmart delivery partner, Deliv, sold to Target.

This is not the first time Walmart has dropped order minimums in an attempt to better compete with Amazon and others.

In December, Walmart announced its Prime alternative known as Walmart+ would remove the $35 minimum on non-same day Walmart.com orders. But it had stopped short of extending that perk to same-day grocery until now.

To some extent, Walmart’s ability to drop minimums has to do with the logistics of its delivery operations. Walmart has been turning more its stores into fulfillment centers, by converting some into small, automated warehouses in partnership with technology providers and robotics companies, including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric.

And because its stores are physically located closer to customers than Amazon warehouses, it has the ability to deliver a broad merchandise selection, faster, while also turning large parking lots into picking stations — another thing that could worry Amazon, which is now buying up closed mall stores for its own fulfillment operations. 

Walmart today still carries a $35 minimum on other pickup and delivery orders and same-day orders from Walmart+ subscribers.

#amazon, #ecommerce, #food, #grocery-store, #instacart, #prime, #prime-now, #retailers, #shipt, #target, #united-states, #walmart, #whole-foods

0

Shipt shoppers are organizing a walkout in protest of new pay model

Shipt shoppers are organizing a handful of actions in protest of Shipt’s new pay structure that began rolling out this month.  The first action is happening from Saturday, Oct. 17 through Oct. 19, when workers are calling on their fellow Shipt shoppers to walk out and boycott the company. Organizers are asking for shoppers not to schedule any hours or accept any orders during that time.

“Our goal is to draw attention to the fact that this pay scale really does affect shoppers and regardless of Shipt’s position of it taking into account effort and benefitting shoppers, we are finding it is the opposite on both fronts,” Willy Solis, a Shipt shopper in Dallas and lead organizer at Gig Workers Collective, told TechCrunch. “It’s not holding up to the true reality. We are getting paid less for more effort.”

Shipt shoppers also plan to stage a direct action at Target’s corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Monday, October 19. During the action, shoppers plan to read letters written to Shipt CEO Kelly Caruso that describe how the pay changes have impacted them.

“We have communicated to shoppers that we have learned a lot in the six years we have been in business,” Shipt spokesperson Molly Snyder told TechCrunch in a statement. “Our previous pay model was a commission model that paid based on the cost of the basket or the order. We know how much effort goes into shopping and delivering and believe that we should compensate for that effort. The new model accounts for that effort by factoring in things like the order complexity, what market it is in and the day and time of week. Shoppers will always see the pay range for the shop, the address where they would need to deliver it, a list of all of the items in the shop, and the delivery window timeframe. Shoppers can choose whether or not they want to accept an order.”

Shipt shoppers have been speaking out against this new pay model since earlier this year, after Shipt started testing this new pay structure. In February, a Shipt shopper from Kalamazoo told me they were losing about 30% or more of their regular pay as a result of the change.

According to Target-owned Shipt, it’s doing this to “better account for the actual effort it takes to complete and deliver orders,” Shipt wrote in the Shipt Shopper Hub. That means the new pay model takes into account estimated drive time from the store to the customer’s door, how many items are in the order, location, peak shopping windows and more. But Shipt isn’t sharing an exact formula for calculating pay because “each metro has unique characteristics that can affect the shopping experience.”

On the blog, Shipt also points to how similarly priced orders might pay differently as a result of the effort it takes. For example, if the order total is $100 but is only one item versus 30 items, the latter order scenario would take more effort. That means the shopper would get paid more for that order with more items. But Solis said that’s an anomaly and that the majority of shoppers don’t receive orders like that.

“To base an entire pay structure off of an anomaly like that is really concerning,” he said.

Meanwhile, Solis said he’s found discrepancies between the way Shipt talks about its formula for calculating pay. In July, Shipt published a blog post about shop time. In it, the company laid out how it thinks about things like the location of the item, size of store and more. In the original post, which has since been updated, Shipt said it did not take into account checkout time, nor was it trying to gain insight about it.

Image Credits: Willy Solis/Screenshot

After shoppers expressed frustration about it in a Facebook group, Solis noticed that Shipt deleted that part from its blog post.

Image Credits: Willy Solis/Screenshot

“They literally said they are not interested in taking into account checkout times, which is a considerable amount of time shoppers spend in stores,” Solis said.

Shipt shoppers have staged actions before, but Solis said this one is receiving the most support to date. As part of the call-to-action, Gig Workers Collective is also asking Shipt shoppers to spread the word to at least five other workers they know.

“We are continuing to listen to shopper feedback, but can tell you that we are consistently seeing increasing numbers of shoppers putting themselves on the schedule to shop, accepting, shopping and delivering orders,” Snyder said.

#gig-workers, #shipt, #startups, #tc

0

Workers prepare to strike May 1, amid strained pandemic working conditions

The global pandemic has tested the bounds of businesses across the world and transformed the way many of us live our lives. For those among us who are unable to leave our homes at all as COVID-19 virus rages, online retail and food services have been a kind of lifeline.

But as contact-free delivery becomes the norm, it can be easy to forgot all the people working to provide those services at risk to their health. And more often than not, employees are working for low wages or tips.

A number of protests have been organized at companies like Amazon and Instagram in the intervening weeks and months, but a wide-scale, cross-company event hasn’t really surfaced. That could change on May 1, as employees mark the longstanding tradition of International Workers’ Day with a May Day general strike.

Material for the event has been circulating online, rebadged “Essential Workers’ Day,” as a nod to the exemptions to stay at home orders for retail and food delivery, among others. The event is framed as a combination strike and boycott, targeted at Amazon/Whole Foods, Instacart and Target/Shipt (as well as Walmart and FedEx, according to various sources). 

Specific demands differ from employer to employer, but workers have broadly asked for essential health protections, sick leave and hazard pay as the pandemic has continued to wear on and profits have spiked for many providers. 

Vice spoke to Christian Smalls, one of the organizers, the Staten Island Amazon employee who was fired after organizing a walkout at one of the company’s fulfillment centers. “We formed an alliance between a bunch of different companies because we all have one common goal which is to save the lives of workers and communities,” he told the site. “Right now isn’t the time to open up the economy. Amazon is a breeding ground [for COVID] which is spreading right now through multiple facilities.”

Amazon workers have been particularly vocal about the retail giant’s response to the pandemic. In addition to Smalls, two other employees who were publicly critical of the company were fired by Amazon — though the company denied the direct link. Instacart employees have also organized boycotts and strikes, including one in late March.

“We remain singularly focused on the health and safety of the Instacart community. Our team has been diligently working to offer new policies, guidelines, product features, resources, increased bonuses, and personal protective equipment to ensure the health and safety of shoppers during this critical time,” the company said in a statement. “We welcome all feedback from shoppers and we will continue to enhance their experience to ensure this important community is supported.”

Other companies have previously issued similar statements regarding employment during the crisis. We’ve reached out to them for additional comment on the planned protests.

Update: An Amazon spokesperson offered TechCrunch the following statement,

While we respect people’s right to express themselves, we object to the irresponsible actions of labor groups in spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. The statements made are not supported by facts or representative of the majority of the 500,000 Amazon operations employees in the U.S. who are showing up to work to support their communities. What’s true is that masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off, increased pay, and more are standard across our Amazon and Whole Food Market networks already. Our employees are doing incredible work for their communities every day, and we have invested heavily in their health and safety through increased safety measures and the procurement of millions of safety supplies and have invested nearly $700 million in increased pay. Working globally with our teams and third parties we have gone to extreme measures to understand and address this pandemic with more than 150 process changes to-date. We spend every day focused on what else Amazon can do to keep our people and communities safe and healthy.

#amazon, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #health, #instacart, #shipt, #strikes, #target, #whole-foods

0

Gig workers say they are struggling to get personal protective equipment from companies

Despite what companies have said about providing personal protective equipment to gig workers, some workers say they are struggling to get masks, gloves and other items from companies like Target-owned Shipt, Uber, Lyft and Instacart.

“PPE is still a huge issue for us,” Shipt shopper and organizer Willy Solis told TechCrunch. “We have dozens of reports across the country where shoppers have gone to pick up their equipment to be told it’s only for employees. On top of that, Target’s Twitter account essentially said that much.”

Earlier this month, Shipt workers staged a walk-off in protest of Shipt’s treatment of workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Around that time, Shipt said it would provide all shoppers with gloves and a mask within the next two weeks. Those shoppers, Shipt said, would be able to pick them up at their nearest Target stores. Shipt said it also would allow its most active shoppers to claim a free kit that included gloves and hand sanitizer. But some shoppers report struggling to pick up the PPE at Target and through the Shipt app.

Shipt declined to comment for this story but pointed us to both Shipt’s and Target’s respective announcements.

Over in Los Angeles, some Uber and Lyft drivers say the rideshare companies have yet to provide them with face masks and other protective equipment. This is in light of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Worker Protection Order, which requires companies to provide essential workers with PPE.

“As an Uber driver, I’m incredibly vulnerable to infection,” Uber driver Deborah Garcia said in a statement. “I transport dozens of passengers every day, and many are the doctors and nurses dealing with coronavirus cases up close. Uber and Lyft love to talk about drivers as heroes on the frontlines, but what does it say about these companies that they’d rather brainstorm clever hashtags than use even a small slice of their billions to keep drivers like me safe? It’s infuriating, and it’s time for our elected officials to take action.”

Uber says it’s begun distributing masks to active drivers and delivery workers throughout the nation, initially focused on New York City and Los Angeles. Active drivers and delivery people in Los Angeles who have requested masks should receive them in the mail by the end of this week, according to Uber.

“This is a long term commitment,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We have ordered tens of millions of masks for drivers around the world and expect another major shipment to the US very soon.”

Uber says it has also started shipping around 30,000 bottles of disinfectant. Lyft, in response to claims that the company is not providing PPE, says what drivers are saying is not true.

“In light of the latest CDC guidance on cloth face coverings, we’ve ordered face masks for drivers at no cost to them,” a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We have been making them available to drivers, prioritizing regions where additional guidance about face coverings has been given. This includes LA, where we’ve already begun handing out thousands of face coverings to drivers.”

Lyft began distributing masks last Saturday, and distributed some more this past Monday and Wednesday. Lyft plans to distribute more on Friday. So far, Lyft says it has been able to hand out thousands of masks.

There are also reports that Instacart shoppers are having difficulty obtaining hand sanitizer and reusable face masks, according to The Hill. Instacart says it has been providing shoppers with hand sanitizer since last week and began shipping thousands of kits with face masks, sanitizer and thermometers this past Monday.

Nationwide, there is an understanding that gig workers delivering food and groceries, and providing rides to people during the pandemic are essential. As more cities begin to implement rules requiring people to wear masks upon entering grocery stores, companies will be forced to step up their production and delivery of personal protective equipment to workers.

#covid-19, #shipt, #tc

0