Pandemic Purchases

Online and curbside shopping in the pandemic era has been anything but smooth. For a while, it was next to impossible to get a timeslot for grocery pick-up. Deliveries take a lot longer than advertised. Canada Post has been backed up like a taster in a cheese-making contest. We’ve all had to adjust. Some of us take it better than others.

These times separate the well-run companies from those that simply don’t get it, pandemic or not. My little beefs are with things that are so ordinary, they’d occur regardless of the times we’re living in. Some examples:

Lying Liars Who Lie

Dozens of London company owners listed themselves on a local website touting those who were still operating despite the lockdown. Over a few weeks, I attempted to purchase from five of them – FIVE! – and got no responses. It’s clear that they saw the listing as free advertising and weren’t operating at all. Dumb move. I won’t forget who did it. I try hard to shop locally but what incentive is there for me to keep trying when I’m just wasting my time?

Curbside Pickup That Isn’t

Rather than brave the unpredictable human element in the confines of a local big box store, I ordered a couple of items to pick up from a company whose name rhymes with blows. It wasn’t any quicker than delivery but that’s okay, I understand the challenges they’re facing. What I encountered a week later, once my order was ready, wasn’t as easy to comprehend.

I pulled into the proper curbside parking spot and called the number posted on the sign. No one answered. I called again. It rang into oblivion. I waited a few minutes. (Checked email, scrolled Twitter) Still no answer. I had no choice but to go inside. The woman at Customer Service said, ‘Oh they’re probably on break’.

Go back to your vehicle and wait, she said. A guy brought the panels I ordered but not the deck waterproofer. When I asked him about it he said it wasn’t on my order.

I had to go back in a second time and endure the skepticism of staff whose first assumption was that I was trying to scam them. It finally got sorted out and they apologized. But this is not something I’ll do again.

I did a pick-up grocery order again last week with a company whose name rhymes with blah-blahs. It’s their process to put a pending charge through on your card on file, to make sure it’s valid. The amount is usually about 35% higher than your order. (I don’t know why, they just do.) The charges disappear within a day or two.

This time, they put through two pending charges in the same amount. Someone made a boo-boo. I called and the guy at customer service mansplained “pending charges”, which I already knew, but wouldn’t acknowledge that there were two. So, what happened? You already know: one of the pending charges was removed. The other stayed. That meant a second call and thankfully a more understanding response. The charge was removed. But they needlessly made me jump through hoops.

Tell Me Bad News Up Front

I only want someone to tell me what to expect and I’ll adjust accordingly. If my new whipper-snipper is going to take three weeks to deliver, that’s fine. Weeds won’t defeat me! But communicate that.

I’ve worked on enough websites to know how simple it is to add an update or change some text. However, to be fair, I’ve also worked at enough corporations to know how many layers of bullshit there are before that can be done.

SIDEBAR: When I worked at CJBK I wasn’t allowed to post on the website. CTV Corporate decided that CJBK’s news should be populated and managed only by CTV staff. (Lowly radio journos couldn’t be trusted!) So, I took angry calls and emails calling me an idiot if there was a mistake, but I wasn’t allowed to fix it. Sometimes it took hours to correct what I could have done in a minute.

If an e-commerce site proclaims, “we ship in 3-5 days”, that’s what shoppers will expect, and that’s where frustration comes in.

Some companies send an order confirmation email advising that shipping times will be longer than anticipated. I appreciate that. Everyone and their monkey wants something right now, and if the monkey’s selection is ahead of mine, I’m good with that. I just want to know. (And I’d like to know how that monkey got a credit card to order 100 lbs. of bananas.)

Closeup of a monkey looking pensive, with this hand up to his chin.

Talk to Us

I ordered piece of business-related technology from a company whose name rhymes with maples. The item shipped lickety-split but didn’t arrive. Finally, I received an email advising me that the courier couldn’t find my house. He’d try one more time and if he failed, the item would go back and I’d get a refund. The email told me to deal with the issue on the maples website chat.

I assured chat-person Evangeline O (if that IS her real name) that I was a real person living in a real house that several couriers have located. Could I talk to the courier or their dispatcher? No, I could not. Could she pass on directions? No, she could not. My phone number is on the order – could someone call me? No, they could not. So, why are we chatting since the email advised me to do this? Because we need to tell you that after one more attempt, the item will go back to the warehouse.

You’ve only got the same info as the email I received? Thanks for that.

To my surprise and delight, the third time’s the charm and the item did arrive.

First World Snags

I’d love to return to in-person shopping but I’m still super selective about where I’ll go inside. If only everyone would follow protocols, stay home when they’re sick, wear a mask and remember social distancing. I did pop into Shopper’s Drug Mart for one item last week, and three different women nearly crashed into me down those narrow aisles. One was wearing a mask. One wasn’t, and was coughing. At the cash, there are stickers on the floor that everyone seems to obey. Elsewhere, not so much.

Although it was an opening day stunt, I think the German bar that asked patrons to wear hats with pool noodle extensions had the right idea. Otherwise, we forget. We’ve been in each others’ spaces for a long time. The new normal takes patience and persistence. And it’s definitely separating the companies that have it together from those that don’t.

10 thoughts on “Pandemic Purchases”

  1. Wow – what a great piece. Would you ever consider submitting it to the Globe and Mail? I’m sure many would be nodding in agreement as I was while reading it.
    Our Mark’s stories are comparable (8 pair of undies took 5 shipments) while Costco should definitely wait until they have their shipping/shopping act together rather than send half a dozen deliveries for a single order – the gas used!) so your stories are relatable in all of the most cringe-worthy ways! Thank you for sharing. Flatten the learning curve!

    1. Five shipments for eight undies? That’s crazy! I could also write a whole diatribe about the wasteful packaging. Yes, I want my widget to get here safely but a tiny car part doesn’t need to come in a refrigerator box!

  2. Been there. Local retailers just haven’t known what to do with this. In May we ordered shelving for the laundry room and a pressure washer from A store whose name rhymes with Repo. Their website was all about how they would have the order ready in a short time later. A couple of days later I went into the store to see where the order was and was told it could take up to 2 weeks. That wasn’t mentioned on the website or in the confirmation email. If they had been honest we would have been fine with that. I hope the chairs that the people who make these decisions in their head office sit on are treated with a flame retardant. We could have gone Into the store in the first place and just bought the stuff, but we wanted to do our part to help flatten the curve. As far as the customer service person In the store goes, if that had been me, I would have checked to see if the items were in stock and had someone get th and made the sale. I was too annoyed to suggest it and cancelled the order.

    I called an Old South health food store to order vitamins and other stuff and was told it would take a while as there were 150 orders ahead of me. I decided to look for other options.

    Next, I called another Old South pharmacy to see if I could order my vitamins there. They told me to order over email. A week went by and my email wasn’t even acknowledged.

    I ended up getting everything I needed. I found an online vitamin shop in BC that provided free shipping on orders over $70. Since my vitamins are $60 a bottle, I ordered two and got a 4 month supply.

    The power washer and other stuff I wanted from the health food store were delivered from Amazon.

    And the shelving? Well, Peter had brackets so we went to Copps and got the wood and he built them.

    Local retailers have been slow to adapt. Someone eventually called me from the drug store and I told her I found another source. I asked why they didn’t even have staff to return emails and she said that she couldn’t get people to work. I guess the CERB was too attractive.

    And yes, some would say these are first world problems, but we do live in the first world.

    The one store that we had a great experience with was Tuckey’s hardware. True you had to make a couple of calls but once you got through, they cheerfully took your order and in a couple of hours, it ready for pick up at their back door. But other local retailers fell down. Hopefully they’ll get it together if there is a sequel to the first wave of this covid crap.

      1. Yes, I have stopped listening when retailers are crying the blues about how Amazon is kicking their butts. Have stuff in stock and/or provide proper service and you’ll get my business. It makes me think back to last December when we wanted to buy some nice juice glasses. Five stores and we couldn’t find anything nice. Of course, if you wanted a mimosa or cosmopolitan with your breakfast, you could buy a glass for that. But plain old OJ? Forget it.

  3. My experience with Pandemic Purchases mainly revolved around home grocery deliveries which filled up for weeks in advance and left me caught with no options but to have my elderly mum, whose short term memory is going and numerous health issues make a trip to the store with mask in hand until I adjusted my ordering procedure.

    to make this worse, in discussions whit my delivery service, they mentioned that countless people would place an order and forget and cancel it when the driver would call to notify them they were on their way resulting in the contents of their order being disposed of since under current circumstances couldn’t be returned and placed back in stock. Or they would call at the last moment to cancel their order freeing up a time slot which couldn’t be reassigned or used.

    I’m blind, so i don’t drive. If I shop I require sighted assistance and usually someone from the store will help or I bring a friend but with social distancing its a challenge and thus trying to get what you need a nightmare. I’ve survived and things are getting back to normal when it comes to grocery deliveries.

    1. Panicking costs all of us. Those people who booked “just in case” and then canceled should suffer a consequence of some sort. A service charge? Now this is going to happen with campgrounds. People have booked them up “just in case” and there’s no consequence if they don’t show up. Meanwhile, there are campers who truly want to go and can’t get a space. Sigh.

  4. Oh my, I can totally relate Lisa. I especially enjoyed your rhyming stores names LOL! I am currently dealing with trying to locate or even get a status on my missing early June order from Cold Gravy, Can not reach anyone by any form of communication. Oddly enough we hesitantly placed another order from that same online store on Saturday and it arrived on Tuesday. Go figure!

    1. Cold Gravy! I love the name you used, not the situation. I can appreciate that they don’t want everyone calling all day but these companies need to have a way for customers to reach them, and to respond. I have to admit that Amazon is great about that. You wouldn’t think they’d be responsive but they are.

  5. I have a different “problem” with ordering things for delivery. Cold Gravy & The Hap pages always come with the message “We’re having a technical problem on this page. Refresh the page & try your search again.” Budson’s Hay takes 3 or 4 refresh efforts just to get a peek, then a message comes up to say they are having trouble loading the page. I give up with them. I must have saved a bundle on clothes lately! However, it would be nice to safely shop for my granddaughter’s upcoming birthday. I can’t quite bring myself to go to a mall just yet and I love. love shopping. So far, so good regarding Best Buy & Costco. Kudos to all the delivery people!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *