When online shopping could be a life saver

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

As most places where people normally congregate are now out-of-bounds because of COVID-19, the supermarkets are one of the most likely places to contract the illness.

 

Yet while the town’s three IGA stores have started three months ago developing an online shopping facility, one of the two national operators in Alice Springs, Coles, appears half-hearted about it and the other, Woolworths, has made its “pick-up orders temporarily unavailable”.

 

This is what is stated on their website although it conflicts with signs in the store claiming the facility is available again. We asked Woolworths for clarification yesterday and will report it once it we have received it.

 

The food courts are closed except for takeaway (photo at bottom) , there are floor markings (above) and  advice for shoppers on how to observe mandated “social distancing” and every second register is closed in the self-service area.

 

However, scarcities of some goods and limitations on how much can be bought make it necessary to return more often than most people would.

 

Both majors are no doubt making record profits and there is no shortage labour as hundreds have been laid off as the pandemic unfolded across the globe.

 

The Cattlemen’s Association’s Ashley Manicaros even wants to bring in the army: “The Prime Minister must intervene and order the major supermarket chains to solve the supply chain issues affecting cattle stations in the Northern Territory even if that means involving the Australian Defence Force.”

 

The Alice Springs News put these questions to politicians: In the interest of avoiding unnecessary infection risks connected with in-store shopping, should supermarkets provide online shopping with external pickup?

 

And: If they don’t what should the government be doing?

 

MLA for Araluen, then still speaking as the Deputy Opposition Leader, said: “A rational and considerate approach must be taken by the supermarkets, specific to each community.

 

“To cut bush orders in Alice Springs is seriously disadvantaging people living in remote areas.

 

“Local small businesses that depend on local supermarkets for stock, for example soft drinks and milk, must also be treated differently,” she said.

 

Woolworths: Pasta shelves are empty. This photo was taken at 4.30pm Saturday. They were also empty midday yesterday.

 

MLA for Braitling Dale Wakefield, the only government front-bencher in the region, did not respond to the News.

 

In most cases it is unnecessary to expose shoppers to infection risks, given the tried and proven online ordering, with store staff packing the shopping and customers picking it from an external entrance.

 

We put this question to Coles: “What is the capacity of Coles Alice Springs to deal with online orders that are picked up by the customer outside the store?”

 

Their answer does not contain a direct response to that question.

 

On its website Coles says: “No Click&Collect locations within 300km of Alice Springs, NT 0870.”

 

Woolworths reacted in a similar manner: “We’re focused on offering and prioritising delivery windows for our most vulnerable customers, including seniors, people with a disability and those in mandatory isolation, with those orders to be made through our Priority Assistance from Woolworths.

 

“We’ll look to resume our usual delivery operations out of our supermarkets as soon as possible.”

 

This answer does not explain in what way that excludes providing online ordering.

 

On their website Woolworths says: “Pick up service from our stores is not available until further notice due to significant item shortages in our stores.

 

“It is a difficult but necessary decision that will allow our store team members to prioritise the restocking of our shelves in the face of unprecedented demand.”

 

It also makes no sense because Woolworths could surely keep their website updated about availability.

 

And shoppers could say “or similar” in their online orders or simply do without some items.

 

Lhere Artepe’s three IGA stores, mainly Northside, have been filling bush orders for years. Their online shopping system should be in use soon, says a spokeswoman.

 

 

 

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10 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Peter
    Posted March 30, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    It is understandable that the tension, frustration and fear in the community in these uncertain times causes the comments we’re reading, not only in the Alice Springs News but in almost every newspaper comment section – if they allow comments in the first place, that is.
    It is also in human nature to judge, criticise and make comments whether they are based on assumptions, facts or simply fiction as there are plenty of the first and latter to be found these days.
    Everybody is an expert and knows what’s best and how every business should operate and what the leaders, capable or not, should or should not do.
    Seldom do we actually think before we start commenting and, God forbid, get the facts right first or have some understanding and compassion for one another.
    It may serve as a good reminder that all the leaders, business owners, CEOs, managers, politicians, employees and the likes are a direct reflection of our society, educated, shaped and formed in the very same image of all of us, with variations of course.
    A further fact is whatever time it will take for this crisis to pass, the world as we knew will and have already changed for good.
    Like there was a 9/11 before and after, the same will be the case with COVID-19. The sooner we’ll accept that and act accordingly, the better for everyone.
    That is especially true for ourself. It’s time to start thinking what’s important in life: Family, Friends, health and the list goes on.
    We can focus on what’s bad or good, they choice is ours to make. I for myself know what gets me through these tough times. Do you?

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  2. Karen
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    I was disgusted that Woolies stopped online shopping.
    Two weeks I’ve had my daughter help me shop at Coles as I don’t want to be there and we get the shopping done quicker.
    Today, yes empty shelves, but I’m noticing brands never seen before, at checkouts signs about distance but at the end of every aisle and any other floor space there is a massive protruding display of non-essential items that take away any safe distance.

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  3. Perrule
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 6:52 am

    When watching the early morning news I saw the Coles CEO talking about social distancing. This will be difficult with current circumstances!
    Are Coles able to reverse the current situation – only basics available in store and all other shopping by delivery?
    A few things with this will help us all: A record of purchase with online may help control hoarding. It’s a way of distributing across a wider group of people fairly.

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  4. Perrule
    Posted March 26, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    Online shopping with contactless delivery is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People are doing supermarket shopping, when this disease gets worse supermarket contact may well be the next source of many infections.
    The government should be working hard to get Coles Woolworths Deliveries going now. Home delivered groceries is a great way to process and promote social distancing
    If the government helps get home delivery going again it will most likely cost less than hospital beds.
    Can someone please tell the relevant government authorities that can push this through please?
    Perhaps the government could put some resources into helping elderly or disabled or vulnerable people with orders and delivery.

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  5. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted March 26, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Service update. Due to significant item shortages our pick-up service is unavailable until further notice.
    If you place a delivery order you will have a high level of out of stocks, especially if they are pantry or cleaning items. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
    It makes sense, alas.

    View Comment
  6. Mark
    Posted March 26, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    When online shopping is most important to avoid infection, suddenly both Woolworths and Coles stopped online shopping, forcing people to visit their stores.
    When I saw news like “how to persuade your friends to stay home” I just feel funny: I would like to stay home but the Woolworths and Coles are forcing me to go out shopping.
    Something must be done to resume online shopping.

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  7. Surprised!
    Posted March 26, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    With regard to panic buying, why not think about this.
    Using as an example a packet of toilet tissue, you can buy as much as you want, but the following rule applies: The first pack is the normal price, then the subsequent pack has say a $1 levy, so normal pack price plus $1. The next pack is the Normal pack price with a $2 levy then a $4, then an $8 levy. Let people buy as much as they want.
    The levies could go towards the health resourcing or even a testing centre here. The same principles could be applied to all “panicked” items.

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  8. David
    Posted March 26, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    I went shopping again today, reluctantly at Coles. None are allowing home delivery service which I would rather have.
    I am a home carer and I do not want to put my elderly mother at risk every time I have to shop but I can’t get what I need every day.
    I also notice a hike in prices, totally unacceptable since fuel prices have dropped. Price gouging is rampant.
    I put my mother’s health at risk going into shops with people not maintaining social distancing. Wake up people, it’s there to protect you!
    I hate shopping these days because of this and major chain supermarkets don’t help by not offering a delivery service!

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  9. Jack1
    Posted March 26, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    The army cannot come in or move as they will have to be tested.
    Currently people should only have to get their weekly shop or just the odd bits and pieces. Looking at people creating the mass hysteria need to really take a look at what they are doing to create this.
    Very sad. Very selfish.
    We have forgotten the bush fires already and we have to remember this could be all over once the next disaster happens. There are more people that are starving, homeless, in medical and mental needs, in this world. How selfish are we.

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  10. Peter
    Posted March 26, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Woolworths are not wholeheartedly supporting the community.
    Try getting hand sanitiser (with high alcohol content) at Woolies.
    For three weeks now there have been empty shelves.
    “We restock at night and it sells out quickly,” they told me.
    I went there at the opening time.
    Empty shelves and then they said: “We can’t get it, the cities are prioritised.”
    That is a failure of Woolworths as a company.
    And the prices at Woolies? No more specials.
    Are they price gouging?

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