CHOICE membership

COVID-19 On-line food etc shopping issues

I have concerns about Coles and Woolworth’s claims in the media and on their website of assisting disabled/elderly/vulnerable people facing difficulty shopping during COVID-19. Browsing through some of the comments in this community group I found similar concerns have been raised:


Examples of my own experience having two elderly, immunocompromised, disabled family members is as follows:
*Woolworths announced partnering with Meals on wheels to provide toilet paper https://hellocaremail.com.au/woolworths-partners-meals-wheels-bring-free-toilet-paper-seniors/
They received the first toilet paper roll through Meals on wheels last week, just after the local supermarkets were beginning to have toilet paper and tissue boxes on the shelves.
*Coles online shopping that is now only available to seniors etc sells limited varieties of products. For example the only low fat “Natural” Yogurt is the coles brand low fat Greek style yoghurt which contains thickeners etc. On the other hand the local Coles store in the same area stocks all the usual varieties of yoghurts including Jalna and Chobani brands.
*The 7am-8am time slots for Seniors are not an appropriate time for those who are diabetic etc and have to make sure they have had their meals/insulin etc and also need help with personal care routine in the morning after waking up. It also exposed them to crowds of people in the line, making them vulnerable to not just COVID-19 but other infections. Interestingly enough Coles and Woolworths took almost all credit for this initiative when in fact this concept was introduced by a store manager in IGA in Altona https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/we-need-to-stick-together-the-supermarket-owner-behind-the-elderly-shopping-hour-20200316-p54am0.html

Apart from private corporations such as Coles and Woolworths, state and federal government have provided limited direction or tangible solutions to protect the most vulnerable in matters such as this. The local government has shown even less signs of action on this matter.

I do hope organisations such as Choice and Disability/Aged Care advocates will urgently step in to address this. The very nature of Covid-19 (ie this demographic is the most vulnerable to the virus itself) makes it imperative.

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We are old. Never used online WW, but due to pandemic and age looking to delivery. So logged to WW made up order and at same time applied for priority as a senior. Found website took some learning. After 48 h as promised priority approved but no delivery windows in our area for next several days. Advice was keep checking preferably in morning. No luck after couple days. Then advised Contactless Priority pick up was operating. Changed from delivery to this option and have a pick up window immediately for next morning. Seems pretty good given imagined pressures on supermarkets. BTW also logged into Coles and similarly no delivery windows. They do not do old as a reason for priority and dont seem to have pick up.

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We can shop in the ‘Oldies’ time. I have done this three times, two at Coles and the other at Woolworths. I won’t be shopping in that time again. Reason is I found I had forgotten to get an item we needed so called in to our Woolworths. Their shelves were well stocked and they had most things (not toilet Paper). Today we shopped at a later time again and could even get toilet paper, first time since the end of January. The shelves looked quite well stocked and I liked the polite notes asking people to only buy what they needed. I wonder if it is because the Woolworths we use is closed till 9:00 am as they are a Priority Delivery Hub.

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The first thing that seriously needs to be corrected is the media-pushed “elderly and disabled” nonsense.

I’m neither, unless 63 is considered elderly, yet my Low Income Health Care card has allowed me to participate in the early hour shop at both chains.

The reality is that any Concession Card gains you access. I wonder how many eligible folks who are neither elderly nor disabled have missed out because they’ve believed the media articles.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea. We get first access to (mostly) freshly stacked shelves at both chains. Woolies has been the standout for meat, plenty available, Coles little or none.

I appreciate though, that the time is not suitable for everyone.

I’m hoping that Coles and Woolies will soon re-open their home deliveries to everyone. I don’t qualify for either’s current restricted home deliveries. Am guessing that both are busy significantly increasing their home delivery fleets, drivers, and item pickers.

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Getting home delivery from Coles isn’t going to happen for me. I sent them a message on their facebook page, and heres a screenie of their response… (and my original message)…

Apologise??? For what? Being too late to the party? (took them weeks to get going after they canned online ordering and home delivery). And recently I have discovered that they still are not actually doing home delivery. COPS only lets you do click and collect, and your carer (or you) has to do the pickup. What a bunch of useless tools. Glad I decided not to bother.

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As for Woolworths… Priority? HA!. But, I think I have the system worked out in a way that might work for others. I haven’t yet tested it, Don’t need to order for a while. Here’s my plan… set up a shopping cart with what you want to get. Make a note of whats N/A at the time. check again multiple times before you need to make the order, and do that in the early hours of the morning, or extremely late at night. Then, when you think its all good, make the order and choose the first delivery window. I had my best result when I requested a 5am slot.

My thinking is this… they are filling orders as they need to go out… so if you’re in the early slot, yours will be done before others. It might not work, of course, many more people using the system now… but worth a try, I think.

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There’s two sides or is it three sides to this situation.

  • Firstly those who acted selfishly rushing in and over purchasing, and not considering the broader consequences for others.
  • Secondly a Federal Govt that started talking about consumers bring prepared for 14 days isolation, without considering and addressing up front the possible consequences.
  • Thirdly the big super market chains who would have known from their cash registers, automated stock reporting within hours of it starting there was a run on certain products. They took no immediate action to protect consumers, and debatably took advantage by discontinuing to offer specials on these high demand lines.

The order of the first and second points is interchangeable.

It is now a month since the start of the big buy up.

Preferential treatment of some sections of the community is only partially effective.

Amongst the remainder many including some who are high risk have little option other than to visit the super market more often.

And there are a great many others putting themselves out and at risk, by standing in the early morning queues, and running between more than one to help find the essentials, for those neighbours who are now at most risk.

The rest is history.

The big supermarket chains are now trying to provide solutions. Have they apologised for their part in creating the problem, or offered a discount in delivering the solution? Should they be brought before an immediate Senate enquiry to reveal their daily TP and other select product sales turn over stats for the prior 8 weeks? Daily Data and by store, to reveal how they are coping, and where the gaps in supply are worst (Who is missing out most)?

Perhaps they might respond more directly and provide the same to Choice if approached politely. @BrendanMays or should I start a poll on this topic for the community to have their say?

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We were approved for COPS, we provided our pension numbers and Seniors Card number and this was enough to get us put on the waiting list and it has now rolled out to our area so got the SMS that we could start shopping.

Perhaps an email to their Customer Care centre might get you the same outcome if those details are included??

They are also providing home delivery to us so not just click and collect. My mother has had the service for about 3 weeks already.

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Thats all very interesting… might try again, just as an exercise (possibly in futility)

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I have been ordering groceries from Woolies online to have delivered since the start of the lock-downs. I have noticed a huge difference in price of a couple of items online as compared to the in-store price. One is Carmen’s Clusters cereal which is around $6-7 a box in store and $11.50 online!! The other is Haagen-Dazs ice cream which is also about $6-7 in store, sometimes as low as $5 on sale and $11.50 on line!!

What is the go with this? It is the exact same product which requires no special handling to deliver. Well, okay, the ice cream has to be frozen. But what can you do to a box of cereal that doubles the price?

Shouldn’t they be the same price in the store and online? I pay a fee for the delivery as well.

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This one’s usual price is $5 online (or $8 for clusters only)…

https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/search/products?searchTerm=Carmen%20cluster

I know this is the same as instore price as they are expensive instore at these prices too.

It is $11.50 online but as never have bought it, don’t know it’s instore price. I (or maybe someone might best me to it) will check next time instore if I remember.

A few years ago Woollies announced that its online and instore prices would be the same…not sure if this has changed as there hasn’t been any announcements. I have noticed that Woollies has instore manager specials which may be a store by store pricing set by store management and that sometimes they specials for individuals holding reward cards which differ from online or instore prices.

I know Coles didn’t match Woollies online/instore pricing announcement at the time Woollies made their announcement and they indicated that their price discrepancy was due to higher cost of handling online orders (packing specific orders for each and every customer…which instore the customer does).

It would be interesting if anyone can confirm if Woollies has changed its pricing approach.

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We do not buy it either, but as a shopper have noticed while the shelf price is usually $11.50 it is routinely on sale (Woolies Rewards emails or their catalogue) for $8-9 every few weeks. Same happens with all the other ice cream (and frozen dessert that resemble ice cream) products. They were historically often half price on the sale, and more recently only about 30% off on sale, product and timing dependent.

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Its the shipping fee that I find outrageous. If you are a single person, you only need minimal stuff and $15 a week is too much (thats what it costs, and I have found myself looking for a bit more to buy, so that the fee can drop to $12… but that is a slippery slope). I don’t shop in store at woolworths, so I have no idea if the prices are more online, but they seem to be in line with what Coles charges in store. Havent done an online shop with Coles yet. Was considering it for next week.

The one thing I did notice… DF pure cream skyrocketed as soon as the Coronavirus restrictions were on… went from $3.75/600ml to $4.50/600ml. And now that the restrictions are off, the higher price remains.

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We also noticed the DF Pure Cream price rise, and many others that similarly crept up and stayed up. In cases it was only noticed because the 50% off sale prices were higher than ever :wink:

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But the products in the warehouse have to be sorted and allocated to each and every outlet; then shipped to each and every outlet; then the products have to be taken into, stacked and displayed in each and every outlet; then each product purchased being processed. That seems a lot of handling in comparison to products being sorted per customer in a warehouse and being shipped directly to customers. Amazon seem to do online shopping and deliveries without too much difficulty and a surcharge on products.

In any case a surcharge used on some online grocery shopping is minimal when compared to the cost of physically shopping.

There are quite a few products continuously unavailable on Woolworths’ online grocery. But these products are available in the offline shops. Maybe Woolworths do not want photos of empty shelves and so preference is being given to stocking the shops. I am told it is the same with Coles. If so then this shows that Woolworths and Coles still dont get online shopping and their systems and approaches need more work.

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One has to remember that products in a warehouse to store are handled in bulk and not individual product items. Say they cost for handling a unit of bulk product is the same as that for a single item, the cost is spread over each item in the bulk amount diluting the per item cost (noting bulk handling cost would be generally less that that for an individual item).

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There’s reasonably enough recent research from UK, Europe and US showing the handling charges between pure online fulfilment (with last mile delivery) and bricks and mortar stores distribution and fulfilment to be within a close range. But of course there’s plenty of variations depending on amount of automation, locality, labour costs, etc that impact on either online or offline. Grocery chains offering both channels do not necessarily get any amortisation benefits but some do using the store as the last mile collection point for online orders.

What we didn’t include in both of our observations are the other costs such as rental, landlord costs, safety and health needs, security services, administrative oversight, POS requirements and more. These costs probably give a smaller margin to offline grocery chains. Real estate is a large cost to bricks and mortar stores and that is largely driven by the property market. Guess rentals will be coming down now but will foot traffic to grocery shops come back to previous levels?

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The other possible explanation not mentioned is that with so many people home, it may be that the consumpion of icecream (comfort food) has increased markedly. Suppliers are then able to push their prices up, much like other suppliers of goods in high demand…

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But not overnight.

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Kudos to Woolies for the way they have kept home delivery going during the pandemic. They may literally have saved some lives.

But there are snags in the system. One that can lead to a higher price on-line than in-store arises from the fact that many loose produce items, which in-store would be weighed and paid for accordingly at the checkout, are not sold by weight on-line but on a per-item basis. Apples, bananas and capsicums are some examples. Thus in one case I found I had paid the equivalent of $6/kg for loose apples which were priced at $4.50/kg in-store, and the equivalent of just over $15/kg for capsicums that if I remember correctly were priced at around $8/kg or $9/kg in-store. To be fair though, the opposite can also occur and sometimes the effective price per kg turns out to be cheaper on-line than in-store. I had this happen with zucchinis, for example, which at the time were priced at $6.90/kg in store but effectively cost me only about $4.10/kg on-line.

Another way one can end up paying more on-line than in-store is when an item goes on special during the interval between placing (and paying) for the order and its delivery. This happened to me with two items in my last delivery. I paid $11/kg for loose mushrooms (which are sold by weight on-line), but which were priced at $8/kg on the day of delivery. And I effectively paid close to $11/kg for loose capsicums which were priced at $$4.90/kg in-store on the day of delivery.

I now only order apples in punnets. This ensures I don’t get a lower weight than I pay for, but unfortunately this also limits choice because only some of the apple varieties are available in punnets. As to the specials issue, I shall endeavour to order only on Wednesdays, which seems to be when items most often are temporarily reduced in price.