OLDER, disabled and vulnerable people have issued a plea to people not to take supermarket delivery slots unless they really need them after finding themselves isolated and with no way of getting any groceries in.
And they have pleaded with the supermarkets to do more to help those who need it most.
Sally Coombes from Bromsgrove, who is a pensioner, has breast cancer and a damaged lung, said she and her husband tried to register with Sainsbury’s as a ‘vulnerable’ resident from 8am to 11pm but found it impossible to speak to anyone.
“We’ve tried booking slots online at different times-a-day, sometimes after midnight, and still there is nothing available.
She added she was also unable to speak to Iceland and messages sent online were just met with ‘this email is not being monitored’ replies.
“We cannot leave the house and have had help from a wonderful neighbour but we cannot expect people to help us for 12 weeks or more.
“I don’t want luxuries – just a regular delivery of necessities.
“We’re happy living on beans on toast, egg on toast or soup but we need the items.”
She added she feared others who did not have computers or smart phones may be even worse off than them.
“I seriously think people could be left dying in their homes.”
Droitwich resident Renate, who is 75, severely disabled and a wheelchair user, said she contacted The Standard as a last resort after being left frustrated trying to get food delivered at three separate supermarkets.
She said: “I am housebound, living on my own and I am unable to secure a delivery slot for grocery delivery at any of the major supermarket chains.”
Renate tried Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose and there were no slots available at any of them.
“The media reported delivery slots would be made available to the disabled, however, these are just empty words.
“I have no big needs, only water and yogurts, but I am unable to shop for these.
“I buy from Tesco regularly and now when I need items I cannot get them. I feel so let down.”
She asked if we could help suppliers more aware of the predicament disabled people found themselves in.
“I am very disappointed that nothing is done to help people such as myself.”
Three neighbours from Redditch, aged 68, 85 and 101, who contacted the Standard said they had received deliveries from Tesco once-a-week for the last eight months and used a saver plan.
But last week the deliveries did not turn up and they are unable to get through to Tesco on the phone.
“We haven’t been able to get eggs for three weeks now.”
They claimed there was also others, including a family living across the road who were younger and had two cars, who were still receiving two deliveries-a-week.
“In these times when the vulnerable are being urged to have their shopping delivered isn’t this selfish?”
What the supermarkets had to say….
We quizzed the supermarkets concerned and here are their responses –
Tesco said it knew how important the issue was and how it was more difficult for people to get delivery slots for online shopping and was looking into how it could best support all its customers, including vulnerable shoppers.
The supermarket asked those who could safely get to a store to go there instead of shopping online so more slots would be there for the most vulnerable.
It was also looking at every opportunity to increase the number of slots and would be setting aside more of those slots for its most vulnerable customers.
Morrisons said it was expanding its home delivery, introducing new ways of delivering groceries and more slots for customers, which will also help vulnerable people and those affected by the virus.
A new range of simple-to-order food parcels, including options for vegetarians, was started on Monday.
More delivery slots were available through Morrisons.com and the Morrisons Store on Amazon Prime Now. Morrisons will use 100 further stores to pick customers’ shopping over the coming weeks.
A customer call centre was being launched to take orders over the phone so people who did not shop online can still order food.
To support the roll-out of these expanded home delivery methods, Morrisons is recruiting around 2,500 pickers and drivers and 1,000 distribution centre staff which it said would also help those whose jobs had been lost or impacted on by COVID-19.
David Potts, Morrisons’ chief executive, said: “We expect the days, weeks and months ahead to be very testing and we are determined to do our bit.
“These measures will support our very hard-working colleagues, enable us to provide more food to more people in their homes and create opportunities for people whose jobs are affected by the coronavirus.”
Sainsbury’s said it was doing its ‘absolute best’ to offer online delivery slots to elderly and vulnerable customers who had priority over all slots.
“We have proactively contacted 270,000 customers who had already given us information that meant we could identify them as elderly or vulnerable.
“Our customer careline is working at full capacity to help other vulnerable customers and we are able to give an additional 8,000 customers a day access to delivery slots over the phone.
“We have already booked in slots for 115,000 elderly and vulnerable customers this week and this number is growing every day.”
Where slots were available, not currently filled by elderly and vulnerable customers, they were offered to others in the short term, a spokesperson added,
The company was due to receive the Government database this week detailing the people considered to be the most vulnerable.
“Where these people are registered with us, we will start to write to them next week to offer them a delivery slot.
We are doing our very best, but it’s important to remember that home delivery is a very small part of the grocery market and we would ask communities to work together on this issue.
“If customers are able to go into store to shop, we hope they will also shop for someone else who lives locally if they can.”
She added regular deliveries were being received and Sainsbury’s supermarkets were now open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday so the firm could focus workers’ time on keeping shelves stocked.
“We are constantly listening to feedback from our customers and will be in touch when there is anything further we can share.”
Iceland said, whilst it was seeing an unprecedented demand for its online delivery service with customers booking slots incredibly quickly as they became available, more slots were being released daily.
“We are also working hard to add extra online delivery capacity at every opportunity across all our stores in the UK.”
The company had placed a pop-up on its groceries website asking people only to place online orders if they were elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable, or were self-isolating.
“This is designed to make people think twice before placing an order, and consider whether or not it is absolutely vital for them to use one of our delivery slots at a time when we are seeing such high demand.
“We are calling on all of our customers to help us in supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“We have appealed to the public to support our efforts to give priority to those most in need, whether that is by respecting priority shopping periods for the elderly and vulnerable in our stores, or by not placing online orders if they are capable of visiting a store themselves.
“Please show consideration for others in the way that you shop, by not panic buying and not taking up delivery slots that are badly needed by those who are unable to obtain the food and other essentials they need in any other way.”
Waitrose said it was looking into the issue and hoped to provide an update to us and customers soon.