As Demand Grows During Lockdown, Grocery Delivery Services Struggle To Keep Up


With coronavirus lockdowns in place in countries around the world, delivery services are learning their limits.

From hard-hit cities in the U.S. such as New York and Los Angeles to the United Kingdom and China – where the coronavirus first struck, delivery services are facing unprecedented demand.

And their struggles to keep up are spotlighting just how much — even in the internet age — the basic abilities to meet the needs of daily living require traditional bricks-and-mortar outlets for food and other necessities.

And how much actual workers – people who actually move the products that keep the wheels of commerce turning — truly matter.

In the U.S., the evidence started becoming clear shortly after the scale of the coronavirus crisis became clear.

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“After panic-buying left store shelves stripped of staples like pasta, canned goods and toilet paper, many shoppers quickly found online grocery delivery slots almost impossible to come by, too,” The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Now, deliveries that once would have been accomplished in a matter of hours can leave customers waiting for days on end.

The situation is similar on the West Coast, according to a KCAL report from Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“Amazon Fresh was one of the multiple delivery services without any delivery windows this week. Insta Cart provided shoppers a six-day window on when they might receive their orders, and said because demand was so high, orders would be taken when a shopper was available,” the station reported.

Curbside pickup and to-go services are similarly swamped:

In Britain, the online-only supermarket Ocado has been so swamped that even long-time customers have found themselves unable to get deliveries for weeks.

“The coronavirus crisis is giving the e-commerce industry a boost but troubles at Ocado and other online grocers highlight how hard it is for the industry to quickly scale up online delivery,” the AP reported.

And in China, where the crisis has been going on the longest — and was no doubt worsened by its communist government’s lying — the e-commerce giant Alibaba has been recruiting laid-off restaurant workers to help fill the surging demand caused by customers caught in lockdowns, according to the AP.

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Is the world learning how important service jobs are?

All of that should be giving Americans — and citizens of other countries — a renewed appreciation for the workers who actually make the economy run, not orders handed down by governments.

While millions of Americans have found it’s possible to work from home, a laptop and internet service doesn’t mean there’s food on the table.

And no matter how smart a smartphone is, it can’t get a meal delivered if there isn’t a flesh-and-blood human being willing enough — and being paid enough — to brave the outside world to make an honest living.

The fact that the delivery business is struggling around the world isn’t due to lack of demand — in a locked-down world, the demand is everywhere.

It’s the availability of employees that’s the problem.

And while many segments of the U.S. economy have seen massive layoffs and unemployment in the coronavirus crisis, it’s a different story when it comes to delivering basic goods and services.

As Kiplinger reported this week:

“Employment categories currently seeing a surge in hiring include grocery stores, food delivery services, package delivery drivers, freight trucking, cleaning services, call centers, e-commerce warehouses and logistics, nursing homes, manufacturers of popular shelf-stable food products, pharmacies and security services.”

In a wireless world, dependence on technology has become a part of human existence.

But if the coronavirus crisis teaches anything, it’s that, when push comes to shove, it’s real-live people that make the whole thing run.

When this whole thing passes, all the government worshipping liberals and sheltered-in-place, working-from-home, white-collar workers in the world ought to keep that lesson very much in mind.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.