I get it – I’m privileged. I can order online and don’t have to worry too terribly much about whether hamburger meat is on special or not. 

Notwithstanding, if you are offering a service, the service should be provided with reasoned and considered care for quality regardless of who you are. That means addressing systemic sources of error in the delivery of that service as it is being used, rather than hiding behind a wall of terms of service legalese. 

For example, not everyone that uses this type of personal shopper service is capable of sitting in front of their phone waiting with eyes glued to it for 3 hours in the off chance that the personal shopper needs a clarification on an item. If they were, they might just as well be out doing their own shopping and hence not require the services of a personal shopper to begin with.

I also understand that as a personal shopper the job doesn’t pay a lot to begin with. Speed is key to making a liveable wage doing this type of thing. That includes the personal shopper being able to get a clarification to a question in a reasonable time frame from their customer. 

However, there are 1000 reasons why someone can’t be in front of their phone every second. And this too needs to be taken into consideration otherwise mistakes can be made that require refunds on items that create excess spoilage at a time when we can least afford it. 

In almost all cases where I’ve seen mistakes in orders it is due to time being substituted for quality. The problem is that lack of quality can literally get someone killed, or worse, expelled (oops – wrong movie).

Having said that, there are a few things that bug me about personal shoppers that you would think are common sense but apparently aren’t.

  1. Reading the instructions: If you, as the customer, take the time to write a note about a grocery item, like, I dunno, the fact that you might be allergic to peanuts, or are lactose intolerant, you would hope that the personal shopper would take the time to read those notes to make sure that if they need to make a substitution that they aren’t substituting something that might kill you. 
  2. Shopping for Pharmaceuticals: Not all pain relievers are the same and many have side effects when combined with other medication. So when you include a comment such as “no substitutions” there is a reason why picking the next closest item on the shelf that has a product brand name similar to what you asked for can be dangerous.

    Or worse, when the person clearly doesn’t understand what the over the counter medication you asked for does and picks up something that in no way shape or form is anywhere close to what you asked for.

    I know its extra time, but if you can’t tell the difference between a pain reliever, muscle relaxant, or anti-inflammatory, and can’t reach the customer, you should be asking the pharmacists rather than picking something at random. 

  3. Packing Groceries: Bread, eggs, and potatoes chips go on the top of heavier items, not the bottom. Pies, cakes, and fruit trays need to lie flat, not be packed edge on. You don’t pack hot whole chickens in the same bag as ice cream. Raw meats need to be packed separately to avoid cross contamination.

    You would think this is self evident but at least 50% of the personal shoppers I end up with apparently don’t know these, and other, unspoken rules that even a 5th grader can figure out. 

  4. Double check what goes in each order: Sometimes I’ll get things in my order that were obviously intended for someone else. While the occasional surprise mystery item can be interesting its not always something that can be used (i.e. see comments above about peanuts).

    I’m certain that for a little while there shoppers where adding in extra treats to entice a larger tip. Not necessarily because they were part of my, or anyone else’s order. Its a generous thought and on the surface well meaning customer service.

    However when you are working on trying to lose an extra 10-20 pounds, or are diabetic, or have a milk alergy, and then discover a 4-pack of full sized kitkat chocolate bars in your shopping bag, it doesn’t always have the desired effect.

    It also leads partially to the next item on the list.

  5. Missing Items: Which is caused by one of two issues. Incorrect packing of multiple orders being collected at the same time or deliberate fraud.

    On the first count, honest mistakes are honest mistakes. It happens.

    On the second however, there must be enough people out there that don’t check their order and receipt information to have created an “exploitable opportunity” for fraud. 

    I suspect that this might be due to padding the order by claiming you found something, not including it, and then simply pocketing the difference. If you get caught you can claim it was an honest mistake and then simply not do it for a while so as not to raise suspicions too often.

    I’m not 100% on this but for about 6 months in the middle of the pandemic it seemed like the majority of shoppers in one location were consistently “missing” a few items on each order which I was getting billed for.

    After complaining a few times citing specific examples and people it seemed to stop and those personal shoppers didn’t seem to be working at that location anymore. Causality? QAnon? Aliens Maybe? Inquiring minds want to know!

  6. Use of the Doorbell/Drop Off Instructions: I have instructions to leave the order on the front step. I’m often on conference calls or in situations where I can’t necessary come to the door immediately. While I understand that this means someone could grab my order between when its dropped off and when I can get to the door, that is my risk to assume.

    What I don’t need is someone ringing my doorbell 15 times when I’m on a call or giving a presentation. Ringing the bell once is good enough. And I certainly don’t need someone to be calling my phone 5 times waiting for me to come to the door. 

    Rule of thumb – actually look for the door bell rather than assuming your feeble weak wristed rapping at the front door is going to be noticed from the back of the house and then only ring the bell once unless the instructions say otherwise. 

    I’m sure the rules need to change when dealing with apartment buildings, townhouses, boat launches, etc. However in my case the instructions are clearly indicated on my order as to how to drop off the order. Yet in at least 30% of the cases, people still seem incapable of reading.

    I’d rather someone read the instructions rather than thinking they are going above and beyond by waiting for me to react like pavlov’s dog to incesent and unnecessary interruptions.

The bottom line is that the personal shopper experience isn’t a brain-dead, any idiot with a pulse and a driver’s licence, can do it type of job. There is intelligence required as part of the job and it does have its own unque skill set that includes reading, comprehension, communications, analytical skills, critical thinking skills, honesty, integrity, situational awareness, and awareness of foods, food sensitivities, and over the counter pharmaceuticals.  

Hopefully at some point, these companies that employ personal shoppers will understand that the people doing this job need skills training like any other profession. (I know, technically they are self-employed contractors, but lets be real here – its a form of economically forced labour otherwise these people would be doing something that pays better. That is the subject of a different post)

In the meantime, anyone need a bottle of Robaxin 750 Extra Strength that I can’t use and can’t return? What a flippin waste. – again!

— Kevin

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