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New York magazine's "Grub Street" column has a piece about how delivery app shoppers - "underpaid gig-economy workers delivering groceries through Instacart, Shipt, and Amazon Prime Now" have managed to turn "normally chill grocery stores into high-pressure racecourses as they zipped around trying to quickly and accurately fill orders" - are ruining the supermarket shopping experience.

The story says that one Whole Foods manager described Prime shoppers as "vulture," who often clean out the shelves before actual customers get into the store and employees are able to restock them.

The story goes on to suggests that while the increase in e-grocery shopping because of the pandemic has accelerated the problem, it isn't just the pandemic:

"As is so often the case, the problem is real, but the diagnosis feels wrong. The Prime shoppers, mostly, are not the problem but victims of the problem. So are the Whole Foods employees and the customers who just want to buy tomatoes in person and in peace. It is instead another example of the old phenomenon: By not paying enough for gig labor and by rewarding efficiency at all costs, the delivery giants are turning grocery stores into glorified warehouses — much to the detriment of the overall shopping experience."

The thing is, "a lot of people have realized that grocery delivery, at least on the consumer end, is actually kind of great. You can just … get food by pressing buttons and have it delivered to your house."

And, the piece continues:

"It’s worth noting that for people who are physically unable to visit grocery stores in person or who are immunocompromised and can’t visit stores while the pandemic rages on, delivery apps offer an indispensable service. Even for the 99 percent of customers who could go to stores but simply choose not to, online shopping is, if not strictly necessary, then exceedingly convenient. While delivery is expensive, it is near frictionless, especially if you’re willing to tolerate the wrong kind of apples and some occasionally wilted greens. Of course, for people who still prefer buying food in person, the new model is a problem."

KC's View:

This is one of the reasons that dark stores or microhubs or micro-fulfillment centers may be so important going forward for many retailers … they will allow retailers to take the pressure off what we can think of as customer-centric stores.  

Because there really will be two kinds of stores.  Customer-centric stores.  And logistics-centric stores.   There may be some overlap, but their orientations, by definition, will be different if they are going to be effective.