‘I can’t get an online home delivery slot – what should I do?’ Coronavirus Q&A

The coronavirus outbreak has caused panic buying in the UK, leaving supermarket shelves empty as shoppers prepared for a three-week UK lockdown to stem the spread.

Retailers have been quick to respond to the increased demand, putting in place restrictions on the number of products customers can buy, as well as changing store opening times and online delivery slots to benefit elderly and vulnerable customers, and key workers.

Supermarkets have been supplied with a list of 1.5 million vulnerable customers who have been told to self-isolate for at least 12 weeks. The list was drawn up by the Government in order to allow supermarkets to target the most needy with online deliveries.

All the latest information on which stores are rationing items, the changes to opening times and what this means for the UK supply chain, can be found below.

Over lunchtime on Monday 13 April, Katie Morley, The Telegraph’s Consumer Champion, answered all of your supermarket shopping questions. You can find Monday’s Q&A at the bottom of this article.

Supermarkets rationing 

Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s customers are only able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery products and a maximum of two on the most popular items, such as toilet roll, soap and UHT milk.

“As we work to feed the nation, we are also focusing all of our efforts on getting as much food and other essential items from our suppliers, into our warehouses and onto shelves as we possibly can”, Mike Coupe, the retailer’s chief executive, said.

“We still have enough food for everyone – if we all just buy what we need for us and our families.”




Shoppers faced with empty shelves in a London supermarket


Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP

Tesco 

Tesco has introduced restrictions across all their stores only allowing three items per customer on every product line. They have also removed multi-buy promotions.

Asda

Asda is restricting all items to a maximum of three per customer across all food items, toiletries and cleaning products.

“We have plenty of products to go around, but we have a responsibility to do the right thing for our communities to help our customers look after their loved ones in a time of need,” the supermarket said in a statement. 

Morrisons

Morrisons has restricted all product lines both in store and online to three per customer to ensure everyone has access to everyday essentials. Some high demand items have been restricted to two, including hand sanitiser and toilet roll.

Lidl

Lidl have announced quantity restrictions across some of their products. They have advised customers to check in store for more details.

Meanwhile, as part of a joint statement released last week with other supermarkets, they have called on customers to be “considerate” in the way they shop.

The statement read: “We would ask everyone to be considerate in the way they shop. We understand your concerns but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without. There is enough for everyone if we all work together.”

Aldi

Aldi has now lifted some of the temporary restrictions which limited the number of items shoppers could buy. 

Customers can now only buy four of the following products:

  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Hand wash and soap
  • Shower gel
  • Bleach
  • Toilet tissue, kitchen towel, tissues
  • Nappies
  • Pasta
  • Canned tomatoes, canned beans and sausages
  • Part baked bread
  • Beers, wines and spirits

And two of the following products:

  • Antibacterial hand gel
  • UHT milk
  • Baby formula

Waitrose 

John Lewis and Waitrose have become the latest retailers to announce limits on the purchase of some items amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Waitrose, which is part of John Lewis Partnership, has announced a three-item limit on certain products and a limit of two packets of toilet roll. 

They said in a statement: “help us help all our customers – particularly those who are sick or vulnerable – by only buying what you need. That way we can ensure there will be enough food and groceries for everyone”.

John Lewis has announced it is closing its stores.




Shoppers queue to enter the Costco wholesale supermarket in north London


Credit: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

Iceland

Iceland have placed a “temporary cap” on some items, such as antibacterial wipes and soap. They have also urged people to shop in an “appropriate way for the needs of your family and considering other customers when selecting products in our stores, and we would ask you to be considerate towards our colleagues”.

Co-op

The Co-op supermarket has become the latest to introduce rationing in its stores, limiting customers to two items of any product, and just one box of eggs.

Measures for elderly and vulnerable customers

Government ministers and retailers have been discussing ways of ensuring that vulnerable people without access to online shopping are not left without food if they have to self-isolate. Retailers have begun implementing measures to protect these customers. 

Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s supermarkets will now open between 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday. They have announced NHS and social care workers will be able shop half an hour before stores open each day between 7.30-8.00am, Monday to Saturday. 

Additionally, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8.00-9.00am will be dedicated to serving elderly and disabled customers, as well as carers.

Mike Coupe, CEO, said in a statement: “I hope that you can respect this decision and will work with us as we try our best to help those that need it most.”

Sainsbury’s will also be updating their online shopping availability, and from March 23 they will be adding “priority access to online delivery slots” for customers aged over 70, or those who have a disability.

They have also identified vulnerable online shoppers through previously provided information and will be emailing them with information about available delivery slots.

Tesco

Tesco has announced all their stores, except Express stores, “will be prioritising the elderly and most vulnerable for one hour between 9am and 10am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday”. Every Sunday NHS workers who provide a valid ID can shop in Tesco’s larger stores an hour before checkouts open.

Asda 

Asda are offering NHS staff priority access to stores on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8.00-9.00am. While from Friday 20 March from opening time to 9am their superstores will be dedicated to helping vulnerable shoppers.

Morrisons

An NHS hour will be in place in Morrisons stores from 7am to 8am Monday to Saturday. 

Meanwhile, the supermarket chain will be recruiting around 2,500 pickers and drivers, as well as 1,000 staff in its distribution centres to expand its online shopping services.

It will make more slots available and also set up a call centre for those without access to online shopping, such as the elderly.

Iceland

Iceland stores offer exclusive shopping hours for elderly and vulnerable customers, NHS staff and social care workers.

From Monday to Saturday, Iceland’s hours are as follows:

  • First hour of trading: priority hours for elderly and vulernable people.
  • Last hour of trading: NHS staff only with valid ID
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Waitrose

From Friday 20 March, the first opening hour in all their stores will be dedicated to elderly and vulnerable shoppers, as well as their carers. 

Waitrose has announced they will keep “daily essentials” aside for NHS workers, they will be given “priority treatment” at checkouts and John Lewis Partners are putting together “care packages” to deliver to NHS facilities around the country.

Aldi

Aldi has not announced any varied opening times for older customers, but they have donated £250,000 to Age UK. 

“In these difficult times it’s important for us all to look after the most vulnerable people in our communities,” Aldi said in a statement.

“This donation will help to ensure that Age UK’s vital services can stay open during this challenging time, helping to ensure that they can continue to support vulnerable members of the community who may not be able to get out to our stores.”




Shoppers leave a branch of Sainsbury’s supermarket after an early “Elderly and vulnerable shopper” period


Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Restocking guarantees 

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has said the government is “absolutely confident” in the UK supply chains. “We will get farm to fork food supplies for this country and therefore people should have no reason to stockpile or panic buy,” he said. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has authorised a temporary relaxation, until April 16, of the drivers’ hours rules to help deliver goods to stores across the country.

A Department for Transport statement said the relaxation applies only to drivers supplying food and “essential products to supermarkets”.

“This includes the movement of such goods from importers, manufactures and suppliers to distribution centres. It does not apply to drivers undertaking deliveries directly to consumers,” the statement added.

Stores have also reassured customers they are doing all they can to ensure their shelves remain full and their supply chains running smoothly. 

Waitrose have said: “We would like to reassure you that we are currently working as hard as possible to keep a good range of everyday products available, and are working closely with our suppliers to help meet continuing demand.”

Opening times

Tesco has also reduced the hours of all its stores, with all stores closing at 10pm. Last week, it was forced to take its mobile app offline temporarily due to high demand.

A spokeswoman said the reduced hours: “gives our colleagues the time overnight to restock the store, replenish the shelves and support our online grocery service at a time when demand is high.”

They will also be closing all meat, fish, deli counters and salad bars, to allow staff to focus on restocking shelves and providing essentials.

Waitrose cafes and rotisseries will be temporarily shut to help stores cope with increased demand in other areas. Due to the high demand of their online shopping service the cut off time to make changes to orders is now 12 noon. 

Asda will also be closing its 24 hour stores between 12am and 6am temporarily. The company said in a statement the move was to “ensure (staff) have the time to re-stock and thoroughly clean the store so it is ready for customers”.

In a bid to prioritise essential items, free up warehouse space and employees, Asda will also be temporarily closing services such as cafes and pizza counters.

Aldi has changed their closing times so all stores will now close at 8pm. Lidl has announced some store opening times have changed, and are encouraging customers to check their local store for details.

Iceland’s opening hours from Monday through Saturday are now 9am to 5pm. Sunday trading hours remain unchanged.

Below are questions on shopping from our readers that the Telegraph’s Consumer Champion, Katie Morley, has answered. Send in your queries for upcoming Q&As to yourstory@telegraph.co.uk.

‘We’ve only had two delivery slots since March – should there be more support?’

Hoshang Ghadially says: “My wife and I normally shop at our local ASDA and since self-isolating have only been able to get two ‘click and collect’ slots since mid March. It has been impossible to obtain a delivery slot and on one occasion my wife woke up at midnight to see if any such slots were available. I am 76 years old and do not wish to come into contact with anyone as I have a heart condition. Something needs to be done.”

Katie’s answer: 

A delivery slot once every two weeks isn’t ideal, but it’s more than most people have been getting. If you have room in your freezer, you might want to start making more use of it in order to make your food last longer. You could plan your meals out for the next two weeks, making sure the food you’ve ordered won’t go off. For things like milk, perishables and bits you find you need unexpectedly, can you ask friends and neighbours for a small favour? I’m sure they’ll be happy to help.

‘I’ve got asthma but can’t get a home delivery – what do I do?’

Joseph Gwynne: “I have a bit of a coronavirus conundrum… I’m 33 and on the extremely vulnerable list (bad asthma). I’ve had the  NHS shielding letter and a letter from the Government telling me to register on their site, which I’ve done. However we can’t get an ASDA delivery or even click and collect for love nor money and we have had ASDA deliveries out of convenience for years, now they aren’t out of convenience but necessity 

Is there a way I can let ASDA know I’m not leaving the house on purpose?”

Katie: I’m really sorry to hear this. Double check all the details on your Government letter match up with your supermarket online accounts. All details (name, address, etc) will need to be the same. I would also advise complaining publicly via Twitter and Facebook, tagging supermarkets in posts. This may have the desired effect. Good luck with it.

‘We’re running out of supplies and can’t get a home delivery slot’  

Esther Shepherd says: “I managed to get an online delivery from Morrisons three weeks ago, not managed to get a slot since. I’m 84 my wife is 81 who has now totally lost her memory and is in a great deal of pain and awaiting an operation (cancelled twice).

“Also we care for our severely disabled daughter aged 51 24/7 (cerebral palsy and learning difficulties). I have been trying to get a delivery slot, but get the same message daily, no slots available. Fortunately due to our mobility problems we have always kept our freezer full., but it’s now almost empty.”

Katie saysI’m so sorry to hear about this. My advice is sign up to all the supermarkets you can, and keep checking back for slots. If you see one, book it right away. If this isn’t working and you need food, look beyond the major supermarkets. Many smaller catering firms are now delivering grocery boxes to doorsteps at a reasonable cost. Local Facebook groups and neighbourhood groups are good places to find such services. Alternatively, don’t be shy when it comes to asking friends and neighbours for help. I feel sure there must be lots of people in your area who are more than willing to help. You could always phone your local council for advice, too. 

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‘Should I give my home delivery slot to someone else?’

Laura Hamilton says“Conundrum. I have been given Waitrose’s priority access to the elderly’s delivery slots so I’ve been having Waitrose deliver my groceries. But I’m 74, very healthy, active and slim. I could easily go to Waitrose myself, but I’m wondering if I should keep taking a delivery slot some other elderly person might need more than I do. Should I relinquish my weekly slot so someone who really needs it can have it? Or should I continue to shop online by following the government’s request to self-isolate and ‘STAY HOME’?”

Katie’s verdict: 

Is there someone who is vulnerable in your local area who needs a slot but can’t get one? If so, then perhaps you could order some groceries for them as well, and drop them at the doorstep? You say you are fit and well, but at 74 you are in a higher risk category, so I don’t think anyone would begrudge you this slot. Also, if you give up the slot, you don’t know who will get it instead – it could be someone younger and even less at risk than you.

‘Have supermarket staff been warned not to touch their faces?’

Ron Mellor says“I have just been to a shop where I noticed an assistant using a licked finger to open a plastic bag, later I visited a post office and saw the same method used to count money. Has any warning been issued about this?”

Katie has not only provided an answer but she’s also willing to follow this one up with Post Offices and shops:

This once every-day way of opening bags is now highly unadvisable, as it could spread coronavirus. You would be within your rights to have a word with the store manager or complain online. I’ll also be following up with the Post Office and shops to check they are advising against this, so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

‘We’re over 70 and can’t get a home delivery – should the Government be doing more?’

A reader says: “My wife and I are late seventies we are self isolating – as per Government instructions- you can’t get a delivery slot for food shopping at any of the Supermarkets. What should the Government be doing about this?”

Katie: If you’re not on the list of 1.5 million “highly vulnerable” people being shielded, you may find it harder to get a slot, although some companies are prioritising the older general population. For example, Iceland is prioritising over 65s. The problem is that, even with hugely expanded capacity, supermarkets just don’t have the capacity to give everyone a delivery slot. This is because normally more than nine in ten shoppers buy in store. The Government cannot just wave a magic wand and fix this, unfortunately.

‘Will home testing kits be prioritised for key workers such as supermarket staff?’

An anonymous reader asks: “When home testing kits are available for sale will they be prioritised for key workers, e.g. supermarket staff, frontline care workers and the NHS, or will we have to be lucky enough to beat other shoppers at supermarkets and Amazon?”

Katie: I would have thought so, yes. They are likely to be in limited supply, so I’d have thought they would be given to frontline medical staff, NHS staff, care workers and key workers first.

‘Can our daughter purchase and deliver our goods?’

Barbara asks: “Is our daughter still able to purchase and deliver our groceries? We live in a rural area 7 miles away.”

Katie: Hi Barbara, yes that’s perfectly acceptable under the current government guidelines. I’m so glad you have her to look out for you during these times, and I hope she continues to do so.

‘How can there be special shopping  slots for the elderly if they’re meant to be isolating at home?’

Richard Budd says“Several supermarket chains have announced special times for the elderly; how can they possibly use this if they are obeying the guidelines for strict self isolation?”

Katie: It is only the 1.5 million “highly vulnerable” people who have received letters from the Government, who must not leave home at all. Over 70s not in this group are advised to take extra care with social distancing guidelines, as they are at a higher risk from the virus.

‘Should I be wearing gloves?’

Cindy says: “Clearly frontline workers need disposable protection but for those at home is their merit in using household rubber gloves and simply washing them properly as you would do with your hands. Should I use them?”

Katie: You could do this if it makes you feel safer, but the most important thing is not to touch your face, and to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Gloves are useless if you allow cross contamination to occur. If you have alcohol rub or antibacterial wipes, you could take them out with you and rub down your trolley, and wipe your hands and car.

‘I can’t get an online delivery slot even though I’m vulnerable – what should I do?’

Elizabeth Jones says: “I have been trying to get an online shop from Sainsbury’s for nearly two weeks. I am identified as an extremely vulnerable person. All phone lines to Sainsbury’s are either permanently engaged or answer to an automated message. As directed I have registered with gov.uk and Sainsbury’s but when I try to place an order it does not recognise me as a vulnerable customer. I have kind neighbours who will get essentials for me but to survive the next 11 weeks I will need more than essentials.  How can I contact Sainsbury’s to rectify this situation?  

I find this whole situation very frustrating, I am trying to abide by the restrictions placed upon me but in desperation I might have to leave isolation.”

Here’s what Katie Morley had to say: 

I’m so sorry to hear this, Elizabeth. If you’re classed as vulnerable, yet still having trouble getting a slot, check your online shopping accounts are in your name, rather than someone else in your household who isn’t vulnerable. This could be affecting your ability to get slots. If that still doesn’t work, you should be entitled to free food parcels, so ring your council to let them know you want one. Failing this, I feel sure local community groups would be only too willing to do some shopping for you so you don’t need to leave the house.

‘Why do we have to register?’

David Lee says: “I am one of the people deemed to be extremely vulnerable.  So far, I have received two letters informing me of this fact which means we are already seeing duplication of effort. In order to stand a chance of getting priority in delivery slots from supermarkets I have had to register on a Government website – they already know who I am because they’ve sent me letters. Why is something simple being made so complicated?”

Katie says: I know it feels frustrating. Supermarkets want to be sure they are giving slots to the people who really need them, and not just chancers hamming up their vulnerability. They just do not have enough slots for everyone.


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