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Kerfuffles and Hoo-hahs

Prime pick-and-packer problems, an Oklahoma packaging lawsuit and cheers to the Penguin winners.

There’s been quite the kerfuffle of late about order pickers from Amazon Prime, Instacart and their ilk clogging up store aisles, pestering store associates about where to find stuff and ignoring COVID-19 precautions.


This all came to light after Business Insider interviewed seven Whole Foods employees about Amazon Prime workers and wrote a story about it. One interviewee called the Prime delivery shoppers “vultures” who “come and pick every department clean.”

Having learned a few things over the years about vultures and the fine services they perform, my instinct was to feel bad for these pick-and-pack folks who are just trying to make a living amidst, well, 2020.

But after reading sundry commentaries and diatribes about this in RetailWire.com, I agree that this kerfuffle has moved beyond mole hill status. Alas, hordes of order pickers can make grocery shopping less enjoyable (did I just say that?) and could hurt a store’s reputation.

No, I didn’t say that sales could be harmed. Presumably, these order pickers are making up for volume lost to consumers who don’t choose to risk shopping among maskless science deniers. But from what I saw during an afternoon of Google searches, this sharing of in-store space is not amusing to many in-person shoppers.

So, what can or should be done? One suggestion I read was to have the Prime and Instacart folks pick their orders from warehouses instead of stores. I envisioned these poor souls dodging pallet trucks or climbing 70-foot tall racks in the cold, tearing open cases for a package of frozen dinners. I couldn’t decide whether this would make a better Saturday Night Live skit or a cult horror movie.

But suffice it to say, this is affecting your shoppers and ought to be on your radar. Dark stores? Maybe, although the idea hasn’t caught on quickly. Special hours for the pick-and-packers, or checkout lines just for them? Who’s got the time, patience or National Guard to police that? Even when (if!) this pandemic finally departs, we’ll have to find a way to flatten this molehill before it becomes a hillock.

‘You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma! Oklahoma O.K.!’

Okay, apologies to Rodgers & Hammerstein, and that wonderful Broadway cast of 1943. I just couldn’t resist.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I got a press release about a hoo-hah stirring in Oklahoma, having to do with package labeling (see page 24). It seems Upton’s Naturals, a Chicago- based plant-based food company, was using “meat words” on its packages, along with the words “vegan” and such. But the “vegan” was in smaller type than the “meat” word, so the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association pushed through a law requiring both words to have the same size and prominence, effective Nov. 1. (After all, they didn’t want to confuse consumers.) It’s in court now, so stay tuned while I head off for a glass of Almond milk.

Congratulations to the Golden Penguin winners we highlight in this issue. Entries seemed down a tad this year, but with the pandemic, that’s understandable. Can’t wait for 2021!

Warren Thayer

Warren Thayer

Warren is the Editor Emeritus, Managing Partner for Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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