Wal-Mart Wants Store Customers To Deliver Packages To Online Shoppers

from the leveraging-the-customer-base dept

Having just seen cases where legacy players have felt threatened by more innovative startups that take advantage of more distributed "peer-production" rather than top-down centralized systems of old, it's interesting to see a counter example. Apparently, Wal-Mart is considering a plan in which it tries to get in-store shoppers to help deliver packages to online buyers.
"I see a path to where this is crowd-sourced," Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com in the United States, said in a recent interview with Reuters.

Wal-Mart has millions of customers visiting its stores each week. Some of these shoppers could tell the retailer where they live and sign up to drop off packages for online customers who live on their route back home, Anderson explained.

Wal-Mart would offer a discount on the customers' shopping bill, effectively covering the cost of their gas in return for the delivery of packages, he added.
The company admits that it's just brainstorming the idea at this point, but it's always interesting to see big established companies recognizing that others have been disrupting parts of their core business, and rather than freak out about it, try to take the disruption even further. Of course, this might serve to disrupt other legacy providers, such as UPS and FedEx. Hopefully they won't freak out about it, but who wouldn't be surprised to start seeing stories raising moral panics about how "dangerous" this new plan will be since the drivers won't be wearing uniforms any more?


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Machin Shin (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 9:11am

    Sounds like a rather neat idea. There are certainly a good handful of bugs they would have to work out. For example:

    Someone taking goods and never delivering.

    Someone using it as a way to case out a place (Delivered really nice TV to that house, need to come back later....)

    Then you also have to figure out how to deal with issues like if I order 5 bags of cement and my delivery person is 90 year old lady who can't handle more than 10 pounds at a time.

     

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:04am

      Re:

      They'd have to incentivize their delivery customers somehow, possibly with money or other benefits. Also, they'll want to provide distinguishing outfits so the receiving customers will recognize them as legitimate.

      At some point it just becomes easier just to hire some delivery guys.

       

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    btr1701 (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:03am

    Legalities

    There might be some legal issues to work out-- like if the customer gets in a wreck on the way to delivering a package for Walmart, are they an agent/employee such that Walmart could be held liable? And if not, would a typical driver's insurance policy cover someone who is out delivering packages for a big company? Do individual states have separate licensing requirements for drivers of delivery services and would those requirements apply to these one-off delivery arrangements?

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:06am

    I've been asking YOU to deliver the goods, Mike!

    Instead of Prenda Law.

    And worry about physical dangers posed by strangers is NOT a "moral panic". That's just one of your favored cliches you toss in without regard to context. I suspect you've one of those programs where you pick a sentence template, add a specific word here and there, and that's the pejorative it picked. That program may be in your head.

    Anyhoo, non-starter. We were promised delivery robots by now.

     

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      Gwiz (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:40am

      Re: I've been asking YOU to deliver the goods, Mike!

      I've been asking YOU to deliver the goods, Mike!

      Instead of Prenda Law.




      Lol. You act as if Mikes writes this blog for you and you alone.

      It must be difficult to get your over-stuffed self-inflated ego though doorways at times.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 1:10pm

      Re: I've been asking YOU to deliver the goods, Mike!

      What's your obsession with Prenda law? what do you work for them or something?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 1:17pm

      Re: I've been asking YOU to deliver the goods, Mike!

      I want OotB to deliver a Wal-Mart package to my door.
      I'll greet him appropriately...

       

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      Reality Check (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 2:35pm

      Re: I've been asking YOU to deliver the goods, Mike!

      Does someone need the waaaaaambulance?

       

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      Rikuo (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 3:13pm

      Re: I've been asking YOU to deliver the goods, Mike!

      So upon Mike doing as you asked (but not because you whinged and cried like a little bitch) you then go "No! Not what I wanted!

      Oh, and Blue, its your comments that read as if they're from a template. That's because they rarely apply to the article and you've almost always got some sort of stupid, insane footer.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    Raises a number of privacy issues

    1. Perhaps I don't want my neighbors knowing that I'm a Walmart customer.

    2. Perhaps I don't want my neighbors knowing what I'm buying.

    3. Perhaps I don't want Walmart handing out my name and address to third parties.

    And so on.

     

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      Zakida Paul (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:13am

      Re: Raises a number of privacy issues

      2. Perhaps I don't want my neighbors knowing what I'm buying.
      ------------

      Extra small condoms?

       

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      Beta (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:18am

      Re: Raises a number of privacy issues

      Two words: opt out.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:28am

      Re: Raises a number of privacy issues

      Then don't do it. This is a complete non-issue.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 4:15pm

      Re: Raises a number of privacy issues

      > 1. Perhaps I don't want my neighbors knowing that
      > I'm a Walmart customer.

      > 2. Perhaps I don't want my neighbors knowing what I'm
      > buying.

      You take those chances whenever order something via mail order. You have no idea who's driving that truck for UPS or FedEx, either. Could be one of your neighbors or their friends.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2013 @ 5:33am

        Re: Re: Raises a number of privacy issues

        with Fedex or UPS, they don't actually know what is in the package, with a couple of exceptions (AFAIK, they do check for explosives and such)

        not to mention, even if your neighbour IS employed by Fedex or UPS, what are the chances they are assigned to deliver to your house?

         

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      qka (profile), Mar 30th, 2013 @ 3:32pm

      Re: Raises a number of privacy issues

      Wal-Mart isn't saying you have to use this. And presumably you can select whether or not to use it on a purchase by purchase basis, so as not to let anyone know about that embarrassing purchase, while having them deliver your routine items.

       

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    Falindraun (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:35am

    before i would even consider doing this i would want $30 an hour and $0.35 a mile.

     

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    AB (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    This is certainly an intriguing idea. I can see a lot of potential, both good and bad - some have already been pointed out right here in the comments - but even with all the possible problems there remains a lot of positive potential too.

    I do think an opt-out option would be absolutely critical.

     

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    Zos (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:47am

    sounds interesting, but since it's walmart, i'm going to have to go with "hell no, piss off and die in a fire".

     

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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 10:57am

    Pass.

    Pardon me if I don't shed a tear for Wal-Mart's web-competition problems after they eliminate local consumer choices by undercutting smaller competitors using supply chain blackmail and workforce exploitation.

    I'll keep paying a premium to have my valuables brought by professional delivery-persons instead of the skeezy minivan that flings those pennysaver newspapers on everyone's front lawn.

     

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      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 12:55pm

      Re: Pass.

      Pardon me if I don't shed a tear for Wal-Mart's web-competition problems after they eliminate local consumer choices by undercutting smaller competitors using supply chain blackmail and workforce exploitation.

      So you agree with the RIAA/MPAA when they dump on the internet/iTunes/Amazon when those services innovated to bring the cost of delivery and service down for customers and put all the old distribution channels and methods out of work?

       

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        Jeremy Lyman (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 1:19pm

        Re: Re: Pass.

        Uh, no. The Internet enables more consumer options in those Industries, bypassing the stranglehold of a single gatekeeper entity that sought to control all aspects of distribution. I'm against monolithic entities forcing consumers into a corner by eliminating choice, not against efficiency and innovation.

        And yes, there's a fine line between efficiency and exploitation; but generally if you're screwing someone who depends on you, you've crossed over to the exploitation side.

         

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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 11:25am

    Not bad

    I see a lot of naysayers but being in Iowa and seeing a lot of nothing between small towns and the nearest Wal-Mart, you could see a small town where everybody knows each other not mind if they let their neighbors bring their goods for them. A smart implementation would be that you could make your own list of approved "deliverers" where you can pick people you trust.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 11:27am

    If they use an opt in system where people also can make 'friend lists' of customers who they're OK with having as delivery people (IE neighbor Joe or aunt Martha are fine, but obnoxious neighbour Fred is not on the list and will not deliver a thing) this would end up working beautifully.

    Likewise, the neighbourly / family aspect of it should limit liability - "I was just picking up eggs for Grandma..." comes across pretty different than "I was delivering eggs to Grandma for Walmart."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    got the same sort of questions as i always ask about politicians. where the fuck to these idiots come from? how the fuck do they ever get the positions that they get?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 12:38pm

    Woot

    Toothless crackheads delivering flat screen TV's.

    Or maybe that 400lbs cow will bugger your bag of chips in your groceries before they get to your door.

    I hate using Walmart for anything but really cheap and need it yesterday stuff to start with but this idea is fraught with issues. Maybe they can get some little up and coming 3rd party delivery startup to partner with then at least there's a chance the delivery peeps might be bonded or insured and there is a legit company to sue when things get really effed up.

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 12:58pm

    Read the article

    The article raises many of the issues Wal-Mart might face and cites what other delivery services have done.

    I wonder if there would be a minimum purchase or a delivery charge. Where it might come in handy is if you are making dinner, are missing an ingredient, and don't want to run out for it.

    According to the article, Wal-Mart would give in-store shoppers a financial incentive to do the delivery, but I wonder if the system would work for a $5 item, for example.

     

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    Andrew D. Todd, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 1:14pm

    A Sample Order

    Well, I can't really see using this service for something that Amazon already does well, nor for something the corner store does well. WalMart would have to focus on the area where Amazon and the corner store don't quite meet. What I could see is something like the following:

    20 lbs. Sharp Cheddar (in half-pound pieces, say $4/lb),

    5 lbs other cheese (ditto, Blue, Gorgonzola, Havardi, Muenster, Swiss),

    10 gal. fruit juice, [viz. Apple, Grape (Red and White), Orange] (in sealed half gallon bottles, Vitamin C added, say, $5/gal),

    [all of the above items to be USDA approved 100% cheese or juice]

    2 gal assorted soda pop, assorted diet varieties, preferably spiked with B-complex vitamins, (in pint bottles, say, $3/gal),

    2 dozen 15-ounce cans, corn, no sugar, salt, starch, or oil, $9/dozen.

    Most of this stuff would be in case lots. That's round about $200, weighing more than a hundred and twenty pounds, and I'll toss in $20 for delivery to a second-floor landing, in a stairwell immediately adjacent to the parking lot, three or four miles from the nearest Wal-Mart. I expect the delivering party to furnish themselves with suitable carrying tools that this is not a problem.

    I looked at Wal-Mart's website, and, apart from it being pretty javascript-encumbered, all I found were messages to the effect that they only sell this kind of stuff in the store. There was no sign of any willingness to negotiate on the basis of case-lots. My impression was that they expected one to use their website to buy things esoteric enough that they would not have them in the store.

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 1:55pm

      Re: A Sample Order

      Yes, all things being equal, I can't see someone turning to Wal-Mart as their first choice. This system might work if ordering from Wal-Mart is cheaper than ordering from Amazon, but if it is the same price and at the same level of convenience, then people who already use Amazon are likely to stick with Amazon.

      Now it could be argued that this is a great way to provide a financial benefit to Wal-Mart customers who get to do deliveries on the side. But Wal-Mart has not been known for the great salaries/benefits it gives its current employees, so I don't think giving in-store customers a little discount for delivering goods is going to overcome that image.

       

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    Hugh Mann (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 2:07pm

    Lack of uniforms actually would be an issue...

    Not necessarily an insurmountable issue, but one that would have to be taken seriously and addressed. We live outside of town, and it's an issue if my wife is home alone and a strange car pulls into the driveway and some nondescript person knocks on the door. What if someone gets the idea of using the cover of a Walmart delivery to engage in a home invasion?

    I tend to agree that it definitely is creative thinking, and it seems like there should be way to make it work. I wouldn't be too quick, though, to dismiss as merely an attempt to elicit "moral panic" questions about how we know we can trust the person who shows up at the door.

    HM

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 2:21pm

      Re: Lack of uniforms actually would be an issue...

      What would probably have to happen is similar to pizza delivery. You call and then expect to receive it within an hour. If someone tries to deliver something you haven't ordered, then you don't open the door.

      But it's got to be small enough that the delivery person can leave it at the door. You don't want an unverified person bringing something inside your residence.

       

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    McFortner (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 2:23pm

    Response

    Dear WalMart, would you like fries with that?

     

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    RoyalPITA (profile), Mar 29th, 2013 @ 6:01pm

    Would a typical driver's insurance policy cover someone who is out delivering packages for a big company?

    Excellent point. My auto insurance was modified years ago to specify no coverage if my vehicle was used commercially. I see broad interpretations in that language.

    Do individual states have separate licensing requirements for drivers of delivery services and would those requirements apply to these one-off delivery arrangements?

    Unless the vehicle(s) already require a commercial driver's license I have never heard of any licensing requirement for delivery services, other than the standard business license.
    If you've ever seen a car or small truck that displayed a USDOT number: it means that company owns at least one vehicle that requires a commmercial driver's license. USDOT requires that number be displayed on all vehicles, including those that don't require CDL.

     

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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2013 @ 8:31pm

    Big Disruptive

    While I am not so crazy about this particular idea, widely discussed above, I think it is appropriate to laud a very large organization for not only thinking outside the (big) box (store), but going so far as to consider what could be a very disruptive idea.

    If one thinks about big organization culture, and how in many cases structure can create, nay demand a certain amount of group think, it is telling that such an idea sees the light of day. I would not thought it of WalMart.

    If not for disruptive ideas, the iron age would not have been. If not for disruptive ideas, the industrial age would not have been...etc. If not for disruptive ideas, where will we go from here?

     

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    maillady, Mar 30th, 2013 @ 5:52pm

    This is the craziest crap I've ever heard...who wants some joe blow knowing where they live ..name..possibly phone #? As a Postal Service employee...We are made to have a background check...drug test....we do not give out any type of information about our customers to others unless court ordered...we are a trusted group of delivery persons...who have been around for decades...as crazy as the world is....NO WAY!....would I allow just random people coming to my home. Wal Mart obviously doesn't realize what all is needed in such an operation...major liability

     

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    Ben, Apr 2nd, 2013 @ 3:03pm

    Sure... I'll go along with this as long as they have to have the insurance that I have to have... file the taxes I have to file... and deal with other random bs I have to deal with...

     

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    Ay Bee (profile), Apr 8th, 2013 @ 8:36pm

    Fat too many cons than pros

    There's some great comments here (Machin Shin,btr1701 - legalities et al)which Wal-Mart should take seriously. The model does however pose more questions than answers. Perhaps it would require a 'delivery leader-board' wherein 'deliverers' within specific jurisdictions could be awarded points for successful delivery of goods. Even so, how are deliverers going to be rewarded for their efforts? Product price reductions? There's so many holes in the idea that I think it's actually quite impossible to implement. The legal issues alone could crush it!

     

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