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?

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Companies: walmart

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Comments on “Wal-Mart Wants Store Customers To Deliver Packages To Online Shoppers”

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Machin Shin (profile) says:

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.

btr1701 (profile) says:


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?

out_of_the_blue says:

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.

Rikuo (profile) says:

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.

btr1701 (profile) says:

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

    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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:


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.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

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?

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

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.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.”

Anonymous Coward says:


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.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

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.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

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.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

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.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

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.


Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

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.

RoyalPITA (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

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?

maillady says:

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

Ay Bee (profile) says:

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!


Delivery Service

I am a disabled senior who likes to eat just like everyone else and remain independent. I am legally blind and cannot drive so getting groceries is a real problem for me. It would be helpful to have home delivery. I recognize the cons to the issue….getting dependable, honest people. I feel that it would give jobs to some who have been laid off and get them back in the working class. There should be a screening process, perhaps even bonding process, hopefully to enhance safety (both for the deliverer and the client). It seems to work in metropolitan areas (i.e. NY, Dalla, LA, DC) but smaller communities go lacking. I could benefit from such a service and maintain my independence for much longer. I dread the thought of a nursing home and losing that independence. How much does WalMart value its customers? Enough to pay a decent wage for someone who really wants one to have a job and get off welfare? Enough to see that they are bonded (they will be delivering someone else’s good and perhaps having to put it inside the home or apartment)? Enough to require uniform for ID as well as photo IDs? Background checks?

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