I transferred from Nutrition to Pickup. It was running great! They'd pick the orders, check in the back to prevent subs (or out of stocks), call customers to fix problems before they showed up, and check all price adjustments to prevent overcharging. We had two, desk people plus a manager who could do that on top of orders. We had delivery people, too. The combo would get everything delivered. We'd put back all returns, esp perishable, in a timely fashion. We got done by afternoon, often letting customers pick up early. We charged about $5 per order for such convenience. A District Manager said our team in OB was his best. Our customers, many we knew on first-name basis, loved us enough to tell him that themselves. Win, win, and win for everyone involved... like it should be!

Starting over a year ago, Kroger figured they could boost their Pickup sales by accepting more orders than we could pick and deliver. They'd be mostly late, some cancelled. With order already in, Kroger created a form of vendor lock-in since it's extremely inconvient for customers to switch stores after putting in their whole order. Kroger's systems know how many pickers are scheduled vs orders already in. Ensuring we can pick new orders takes just comparing two numbers: picker hours vs orders (hours of picking). Existing system can both cut off incoming orders and throttle them across delivery hours for smoother experience. After flooding us with orders, headquarters started saying no cut-offs or throttling with no excuses. Each day, they lied to 50-200 customers telling them their order would be ready by a certain time, had nobody to pick it, and forced us to stay over sprinting to pick it all. Realistically, every hour they messed up would cascade into the next like falling dominos.

Extra note on their motivation. They started "burning down Pickup" a year or two ago. Our Annual Report mentioned three bonuses that might explain it: a sales bonus on orders they might fulfill, hopeful on a profit bonus for skeleton crews with no staff increases, and one on the number of Pickup orders they took in. I don't know current, bonus structure. Probably sales and labor.

Our responses were in order:

1. We called every customer from morning or early afternoon onward to push back their orders by about two hours. Then, asked people to stay over to pick and deliver them. The 8pm closers had to stay till 10-11pm to do that on some nights. Some customers showed up early anyway or demanded to be put ahead of others. Phones rang non-stop all day with confused and/or angry customers until some workers broke down crying or, in one case, passed out on a vehicle. We'd give discounts (or credits) to people who waited in parking lot based on how long they waited. "Please review" items, like multiple substitutions, often were not discounted since there was no time. Late, then overcharged. (Always check for this!) We did this almost every Fri-Mon with us cleaning the mess up on the first, slow day we'd get. We still had those at that point. We lost many Pickup personnel and customers when Kroger's corporate office refused to stop doing this. At least, our response got people their orders same day and compensated all involved. Then, corporate made a rule against staying over for deliveries. Anyone over past 8pm on the dot could get written up. We'd still try to get people their groceries, though.

(Note: Between 1 and 2, the CEO of Kroger, Rodney McMullen, came to audit us. He came on Thanksgiving of 2019. I risked getting fired to give him a proposal with all of Pickup's problems listed, multiple ways to prove it all, and solutions to it all. Worst case: I figured he'd reject it before doing his own solution. He read it all, laughed, threw it in the garbage, and didn't change anything. I was fine with being the official, court jester of Kroger's king. What actually bothered me was that the CEO of Kroger thought hundreds of thousands of people's suffering was funny and not worth acting on. That's on top of unnecessary, financial losses to shareholders which he's supposed to prevent as the CEO.)

(Note 2: The Chairman of the Board is supposed to hold the CEO accountable. I'd have gone to them next. Rodney McMullen was both the CEO and Chairman of the Board. Anyone on a board reading should never do that. It's like letting the fox guard the henhouse. This one devoured many hens, enjoyed scrambled eggs on the side, and stays tearing up the building.)

2. Next strategy. We'd stay over to pick the orders, do most deliveries that day, and do the later hours' deliveries the next day. First, that means anyone coming near 8pm didn't get their order. That going over equaled write-ups made employes cut off the lights and just pretend they didn't know customers were there. One or two mercifully delivered off the clock. Second, the customer experience the next day was trashed since we had pickups from previous day, the new day's orders, and no extra staff over what's scheduled for that day's orders. We have to subtract from new orders' picking and delivery times to do previous day's deliveries. After blaming our performance (not staffing), Corporate made a new rule saying we couldn't have overtime or had severely limited overtime to pick orders. Some days, they'd give us 20+hrs of extra picking but only 30 minutes of picker overtime.

3. Next strategy. We'd have to borrow stockers and cashiers who could pick. That immediately added to overstocks and long lines. Also, few knew how, they refused to train more (takes labor), we had to use people without training, and we had to train our "help" to pick and deliver while doing that ourselves. Now, orders were often pushed to the next day for picking, too. We'd have to pick orders from two days with staff allocated for one. A few hours in, we'd start calling customers of the next day telling them their orders would be late. After more in-store cuts, we didn't have picking help or were only allowed to borrow people for short times. The customers would show up in mass without their orders picked after multiple promises were made. Corporate also changed our credit policy to give no discounts or credits for their problems. The local managers probably hated that the most given the angriest people go looking for them.

4. One lead noted we often picked everything up to the 4pm's. Then, they'd max out orders for 5p-7p with 1-2 pickers in the store. We'd either never pick them (super-angry customers) or the next day was all late orders (less-angry customers w/ bad metrics). Also, the odds of corporate taking disciplinary action go up with number of bad metrics. What followed was an attempt to survive, to boost numbers, and not work 13-18 hours. That lead started cancelling every order from 5p-7p or just over what they let us pick. Then, we did deliveries, reshop/returns, and cleanup before next meltdown. Instead of just firing him, corporate made a new rule we couldn't cancel orders without customers' permission. We started mentioning "or you can cancel" to reduce customers' headaches. Management made another rule to just say "pick up next day" to minimize cancellations of orders we couldn't pick. I ignored that to give customers an accurate picture so they could do their own cost-benefit analysis.

Brief interlude: People came and went, volume went up and down, overtime rules went back and forth... there were moments that orders weren't late. There were times we got picking done early. Things kept going well for a while with excess pickers just stocking the store or helping up front. Everyone was happier. Then, they cut over a hundred hours more staff. Back to harsh reality.

5. Our store manager (Sharon Mister) and last Pickup manager told us not to call customers to tell them the orders would be late. They used a combination of making deliveries take ridiculously long times (one person in room), getting in-store help, and delaying or blocking employees' lunches to do this. The orders were usually late anyway. So, now up to 20 customers per hour might show up with no order and no warning. Their anger was justified. I started telling them we were told to do that with the store manager trying to get me for it. It seems the combo of customers chewing out those managers and our internal resistance fixed this on most days. They call people now. Some days and hours, though, they still didn't call people. On top of angry customers, employees facing days worth of individuals chewing them out on the phone decided the job wasn't worth it. One worker was surrounded by a whole mob of angry customers, physically unable to leave its center, who made him feel his life was threatened. Keeping his name anonymous, I'll just say we lost one of our customers' all-time, favorite, delivery people who also picked fast.

6. Let's look at this week. We've had more orders than pickers or delivery people every day. We also have a new system that doesn't show pickers' progress in real time (old one did). We can't reliably estimate how late they'll be. We have to call when ready but have nobody to call many of them. If we did call, we often did it by making people wait longer outside to make those calls. The orders are piled so high and heavy people keep getting injured, esp their backs. We had multiple, 5ft-6ft stacks of product that needed to go back, including refrigerated items like fresh meat and dairy, that were in there for a week. Our pickers climb around and/or on top of non-refrigerated stacks to get bags. Our store manager, Mrs. Mister, keeps claiming we have plenty of people, unreliable workers explains everything, and there's no excuses. She berates everyone involved regularly. Nobody is allowed to transfer. Many people recently quit, including our manager and a lead. Other lead stepped down. Many pickers are no-showing or accepting less overtime. There's rumors of more staff cuts.

Kroger is doing this in many stores. We aren't even the worst. After reading this site, a relative told me Kroger is running ads pushing Pickup. It's strange that they would do that when they finally throttled my store back to 3-5 orders an hour. That's a pathetically-small amount for a company trying to take customers from Walmart and Amazon. Kroger has two, immediate options:

1. Modify their Pickup advertising on site and TV ads to reflect what they're actually doing at many locations. It might say hardly any orders, high likelihood of subs, and "same week delivery." Also, maybe a notice that some items on the web site aren't carried by the store or have been out for a week.

2. Modify their Pickup operation to match the positive, but false, claims they're making about it. They'd have to increase the number of stockers and pickers. Reduce subs further by changing the system to not let customers order what our store doesn't carry or is out of. Replace payment devices with a solution that works reliably.

Then, they have to solve the store-level problems in Pickup. That would be a whole, different article.