Monday, 4 November 2019

Grocery shopping list for October 2019

This post is the tenth in a series. My shopping for groceries online started in the month of September. Due to still feeling anxiety when going out in the street, in October I continued to buy online most of my groceries and get them delivered. 

I already had over 7600 words for this post when the Woolworths story broke in the Sydney Morning Herald on the second-last day of the month. The company, it was found, had underpaid thousands of employees over a period of years. Keep in mind if you read what follows that the people picking products, packing them, and delivering them might have been underpaid, and had not said anything about it. Meanwhile, because of their efforts, the machinery of commerce had, most of the time, operated smoothly.

30 September

Went to Woolworths’ website and ordered Scotch fillet steak, sliced mortadella, fetta cheese, King Island blue cheese, Truckle Brothers Cheddar cheese, celery, shallots, low-salt margarine, eggs, milk, and some bottles of flavoured mineral water (no added sugar). I booked the delivery to come on the morning of Wednesday 2 October, which is why I included this order in October’s list.

Then I remembered I hadn’t ordered bread so I went back to the website and amended the order, which meant redoing the payment and resetting the delivery date and times. Just before getting ready for bed I remembered I had forgotten to order salads so went back to the website, logged in again, and amended my order a second time, adding to it lentil salad, coleslaw, and potato salad.

The order confirmation email that arrived (at 8.59pm) said that I could amend my order again before Tuesday 1 October at 5.45pm, but I knew that this would not happen as I had now made all necessary changes. The email also said that the delivery would happen in two days’ time between 7am and 10am.

1 October

Early this morning I received an email from Woolworths asking me to rate soap I had bought the previous moth through their website. The email contained this:
We'd love to know what you think of some of the products you purchased by giving them a rating and/or review. Sharing your thoughts, even if you don't have much to say, will help millions of everyday Australians with their weekly shop.
It seemed to me that it would be hard to review a cake of soap but presumably, I mused idly, some people might love to give their opinion about how their favourite soap performs in the shower. On further consideration I clicked on the link in the email and gave the soap a five-star rating, then accepted the terms and conditions (without reading them). After I did this a new page opened up in my browser with fields where I would be able to add a review, a title, and a screen name. I wrote, “Pears is very mild and I have a skin condition.” I put my first name in the field labelled “Your public name”. “Thanks for your review,” a new screen said after I had submitted the content.

At about 11.45am I went to the Campos Coffee website and ordered a kilo of their “Superior” blend, which is what I normally buy. Then, in the late afternoon, on the way home from the psychiatrist’s office I stopped at the bottle shop and bought a six-pack of zero-alcohol beer.

At 8.03pm an SMS arrived from Woolies announcing that their delivery would be made the following morning, repeating the hours during which it would be made. (The email that had arrived the day before said that the “delivery window” would be confirmed on the day of the delivery. It had also said that I would be notified about any out-of-stock products.)

2 October

In an email arriving in my inbox with a timestamp of 2.44am Woolies advised me that, “All items in you [sic] order have now been hand picked by your Personal Shopper. Some meat item/s in your order are sold within a weight range. These item/s have been supplied in your order, but their weight is less than the maximum displayed and price estimated at checkout.” This would be in reference to the steak and the mortadella. At least this time the steak wasn’t out of stock, which was a plus.

I knew from previous experience that the amount eventually charged to my credit card would be less than the initial acknowledgement email stated. In last month’s ‘Shopping list’ post I talked about how this happens. Woolies initially gets your bank to hold the value of the order that you see during the checkout process, but it is altered once the final total has been fixed. This can only be done once your order has been picked, and it also depends on what types of items you choose. With goods that are priced by weight – fresh fish, say, or sliced deli meat – Woolies cannot know until picking happens how much to charge you.

At 7.25am the intercom buzzed and I told the deliveryman I would come downstairs to meet him. He said, “Ok,” and I got two tote bags and my keys and got into the lift. Downstairs, he was already in the foyer (I hadn’t buzzed him in so he must have got inside when someone left the building) and he helped me put the groceries in my bags. The loaf of bread in one of his storage boxes was sitting under some bottles of mineral water and one end of it was squashed. I mentioned this to the man. He told me I could get a refund but I said, “It’s ok.” With my finger I signed on his mobile phone to acknowledge receipt then got in the lift and went back to my unit.

Inside, I unpacked everything and then got some sandwich bags so I could bag the meat – which had come packed together on a covered plastic tray – before putting it in the freezer. I noticed the slices were thinner than I would have liked, and so put two slices in each bag: one bag would do for one person’s meal. The order acknowledgement email showed the line item “Beef Scotch Fillet Thin Slice Whole” proving I hadn’t selected the right item. I had had time to change the order but I hadn’t read the acknowledgement email with enough care and also, when I had been ordering the meat, hadn’t paid attention.

The margarine that came with the order was actually olive oil spread (which is what I normally buy at the supermarket) but I had thought I had ordered low-salt margarine. The mistake was mine? The company’s? I couldn’t remember clearly what I had selected – on reflection I had a tiny inkling that I had initially selected low-salt margarine but then had later seen olive oil spread, and had changed my selection before starting the checkout process – but in the end the result was actually to my advantage because what arrived was what I would have picked if I had seen the option on the web page.

The printed tax invoice that came with the order had the total of $102.82 on it. The acknowledgement email from two days earlier had given a total of $109.16. The photo below shows part of the invoice the deliveryman gave me in the lobby. Unlike the order acknowledgement emails, the invoice classifies the line items in separate categories. These categories didn’t, in all cases, conform to the categories used to organise goods and that are shown on the company’s website.

An email came from Campos Coffee at 8.29am telling me that my order of the previous day had been “completed”. I had been confused by this term on a previous occasion and had, at that time, contacted the company as I had not seen their package in the lobby on the day their email arrived. They have a company-specific definition of the verb “to complete” and the answer to the puzzle arrived on 26 June after, in response to my query, a staffer emailed me to clarify what was meant:
This notification is confirming that your order has been processed and packed here with our despatch team, ready to be collected. Once collected, you will receive another notification with shipping details.
Australia Post sent me an email (at 4.27pm) notifying me that the coffee would be delivered the following day. “Your delivery is coming,” the email went. “It’s on its way.”

3 October

At 7.03am I received an SMS from Australia Post with a notification that my coffee would arrive this morning. It asked me to respond with a digit depending on how I wished the delivery to be made. 
Reply ASAP with 1, 2 or 3:
“1” Leave if there’s a safe place (& accept T&Cs)
“2” Someone will be home
“3” If no one’s home take to a Post Office
I replied “2”. Then at 7.41am I received an email from them telling me my package had been delivered. I got my house keys and went down to the lobby in the lift to pick up the box in front of the windows where it had been left by the postie, a young woman who was still outside the building putting letters into mailboxes. 

That wasn’t the end of the process however as at 10.34am I received an email from the company asking me to rate their performance. “Based on this most recent delivery, how likely are you to recommend Australia Post to family and friends?” I gave them a “10” out of the 10 numbers available. Clicking on the number took me to a web page and I then went through about five screens answering questions about my experience. At the end there was a checkbox saying, “Please do not contact me to discuss my feedback,” and I didn’t mark it.

Woolworths sent me a promotional email (timestamped 11.03am) reminding me of their no-charge delivery option: “Don't forget your Delivery Unlimited - skip the fees on orders over $100~” The order I had just taken receipt of had had a value of more than $100 and when I checked to see if I had been charged a delivery fee I saw, in the order acknowledgement email, that there was no charge at this line. 

The same email also pointed out current specials and gave me a link to follow to find a range of new health-food products. (There was, among other things, a link to follow to get dog food.) Looking at the fine print I found that the company doesn’t allow customers to buy any items online “for resale to a third party or for trade purposes”, which would rule out “daigou” (bespoke shoppers; people who buy goods from retailers and sell them to buyers overseas) using the website to shop.

I ignored all these links in the email but what I did do this morning was start a shopping list in a text file stored on my PC, so that I could keep track of things I needed before I forgot what they were. When you are in a supermarket you can push your trolley around and backtrack if you forget to collect an item you need, but online you are not able to look at rows and rows of shelves stocked with goods, or read the signs that retailers hang from the ceiling at the ends of their aisles. You can’t ask a staffer where to find the spices or the toilet paper (which might be necessary if you are in a supermarket you are not used to). Online you have to rely on memory – and I had found that mine was not always completely reliable – or else use a saved list updated from time to time.

In the late afternoon just before preparing dinner I went to the Woolies website and ordered lamb chops, ling fillets, barramundi fillets, sliced Polish sausage, Truckle Brothers “Roaring Forties” Cheddar cheese, Jarlsberg cheese, a cos lettuce, tomatoes, potato and sweet potato salad, pumpkin and couscous salad, taramosalata spread, bread, strawberry jam, flavoured mineral water (no added sugar), and sandwich bags. Delivery at no charge and the truck to arrive on Saturday (the morning of the 5th). 

Even though I had a shopping list this time I forgot to order kitchen paper towels, an item that had been on my list. So I went back into the website and put in an order for this item but since the order this time came to an amount less than the minimum $50 required to select home delivery, the database wouldn’t process the order (I had selected “home delivery”). 

I closed the browser tab but as I was cooking dinner I remembered that you have to “amend” your order (the process has to be followed in the correct way to get the right result). So after my fish was ready and my full dinner plate was on the table I hurried back to my desk and selected the appropriate option, adding kitchen paper towels (a brand that uses recycled paper) and successfully completed the transaction. The total amount for the order, according to the acknowledgment email that later arrived, was $102.57. The email also said I could amend my order up until Friday 4 October at 5.45pm.

5 October

I received an email from Woolies (timestamped 2.22am) referring to the variable-weight items I had ordered. The email said, “The pending charge on your credit card used for payment will be reduced by $3.52 prior to payment finalisation.” This was because, for some of the items picked, “their weight is less than the maximum displayed.” I guessed this was in reference to the fish I had ordered; of each kind – ling and barramundi – I had asked for 500 grams but the fish comes in fillets so its weight cannot be known until it is picked and packed. It would also have referred to the sliced sausage (I had ordered 400 grams of this item).

The day before at 8.04pm I had received an SMS from the company advising me of the pending delivery and then, on this day, the intercom buzzed at about 7.15am. I told the deliveryman, who stood outside the building and whose face I could see in the device’s screen, that I would come downstairs. He said, “Ok,” and I grabbed my house keys and two tote bags and made my way to the lobby. 

It was raining in the street. There were two guys standing outside in the sheltered space in front of the building’s door: the guy I had spoken and a younger guy with dark skin who appeared, from what I observed in the minutes that followed, to be a trainee. I had never seen either of them before; the deliverymen are always different each time. These two put my purchases in the bags I had brought down in the lift with me, and I signed to acknowledge receipt on the young guy’s mobile phone. 

Upstairs, I unpacked things and put them away. The order acknowledgement email had said “Fresh Barramundi Fillets Skin Off” but the fillets that arrived had skin on them. There were two barramundi fillets and I put each of them in a sandwich bag before putting them in the freezer along with the other protein. Unlike the barramundi, the ling fillets were frozen almost solid but I was able to cut them into pieces small enough to bag.

6 October

Went to Woolworths’ website and ordered Scotch fillet steak, salami, eggs, bread, “Dodoni Greek fetta” cheese, King Island “Roaring Forties” blue cheese, lentil salad, coleslaw, sultana cake, Jatz crackers, and flavoured mineral water (no added sugar). I looked up the fetta online and saw that the name of the town of Dodoni is protected for the exclusive use of a Greek company and it wasn’t clear from the web page if the cheese Woolies was selling was imported or if it was made in Australia. King Island Dairy is based on an island in Bass Strait off the coast of Tasmania. I had ordered their blue cheese before.

I had initially forgotten eggs and bread but a reminder from the database prompted me to select bread before checking out and then, later, I went back in and amended the order to add eggs to my list. The order’s value was just under $100 so the delivery wouldn’t be free but it was fixed for the afternoon of Tuesday the 8th.

A bit later, I had a friend to visit and we shared some biscuits but while I was getting them ready on the plate to serve them I noticed that there were very few left in the jar, so after my friend had left to go home I returned to the Woolies website to amend my order. I added two types of biscuit – McVitie’s digestives and Stags and Hinds shortbreads – and then went to check out, but when I did I saw that the Scotch fillet steak and the lentil salad I had ordered earlier the same day were marked as unavailable. As a result I went back to the shopping interface and added a different type of beef (also fillet steak, but one called “beef eye fillet”) and some potato-egg-and-bacon salad. Now the order came out at more than $100 so the delivery would be free of charge.

7 October

Went to the convenience store across the road and bought a bottle of Pepsi Max and a bottle of orange-and-mango flavoured mineral water.

8 October

Received an SMS from Woolworths (timestamped 8.03am) advising me of the pending delivery; between 2pm in the afternoon and 7pm in the evening. At 1.13pm I received an email from Woolies telling me that some of the items I had ordered had come in under the ordered weight and that the charge for the order would be reduced by $20.07 “prior to payment finalisation”. This would be in relation to the steak, I thought to myself. I assumed that the delivery would still incur no charge, even though this change would bring down the order total to below $100.

An SMS arrived from the company at 4.48pm telling me the delivery had been delayed. This seemed unnecessary to mention as the time of day still, at that moment, lay within the window I had been advised would apply. But by 6.25pm I was still waiting and so checked the fridge to see how much milk I had left adding, also, a line in my current shopping list to remind me to put in a new food order on Wednesday 9 October for delivery on the 10th or 11th. By that time, I estimated, I would have run out of milk.

At around 7pm I started cooking dinner – barramundi (fried), couscous and pumpkin salad, potato salad, and sundried tomatoes – and by the time I had finished eating at 7.20pm the delivery had still not arrived, but at 7.37pm the intercom buzzed and I told the deliveryman I would come down. He said, “Ok,” and I grabbed two tote bags and my house keys and got in the lift. 

Outside, the drinks I had ordered had been bagged (even though I had specified “crate-to-bench”) as well as the bread, which was in another bag with a box of biscuits. The use of bags for the drinks was a good idea, though, since it effectively stopped the bread from getting crushed out of shape. On the other hand, since there were two crates the picker could have put the bread in the other crate with the rest of the groceries.

The deliveryman put these items in one of the bags I had brought downstairs with me, and I signed on his mobile phone to acknowledge receipt of the order. He waved goodbye and cheerily said “See you!” as he went off back to his truck and I headed inside the building, holding the three bags.

Upstairs, I found that the tax invoice from this delivery was in one of the bags as well as the tax invoice from the delivery that had arrived on the 5th. Woolies had not charged me for the bags this time and the total for this day’s order was $90.30. So even though the total after picking had come in under $100 they hadn’t charged me for delivery but I did notice a line item on both of the invoices that showed a $2 charge for “crate to bench”. 

This was a delivery option I had selected when finalising my orders. The other option you can choose at that point in the process is to ask for your goods to be bagged before delivery. I choose the bagless option because it minimises my impact on the environment. I keep single-use plastic bags in a drawer in my unit and I didn’t, at this time, need to keep any more in store. It wasn’t clear to me, looking at the invoice, why Woolies applies a charge of this kind as I always bring downstairs my own tote bags and the deliveryman and I simply put the groceries in my totes before I go back inside the building.

Anyway, I got back to putting the stuff away in the fridge. The steak as described in the acknowledgement email that had arrived on Sunday 6 October was priced at $24.75 but what arrived weighed just over 300 grams and was priced at just over $13. The container of coleslaw was smaller than expected and the container of potato-egg-and-bacon salad (which was classified under the heading “Fruit & vegetables”) was larger than anticipated. The packet of salami, which had about enough in it for two sandwiches, was classified under “Serviced deli”. The coleslaw was classified under “Chilled”.

9 October

Went to the Woolworths website and ordered barramundi fillets, Truckle Brothers “Roaring Forties” Cheddar cheese, lentil salad, milk, bread, water crackers, carrots, mushrooms, Nutella, and flavoured mineral water (no added sugar). Delivery for Friday 11th. At 6pm a promotional email arrived from the company that contained a code to use on my next visit to their website that would give me 10 percent off the purchase total (with the proviso that you spend a minimum of $150 on groceries). 

There was a colour bar with some words on it which said, “The Odd Bunch means we waste less of our fruit.” I clicked on the link provided and saw a web page promoting the company’s offerings of fruit and veges that have a suboptimal appearance. You would have to say that such a policy is a good thing as tonnes of produce is routinely left to rot in the field or is thrown away after picking and sorting by farmers who have to meet retailers’ quality standards. Wollies’ policy has “saved millions of kilos of fruit and vegies from being wasted”, the page said. A link to “shop the range” was provided, but I had already done my shop for the day.

Just before retiring for the night I went back in to amend the day’s order not because I wanted to add anything to it but just in order to make sure that everything I had asked for was going to arrive. I added an extra bottle of flavoured mineral water, checked out, and saw that everything was still listed as available.

10 October

Received an email from Woolworths (timestamped 11.04am) informing me that the one-month free-trial period on my website subscription was about to expire. “Delivery Unlimited” is a program the company runs where you don’t get charged a delivery fee on orders over $100. Once the 30-day free-trial period ends, the program only applies for your purchases if you pay a monthly fee of $19. The date for the company to start charging me a subscription fee would fall in a week’s time, the email said. I had already saved $40 in delivery costs up to the present (the 10th of the month), the email went on. I would not need to do anything for the program conditions to continue to apply.

11 October

The night before at 8.04pm I had received an SMS informing me that the delivery was due and at 7.46am this morning the intercom buzzed. I told the deliveryman I would be down in a moment and he said, “Ok.” I grabbed two tote bags and my house keys and went down in the lift. 

The man put my purchases in the bags I had brought with me, and a mobile phone materialised so I could sign to acknowledge the delivery, then he asked me about my surname. I told him about my paternal grandfather coming from Africa but that I was a mixture of Anglo and Portuguese influences. He said my name is very common in some countries. “I’m from Brazil, that’s why I asked,” he said cheerily. As I was carrying the bags inside the building, from where he was standing behind the truck he had driven to my street, he called out, “See you!” 

I took the bags upstairs and unpacked. The picker had put in a complimentary packet of Calbee “Harvest Snacks” described on the packet as “black bean baked crisps”. In big letters on the front of the bag it said the contents contained less salt and less fat. “Baked not fried,” it went on. Calbee is a Japanese food maker. 

The printed tax invoice that came with the delivery showed a total charge of $68.49, including a delivery fee of $15 and a “crate-to-bench” charge of $2.

I had to go to the pharmacy and on the way home I stopped at a convenience store and, to break a $50 note, bought Doritos. I used the same outing to get a haircut, and chatted with the barber, who came from Serbia. On a pervious occasion he had told me that during a trip to the old country he planned to go to Jerusalem and now I asked him how it went but he said that he had chipped a tooth and had had to go to the dentist, so had run out of time. We also talked about the Nobel Prize in Literature being won by the Austrian author Peter Handke. There was some controversy, the barber said, and I told him what I knew. He didn’t say much about it but we chewed the fat until his work was finished, then I paid and left his shop. 

I note the haircut here because this trip outside was the longest I had made since the first day of the month, on which day I had gone to meet with my psychiatrist. So getting home with a neat appearance and without any heart palpitations felt like a major achievement.

12 October

Went to the Woolworths website and put in an order for lamb chops, pork chops, sliced Polish sausage, Cheddar cheese (a block of Bega and some Truckle Brothers “Roaring Forties”), fetta cheese, hummus-and-beetroot spread, eggs, canola oil, a capsicum, corn on the cob, pumpkin and couscous salad, coleslaw, a pouch of curry laksa, carrot cake, bread, some flavoured mineral water (no added sugar, as well as some with no sugar), and mouthwash. Delivery for the 14th at no charge. Here is a screen grab from the checkout page. As usual, the order acknowledgement email, with its list of selections, came within minutes. The “crate-to-bench” line item had a zero next to it this time.

14 October

The night before (at 8.03pm, to be hideously precise) I received an SMS from Woolies telling me about the pending delivery, then at 2.20am this morning an email arrived with notice of variations in the order. This, I knew, is standard practice when an order lodged in the company’s database contains such items as fresh meat, which that are sold based on weight. At 7.57am the deliveryman buzzed me on the intercom and I told him I would be down. He said, “Ok,” and I grabbed a couple of tote bags and my house keys and headed down in the lift. 

Outside, he put the drinks and other things into the bags I had brought with me and I signed with my finger on his mobile phone to acknowledge receipt of the goods. The bread I had ordered was, once again, crushed by bottles of mineral water. 

When he saw me lift both bags with one hand the man asked me, “Do you need help?”. You need a hand free to handle your tag to activate the proximity sensor next to the front door in order to get into the building. So I told him, “It’s ok,” and he turned and left the covered space, heading back to his truck.

Upstairs I unpacked and saw the picker had put not one but two capsicums in the crate (I had ordered one), although they had only charged me for one. They had also put in a single kiwifruit, which I had not ordered and which they hadn’t charged me for. The printed tax invoice gave a total of $110.21. One of the eggs had a dent in it. I bagged the lamb chops and the pork chops to be ready for meals on other days. 

15 October

The last time I had been to the IGA on Miller Street was on 9 September. This day on the way to my psychiatrist’s office I saw that the store had been turned into a Woolworths “Metro” outlet. On the way home from the doctor’s office I stopped by the bottle shop and bought two six-packs of zero-alcohol beer.

The Metro type of Woolies outlet was launched in 2013 but there’s no branded home page for it on the company’s website. On Wikipedia it says there are 40 such stores in Australia, some of which were previously named Thomas Dux Grocer, a brand the company ceased operating in 2013. 

16 October

Went to the Woolworths website and put in an order for Scotch fillet steak, ling fillets, barramundi fillets, sliced ham, potato salad, coleslaw, milk, celery, Jatz, and flavoured mineral water (no added sugar). Delivery booked for the next day.

In the afternoon I received a promotional email from Woolies advertising their Halloween lines as well as (again) their lines for pets. I don’t have a dog or cat, or even a goldfish (although I do have a long-suffering spathiphyllum that has been with me since 2008 and appears to show little inclination to die, unlike the other house plants I have owned at various times over the past decade). Furthermore, my children are adults and, in any case, I have never in my life celebrated Halloween. I live in a multi-storey apartment block and local kids never ask me for anything. When I was young Halloween wasn’t even a thing in Australia. 

At 8.04pm an SMS came from Woolworths with reference to the following day’s delivery scheduled for between 6am and 9am.

17 October

At around 7.25am this morning the Woolworths deliveryman buzzed me on the intercom and I told him I would come downstairs. “Thanks,” he said. Then I grabbed two tote bags out of the chest of drawers I use for bags, and my house keys, and went out to the lobby on my floor. A young woman was waiting for the lift and, when I greeted her, she said, “How are you today?” She was going to the fourth floor and as she exited the gondola she said, “Have a good day.”

Outside, I told the deliveryman my name and he put my purchases in the bags I had brought with me. Then he whipped out his mobile phone and said, “Can I have your signature, please?” I signed to acknowledge receipt of the goods and went back up to unpack the things I had bought. 

There had been no email this morning about variable-weight products and, according to the tax receipt the deliveryman gave me, the meat I had ordered came in at 612 grams. It was packed on two trays each with plastic vacuum-wrapped over its contents. The total cost of the meat this time conformed to what I had ordered online; on previous occasions it had been less. I bagged all the protein and put it in the freezer to be used for future meals.

18 October

An email came from Woolworths at 4.34am this morning. It was a “refund notification” and it thanked me for returning my online reusable bags (something that I hadn’t done) and also for “helping us to work together towards a greener future”. My credit card would be credited $1, the email went on, in the next three to five days. 

The reason for the email was a mystery. I always choose “crate to bench” for my deliveries (which means that the retailer doesn’t supply plastic carry bags with the order). On one occasion, two carry bags had been included with my delivery, possibly due to the large number of bottles of sparkling mineral water I had ordered. This was despite the fact I had specified for no bags to be used for my deliver on that occasion. 

19 October

Put in an order on the Woolworths website for Scotch fillet steak, sliced corned beef, Truckle Brothers “Roaring Forties” Cheddar cheese, fetta cheese, eggs, lentil salad, couscous with pumpkin, coleslaw, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, a carrot cake, and flavoured mineral water (both some of the type with no added sugar and some with no sugar). Delivery at no charge set for Monday the 21st.

In the afternoon I went to the Campos Coffee website and put in an order for a kilo of Superior blend.

21 October

The night before at 8.02pm an SMS arrived from Woolworths about the next day’s delivery. Then this morning, with a timestamp of 2.37am, an email arrived notifying me that an item I had ordered – the Scotch fillet steak – had been replaced in the order by another item. A new item, “beef scotch fillet thin slice whole”, would be delivered instead of what I had asked for. 

I also got another email from the company at that early hour, before I woke up. It had a link to a survey asking me to rate the substitution. The survey questions was, “Was it ok to replace Woolworths Beef Scotch Fillet Steak 3-4 Pieces 360g - 900g with Beef Scotch Fillet Thin Slice Whole 450G - 750G?” I answered “Yes”, though I would have preferred to get the thing I had ordered. The thin steak, which I mistakenly ordered on an earlier occasion, doesn’t cook the same way as regular beefsteak, but it is at least serviceable.

At around 6.15am the intercom buzzed and on its screen I saw the deliveryman waiting downstairs. I said, “I’ll come down,” but initially he didn’t hear me, so I repeated the phrase and this time he got it. I grabbed two tote bags and my house keys and went down in the lift. Outside the street door, he put my purchases in the bags I had with me, the mineral water in one bag and the rest of the things in the other. He held the eggs in one hand while he loaded the second bag, not wanting to put them in the bottom of it, and I took them from him and placed them in with the bottles. 

Then he whipped out his mobile phone so I could sign to acknowledge receipt of the goods. He sounded Thai; always the deliveryman is a different person from the last time so I hadn’t seen this guy before. He said, “Have a good day,” when I thanked him. Then he moved to help me with the front door – the door to the building’s lobby – but I said, “It’s ok,” although I had two full bags in one hand. 

I got through the street door to the lobby, then went upstairs to put away the stuff. The printed tax invoice that came with the delivery showed a total cost of $92.47, so although they had made a substitution which had brought the total down below $100 – the minimum you normally have to accrue to qualify for free delivery – they hadn’t charged me for delivery this time.

In the afternoon an email arrived from Australia Post (timestamped 4.42pm) telling me that my Campos Coffee order was expected to be delivered the next day.

22 October

An SMS came from Australia Post at 7.03am asking me to tell them how to deliver my coffee. I responded that there would be someone at home. Last time I had done this, they had in any case just left the box with the coffee in it in the building’s lobby, and had not buzzed me on the intercom.

At around 9.15am the deliveryman from Australia Post buzzed me on the intercom and I answered, asking him if he wanted me to come down. He said he did, so I grabbed my house keys and went to the lobby. Outside, he told me he had a package for me (using my name) and then got me to sign on his mobile phone to acknowledge receipt of the goods. I took the box upstairs. It had come from Banksmeadow, near the Eastgardens shopping centre. 

This morning while I was using social media I noticed a tweet from someone I follow that contained a retweet from a vegetable grower named Anthony De Ieso, who names himself as manager of Thornton Park Produce which is based in Adelaide and in Brisbane (two of Australia’s state capitals). I tried clicking on the Twitter handle for his company but TweetDeck announced there was an error with the account, so I did a Google search instead. 

De Ieso had put up a video he had shot inside what looked like a loading dock. He covered over the name of the supermarket involved but his tweet said, “Supermarket rejections fresh off the truck.” I watched the video on my mobile phone. The spring onions that were at the centre of the matter looked fine to me and the person who had tweeted the video had said, “Hey supermarkets, that’s ridiculous! They look great and are a credit to the grower.” 

I thought so too. I tweeted to De Ieso at 7.22am, “Woolies has a program that it puts in its promotional emails, offering customers veges that don't meet normal standards of appearance, so this is a bit odd ...” This was in reference to an email and its contents I had seen on 9 October. At 7.25am the grower replied, “Wasn't woollies. However while they are not as bad we still would be a victim of the spec.”

Later, I had to pick up something from the pharmacy and, as I was down that way, I dropped in at Coles and bought some milk and eggs. At the checkout the customer occupying the register started asking questions of the woman who was totting up her purchases. The conversation was about the price of something the customer had brought to the counter, after it had been rung up on the register, and it looked like this could go on for a while so another staffer came and opened another register in order to clear the backlog of shoppers. A man was just coming up to the newly opened checkout and he obligingly waved me through ahead of himself. A woman with a pram did likewise. 

23 October

Went across to my local Jordanian’s convenience store and bought a loaf of bread, some Pepsi Max, a bottle of flavoured mineral water, a pack of salt-and-vinegar flavoured chips, and some Doritos.

24 October

On the Woolworths website I ordered Scotch fillet steak (because fillet steak had not been in stock the previous time; they had replaced it with another item), pork loin chops, salami, sliced shoulder ham, Jarlsberg cheese and clue cheese, a lettuce, potato salad, a bean salad, flavoured mineral water (no added sugar), and strawberry jam. Delivery at no charge scheduled for the morning of the following day. A bit later I went back to the website – where I found I was still logged in – to add some cake, as I hadn’t had this item on my list, and checked out again.

25 October

The intercom buzzed at about 6.25am and I said to the deliveryman I would come down. He didn’t hear me at first but then I repeated my words and he got the message. Downstairs, we put my purchases in the bags I had brought with me. The drinks and some other things had already been bagged. 

I noticed that the steak wasn’t in what he had brought and I asked what had happened to it. After searching through the bags, he picked up the paper tax invoice and read it. He said the steak wasn’t included because it wasn’t available in the store. 

After I signed on his phone, I said goodbye to the guy and carried everything upstairs to put the stuff away. Woolies hadn’t charged me for delivery even though the total amount without the steak was $79.05, in other words less than the $100 minimum under which delivery fees apply. They also hadn’t switched the Scotch fillet steak I had ordered for another type of beef. (They had switched beef items on the morning of 21 October because what I had ordered had been out of stock.)

26 October

Went to the Woolworths website and put in an order for fillet steak, ling fillets, sliced corned beef, eggs, fetta cheese, Cheddar (Bega) cheese, bread, carrot cake, pumpkin and couscous salad, coleslaw, some McVitie’s digestive biscuits, some packets of Calbee “Harvest Snaps” baked pea snacks, and flavoured mineral water (no added sugar). I took care choosing the beef item this time so that I wouldn’t be disappointed again. Other times I had chosen steak from the menu, it had been out of stock. Delivery would be at no charge, scheduled for the next day and, as expected, at 8.05pm an SMS about it came from the company.

27 October

An email from the retailer was visible when I opened Outlook in the morning. The email was timestamped 2.56am and it notified me there had been variations in the weight of some products ordered and, “The pending charge on your credit card used for payment will be reduced by $10.60 prior to payment finalisation.” The total for the order at checkout had been just over $111 but, in any case, when this kind of variation occurs to bring the total down below the $100 threshold for free delivery Woolies doesn’t charge you for delivery.

At just before 7.10am the deliveryman buzzed me on the intercom and I told him I would be down. “Thank you,” he replied. I got downstairs and together we put the goods in my bags, then he whipped out his mobile and I signed for them. So that he could hand them to me he bent at the waist and started picking up the bags but I said it was ok, indicating with these words that I could manage on my own and, without straightening up, he put the bags back down on the ground. Once I had the bags in my right hand, he opened the door for me so I thanked him again. I went upstairs and unpacked everything, which involved bagging the protein and putting it in the freezer. The steak came in at $13.60 so the order total was $101.20. The bread was out of shape, as had happened before.

29 October

I was down at the pharmacy filling some scripts and popped into Coles to buy milk. Then at home I went to the Woolworths website and bought lamb chops, barramundi fillets, sliced corned beef, Jarlsberg and fetta cheese, lentil salad and potato salad, some Calbee “Harvest Snaps”, flavoured mineral water (no added sugar), kitchen paper towels, and soap. Delivery at no charge scheduled for the following morning.

30 October

At 8.03pm the previous night I received an SMS from Woolies about the delivery today. Then at 2.40am there was an email about variable-weight items in my order: the total to be deducted from my credit card would be reduced by $4.04 before transaction completion.

At 7.30 on the dot the deliveryman buzzed me on the intercom. I told him, “I’ll be down, I’ll be down,” and he said, “Thanks”, and started whistling when my voice had stopped. When I got downstairs he was sitting on the crates that had been placed on his trolley. I held open one of the bags I had brought with me and he loaded my purchases into it. I said, “Did I order eggs?” and started looking through the items that had been loaded into the bag but didn’t see any. I asked about the printed tax invoice that they usually put in with the order and he said they hadn’t put it in, so there was no way to check if I had made a mistake or if the company’s employees had forgotten to give me eggs. 

I signed on his phone and took the bags upstairs and unpacked, bagging the meat and fish. After doing this I checked the email acknowledgement and saw that, in fact, I had forgotten to order eggs. So when I went out after midday to drop off some dry-cleaning and to go to the post office, I went to Woolworths and bought eggs and bread. 

In the post office I waited in line to be served. At the counter stood a woman aged about 30 giving the woman who was serving her a very hard time. An authorisation was required from the person to whom an item of mail had been addressed, and the customer was not happy that she had to go back to her workplace to ask the man to provide it. The woman serving her was a migrant from China and there was a misunderstanding; something the young woman – who was born in Australia – had said didn’t register with the franchise employee. I felt sorry for the staffer.

In the Woolies “Metro” store I found the eggs in the same place they had been when the store was run by IGA but the bread was in a different place from where it had been under the other company’s management. The aircon seemed to have been put up higher than it was when IGA ran the store. The woman at the checkout smiled when she served me. I put my purchases in my rucksack and left with a receipt as well.

Today saw a big story break on the Sydney Morning Herald website: Woolworths had been caught underpaying staff. The story ran for a few days. 

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