With the Shreveport launch of Shipt, the delivery app making it possible for you to spend even more of your paycheck at Target than you thought probable, March 13th, a new era of Shreveport delivery began. That’s right, you can have a case of diapers, a micro SD card, a 3 pack of Penn tennis balls, and a baguette delivered to your door in as little as two hours.
It seems all the big brands are testing the waters of grocery delivery. Wal-Mart registered a new trademark (WAM!) for their grocery delivery this year, (no really it’s called WAM!) and is already operating in six markets, including Dallas. Surely Wal-Mart will wake us up before it go goes into the Shreveport market? A widely anticipated delivery option has resulted from the Whole Foods/Amazon merger. Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now delivery are testing in Dallas now, as well. However, it looks like delivery app Instacart may be the first to deliver Shreveport’s citizens’ groceries from Whole Foods. Mum’s the Word from Instacart’s spokespeople, but a quick zip code search on the Instacart site shows it may be coming soon to over half of Shreveport. Kroger also has added a delivery option to their Clicklist service with possible future delivery through Shipt or Instacart. Albertsons offers grocery delivery from many of their big city stores for large orders, but not yet in Shreveport. Local Brookshire’s and Drug Emporium/Vitamins Plus can’t comment on the inner workings of their corporate offices, but “no comment”s are better than “no”s.
Even better than a new job coming to town is a home-grown one. Do any of our local grocery stores offer delivery? I decided to call 19 of them from West to East, North to South Shreveport, and ask! Maxwell’s Market on Line Ave., Cush’s Grocery and Market on Ellerbe, and Fairfield Market off Fern Loop, all deliver grocery items to customers either themselves or for an extra fee through delivery service “ASAP Delivery”. Bao Bao Asian Market on Shreve-Barksdale Hwy says it is “on the agenda” (yes please!) and is interested in using an app service for their delivery.
The issue with grocery pick-up and delivery services reported again and again is: who is picking out my produce and why are they giving me such green bananas? How can I trust my shopper to pick the best cut of meat for my family without also spending $16 on it? Shipt assured that “shoppers have access to training assets and in-person coordination meetings before they begin shopping for Shipt.” Cotten’s Grocery on Lakeshore doubts they’ll try delivery. They’re known for their butcher counter, and prefer customers pick out their choice cuts in person.
I think we can all agree that Moms are the ultimate experts in Grocery Shopping. Now that it’s an actual career field, will we see mothers filling the ranks of companies like Shipt as independent contractors? Doubtful. Shipt shoppers, for example, are not allowed to have anyone else accompany their shopping trips for customers. Stay-at-home Moms of toddlers looking for extra cash – sorry boutcha! What about an app like Tinder for grocery delivery? I’m looking to swipe right on a mother of five who makes a mean roast pork shoulder to do my shopping.
If successful in the national brand stores like Target in Shreveport, apps like Shipt and Instacart are sure to add more store delivery options as time passes. Let’s hold out hope that our local grocery managers work with these delivery shoppers to offer their best products for their customers – it is in their best interest to do so, after all.
On top of membership fees ranging from $49-100 per year, plus delivery fees, apps like Shipt do not use the grocery store’s prices or coupons, instead setting their own prices and holding sales in-app. (So the apps are basically a Sam’s Club membership but with delivery? Sign me up?) I often base my family’s weekly menus off of whatever meat is on special the day I shop, and though the prices are often a dollar higher in-app compared to in-store, I could still shop that way.
Delivery is nothing new to Shreveport. We’ve had all-time champs like Johnny’s Pizza and China Dragon, local meal planning services like Healthy Chef and Savoie’s Body Fuel, stalwarts of surprise: Sweet Tooth Delivery, and the Schwan’s man! We’ve got food delivery services like On the Go Delivery, WAITR, and iHeartDeliveries bringing almost any restaurant in town’s fare to your home. Even my very own business (prepare for shameless plug), Highland Cream, started delivering pints of homemade ice cream to homes in 2012! What IS new to Shreveport? The Gig Economy.
“The Gig Economy” is a blanket term describing a labor market of short term contracts, freelance work, or gigs, as opposed to permanent jobs. Wired magazine published a great piece this February, “What is the gig economy and why is it so controversial?”, describing the potential pitfalls of a national economy based on freelance work. The Taylor Review published July 2017 called for a new category of worker to ensure decent wages and benefits for gig workers.
Let’s weigh the pros and cons of the delivery “Gig Economy” in Shreveport. Are there any cons? Well, there’s the Great Con that is the lagging Shreveport economy. According to DATAUSA, Shreveport’s median income is $38,583 per year, which is less than the U.S.’s median annual income, with a slight decline in population and increase in unemployment. Shreveport’s poverty rate is 23.6%, which is much higher than the national average of 14.7%.
The majority of Shreveporters living below the poverty line are Black, are women aged 18-34, and boys under 5. As in, Young Women and Moms of Color. However, the majority of college students in Shreveport are also Black women. So when a new market of possibility comes to Shreveport, we should ask: is this going to help our most vulnerable? Is this going to hurt them? Or is it just going to exclude them completely.
It’s no breaking news story (thanks to Heliopolis, you’re doing great, sweetie) that Shreveport’s economy has shifted from a manufacturing base to a service based one. But who is Shreveport’s economy really servicing?
Food & Serving is the 4th most common profession in Shreveport, behind Management, Sales, and Administrative professions. It seems the “Gig Economy”’s food delivery sector should be an easy fit for Shreveport’s existing labor force, but is it really a great one? Food & Serving is not only one of the most common, but also holds the title as the lowest paid profession in Shreveport.
The thing to remember is: apps like Shipt, Lyft, Uber… they aren’t jobs. They are gigs. Extra income. They don’t provide health insurance, retirement savings, opportunities for promotion, holiday or sick pay, maternity leave – they don’t even withhold your taxes. You are an independent contractor and you will file a 1099. These gigs are marketed to people who already have enough income to provide for themselves a car built in the last 10 years, a bank account with direct deposit capability, who are probably already devoted consumers of products like Target’s. Instacart (are you coming here or what?) does offer a part-time shopper option for those without cars to do the in-store shopping part of home delivery only, so you could, in theory, ride the bus or your bike to your Gig. This is a side hustle for those who feel there ARE enough hours in the day to do it all (or they’re just suffering from wage stagnation and inflated retail prices, but, hey that’s another article).
Shreveport needs jobs. But do we accept any old job that rears its head because we’re that desperate for love.. I mean, work? The Shreveport economy is like an emotionally abusive lover. You know, the guy who makes you all these beautiful promises in the beginning only to ignore your texts and dump a downgraded city bond rating in your lap. We’re so used to being let down that any new attention is exciting (dog park anyone?), even if it isn’t exactly what we need right now.
Who benefits from more delivery options in Shreveport? Other than the “busy Mom” or “single dad” archetypes, there are Shreveporters for whom home delivery could actually improve quality of life. The differently-abled and the elderly could possibly save money by using a “shopper” instead of paying their sitter or home health professional extra to run errands. Those without access to a car, or who aren’t allowed to drive one, wouldn’t have to fill the trunk of a taxi with groceries or lug bags from bus stop to bus stop.
Local restaurants and grocers themselves could benefit from increased order frequency from people, like me, who want to support local business but have so many toddlers they can’t easily eat or shop in public anymore. Grant Nuckolls, proprietor of restaurant Twisted Root’s Shreveport and Bossier City locations, claims the influx of delivery services in town have increased his To-Go order sales from 6% to about 16% since 2016. “Twisted Root may be too far from their home, or we don’t have the convenience of a drive-thru… now that we are on an app, it expands my restaurant’s reach into basically a brand new customer base.”
Once again, we have a bittersweet progression for our fair city. Yay, we have the same technology and service options as L.A. or NYC! But do we have the infrastructure or the expendable income to support it? One delivery service app, WAITR, has already lost a couple restaurant heavy-hitters due to driver shortages resulting in longer wait times for customers. Out of town companies are taking a chance on Shreveport – will we take a chance on them? (cue ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me”)
Delivery is a beautiful thing, if you can afford it. If you are crazy busy, if you forgot something on your list yesterday, if you are differently-abled and getting out is a chore, if you are too exhausted, if you know exactly what you need and don’t need to browse – delivery is for you. If stores were able to accept WIC and SNAP benefits for delivery orders, it would be for all of us.
But for some of us, sometimes, grocery shopping is plain cathartic. On a wild Thursday night, (when Kroger on Youree happens to always be fully stocked with cases of Kroger brand unflavored, caffeine-free seltzer water) I like to leave the kids at home with their dad and grocery shop all alone. I get to walk down every aisle, browse the new ice cream flavors, make my own trail mix in the bulk goods section, get the gulf shrimp this time because it’s finally on sale… now that bliss cannot be bought – even on an app from the comfort of my favorite, fuzzy orange recliner.
Can you have a good experience buying your groceries on an app? Sure. Can you make connections with people from your neighborhood if your food is delivered to your door? Maybe. Will gig economy jobs improve people’s lives? Possibly. Will my grocery shopping experience leave such an impression on me that I’ll have an exchange like this with my future daughter-in-law 50 years from now? Hopefully.
“Hey Eve, did you ever get grocery delivery as a kid?”
“In Minden, my mother did – from Wise’s grocery – when I wasn’t there to drive her. She couldn’t drive… Widows on fixed incomes were not inclined to be big tippers so I imagine costs were hidden in the charges. I know my mother loved the Wises and patronized them whether she had transportation or not. Mr. Wise was deaf and Mrs. Wise was hoarse from talking loud. They had an old cat that got the leavings from the butcher block. They were good people. And best meat in town.”