Chattanooga resident Kimberly Carrizoza is a stay-at-home mom of three, and the expansion of new grocery delivery service Shipt has given her the opportunity to work around her own hectic schedule and connect with new people.
"That's the only way I would ever be able to get a job between karate and school and homework," she said of Shipt's flexible hours. "My husband works fulltime, and he goes out of town for his job. So to have something like this where I can sign on when I want and sign out when I'm done [is ideal]."
Carrizoza saw the job advertisement for Shipt shoppers on Facebook, and last week—after an interview, background check and training—she completed her 35th trip to Publix, where she buys other people's groceries and then delivers them.
It's sort of like the old-school idea of a milk man, except Carrizoza will bring your milk and anything else Publix sells. Technology is a major part of how the system works.
—Shipt is tax-exempt because the customer is purchasing their groceries from Shipt. Shipt members pay applicable local sales tax on their order.
—Shoppers have access to training materials regarding how to select high-quality produce, shop for orders and communicate with customers.
—Shipt leaders are looking to hire about 150 shoppers with room to grow as Shipt expands in Chattanooga.
Shipt shoppers deliver groceries from Publix to residents in Chattanooga and surrounding areas of Collegedale, East Brainerd, Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Middle Valley and Red Bank.
How does it work for the customer?
The process of signing up for Shipt starts online, where customers enter email, phone and credit card information.
There's a two-week free trial available, and shoppers can either pay $14 a month or $99 for an annual plan.
Members get unlimited free delivery for orders more than $35. There's a $7 delivery fee on orders under $35.
Shipt prices vary from grocery store prices by an average of $5 on a $35 order. According to the Shipt website, users can cancel any time.
Once a customer has created an account, they download the Shipt app, which shows the next available delivery time, as well as grocery categories, like breads or beverages. There are also categories, such as "dinner tonight" and "healthy snack" ideas.
Customers use the app to create their grocery list. For example, a customer can select the beverage tab, which shows categories such as bottle tea, cocktail mixes, soft drinks and more. From there, the customer selects the soft drink tab and chooses from a range of products.
It's at this point in the process that users can see specifics about the products. For example, users could pick a 12-pack of 7UP Diet Soda for $5.99. Users select the plus button to add the item to their list. If they decide later they don't want it, selecting a minus button takes it off the list.
The app shows the user what the total cost will be before checkout and allows users to type in special requests. They can select a delivery time that is within an hour window, and schedule deliveries for a nearby future date.
Carrizoza said that there is the potential for savings because it can cut down on impulse buys that customers might incur while picking up items not on their original list.
The app also lets users select what they want the shopper to do if a specific product isn't available. Users can opt to have the shopper text if a change is needed, or they can allow the shopper to use their best judgement. Or they can choose to leave the item off if the specific request isn't available.
After a user places the order, the app sends the customer a photo of the shopper and an estimated delivery time.
The Shipt app allows customers to tip a shopper if they feel they received outstanding service, Shipt’s community manager Anne Adams said via email. The option to tip comes up on the app after the delivery.
Shipt customer Jennifer Ayers, who is an area school teacher and mother of two, placed her second order on Friday.
"What I'm finding is that when you're working until 5 or 6 p.m., and you've been there since 7 a.m., you're exhausted," she said. "It's just the convenience of having them brought to you [that I like]."
She also said that if she or one of her kids gets sick, it's ideal to have someone else bring medicine and soup.
Ayers signed up before the launch date, which means she got a year subscription for $49.99, and she echoed Carrizoza's thoughts about potential savings.
"I'll save that much more not seeing other things I want that I don't need," she said. "On a teacher's budget, that's just the best thing of all."
How does it work for the shopper?
Customers rate shoppers, and when new orders come in, the shoppers with the highest ratings get first pick if they are available.
Whoever has the highest rating and the fastest fingers gets the job, Carrizoza said. After an order comes in, if none of the highest rated shoppers opt for that delivery, other shoppers get the option to take the job.
Shoppers are paid a flat rate plus a percentage of the order total, Adams said.
"Shoppers whose schedules allow them to accept many orders throughout the day are often able to shop for Shipt as their full-time job," she also said.
Carrizoza got her Friday afternoon order for Ayers on Thursday night.
The backend of the app that Carrizoza sees helped guide her through the store in an organized way so she didn't have to zigzag back and forth across the store.
It also showed her a photo of the exact item requested. When she finds the item, she checked it off on her app to make sure she got everything she needed.
Her biggest order has been 50 or 60 items, and it cost more than $200. But it isn't the size of order that can be stressful, it's when there are a lot of substitutions. If the ordered items aren't available, she has to text with the customer and that can take up time, she said.
So far, most of her orders have come from the North Shore Publix.
Carrizoza said she often sees other Shipt shoppers, and she views Publix employees almost like co-workers, she said Friday, just after she repeated the cashier's name in an effort to remember it for the future.
For Carrizoza it's important to provide the best customer service. She shops and takes care of items as if she were shopping for herself, and she is thoughtful about who she is helping. For example, she knows she might be one of the few people some elderly customers see, she said. And she looks forward to making contact with them and others.
"This service is for anyone and everyone," she said. "Shipt has opened the door for me to go out and meet people and to be that one person [some customers] get to see—I've had a couple of customers who look forward to seeing me—if I can be that for someone [that's significant]."