Regular deliveries on Ocado Reserved service cancelled
Reserved service customers take to Twitter to complain
Ocado shut down its website last week to restrict number of products per customer
Ocado has paused its guaranteed Reserved service as its website continues to strain under the weight of demand during the coronavirus outbreak.
Using the Reserved service, Ocado customers receive a regular delivery day and time on a weekly or fortnightly basis, with a virtual basket of goods that can be amended, arriving automatically. However, because of “technical problems”, the online grocer has cancelled customer orders at short notice and is not able to offer an alternative delivery as slots are fully booked for weeks.
“Due to technical problems caused by unprecedented demand, Ocado Reserved orders will not be going out for delivery – including those already placed,” the group said on Twitter. “We’ve emailed you with further info to help you make a new order. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
The email said: “We’re very sorry, but due to technical problems caused by unprecedented demand, Ocado Reserved hasn’t been functioning as it should. Unfortunately, this means that Ocado Reserved orders will not be going out for delivery – including those already placed. We have made the decision to pause the service completely until the technical problems have been fixed.
“We understand this is not ideal and not the high level of service you’ve come to associate with us – we can only apologise for the frustration caused. We will reactivate this service for you as soon as Ocado Reserved is available again.
“We’d normally offer you an alternative delivery, however, the current high demand means our slots are fully booked for the next week.”
One customer who has been an Ocado Reserved customer for 10 years told The Grocer his delivery was cancelled with no warning. “Will be interesting to know if they will be offering any compensation to previously loyal customers,” he said. “I for one will be looking closely at Waitrose.com if they don’t.”
Hundreds of reserved customers took to Twitter to complain and demand answers, with many “fuming” to have reserved slots cancelled after shopping with Ocado for years.
#Ocado I am incandescent with rage. My Ocado reserved delivery has been cancelled. I have been paying for this service since it was introduced. My slot has been given away. I have not been stock piling because stupidly I trusted Ocado. My husband and I are over 70. Suggestions?— Margaret (@magsb34) March 23, 2020
“Your response to being swamped with demand from new customers is to suspend the reserved delivery facility, thus penalising your loyal customers?” one tweet read.
Ocado Smart Pass holders, who pay £10.99 a month for offers and free delivery, have also complained on Twitter that they are unable to access delivery slots, yet continued to be charged.
Ocado has not clarified how or whether the Smart Pass service has been affected.
A spokeswoman said: “Due to technical problems caused by unprecedented demand, Ocado Reserved hasn’t been functioning as it should. This means that Ocado Reserved orders will not be going out for delivery for the time being.
”These are unique and exceptional circumstances and we can only apologise to our customers. We’re working hard to get Ocado Reserved back up and running and thank our customers for their continued understanding during this ever-changing situation.”
Ocado shut down its website last week for a few days to make changes to the code to enable new restrictions on the number of items each customer can order, to help with capacity and limit shoppers to one order every seven days.
The business is not accepting new customers and has an online queueing system in place for existing ones to make and amend orders. Users have flocked to Twitter to complain to Ocado of waiting hours in an online queue only to be told there were no slots available. The Grocer was placed at 146,361st in the queue when we joined today (26 March).
Ocado Retail CEO Melanie Smith said in a letter to customers there was about 10 times more demand for its services than before the outbreak began. “And with every announcement, we see a further extraordinary surge for customers. No matter how hard we work, we will not have enough capacity to serve the unprecedented levels of demand.”
All supermarkets groups are struggling to cope with massive surge in demand for online groceries as shoppers stock up, with sites crashing as volumes of users skyrocketed and delivery slots sold out for weeks in advance.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the nation to “use food delivery services where you can” when announcing a lockdown of the country on Monday, heaping more pressure on the service.
However, Tesco boss Dave Lewis asked shoppers who were healthy to shop in store where possible to free up delivery slots for the vulnerable and elderly as online was “at full capacity for the next few weeks”.
In the past four weeks, Waitrose had delivered to more customers than it had at any point in its history, a spokeswoman said.
And Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe apologised to customers and asked for patience while they prioritised delivery for elderly and vulnerable customers who can’t leave their homes.
Sainsbury’s, which is also no longer accepting new customer registrations, has proactively contacted 270,000 customers who had already given the supermarket information on their status as elderly or vulnerable, Coupe said in a statement sent to customers today.
He added that the customer careline had been inundated with requests from elderly and vulnerable customers, with one year’s worth of contacts in two weeks.
The supermarket is currently giving an additional 8,000 vulnerable customers a day access to delivery slots over the phone.
“We have already booked in slots for 115,000 elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers this week and this number is growing every day,” Coupe said.
Supermarkets are set to receive a government database this week that tells them which people in England are considered to be most vulnerable.
“Where these people are already registered with us, we will start to write to them next week to offer them a delivery slot,” Coupe added. “We are also working hard to secure details for vulnerable people living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“I apologise to our regular online customers, who I know are feeling very frustrated at not being able to book slots. Please bear with us and I hope you can understand why we feel the need to prioritise elderly and vulnerable customers at the moment.”
Sainsbury’s has already doubled the number of click & collect slots available to try to meet demand and rolled the service to stores where it wasn’t previously available.