SUPERMARKET giant Asda is under fire after telling customers who live in flats they may have to pick up their “home delivery” shopping from the foot of the stairs.
Under a new trial launched earlier this month, residents in the delivery area of the Asda Leith superstore in Newhaven – which supplies much of north and central Edinburgh – are set to lose the door-to-door service if they live above the first floor.
The supermarket said the decision was taken on the back of concerns for the safety of colleagues carrying weighty shopping and would only effect “heavy and bulky orders”.
And they insisted drivers would treat each delivery on a “case by case” basis and continue to make door-to-door deliveries for the elderly and disabled.
But charity bosses warned the scheme could lead to “distress and worry” for older people who rely on the facility to maintain independence.
Large shopping orders delivered to those on the upper floors will now be left in the property’s “communal area” for collection.
Sue Miller, chief executive of LifeCare – a charity that works with the elderly – said the changes were a cause for concern.
She said: “It’s a serious issue, and I’m sure many older people are going to be very worried if that’s all they have to rely on. Older people need that kind of service – they just cannot carry bags of shopping up the stairs. And if Asda are approaching this on a case-by-case basis, how is it going to be assessed – will it be by phone? Who is doing the assessing, and how are they deciding?
“There are a lot of older people living in tenements still, and there’s no communal areas in tenements that I can think of. If they leave it at the bottom of the stairs, there’s the chance that people will nick it.
“I can just see this causing lots of distress for older people. It seems grossly unfair. If they are saying they do door-to-door delivery, what does that mean? It’s no longer door-to-door, it’s door-to-stairwell.” Asda home delivery costs up to £6, depending on the time of day. The supermarket said the new trial would not affect properties with lift access.
Jack Williams, a 23-year-old postgraduate research student who uses online shopping and lives on the top floor of a tenement block in the Southside, insisted door-to-door delivery was “part of the service”.
He said: “There’s a reason why people do online shopping and the alternative probably isn’t feasible for some people. And, in our block at least, it’s not wise to leave the shopping in a communal area, as sometimes people leave the ground floor door open – someone could just walk in and take it.
“If you just left it at the bottom of the stairs it could cause a fire hazard.”
A spokeswoman for Capability Scotland said it was crucial the needs of disabled residents were kept to the forefront of any debate, but added: “It sounds like Asda does plan to work around the individual needs of its customers as it trials this new scheme, which is encouraging to hear.” An Asda spokesman said: “We are committed to providing our customers with convenient ways to shop, and deliver to 98 per cent of the UK.
“However, the safety of our colleagues is of great importance to us.
“During this trial, on rare occasions where there is no lift access to a property above a first floor, like other retailers, we will deliver heavy and bulky orders to a property’s communal area, and will continue to deliver to a customer’s door should they need extra support due to disability.”
WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
SHOPPERS angry at Asda’s plans to stop delivering to the doors of flats higher than the first floor may start to look elsewhere for their weekly shop. But how do other supermarket prices compare?
Main rivals Tesco charge similar rates for home delivery – so the battle for top spot comes down to the goods.
A modest shopping basket containing a pint of milk, 12 free range eggs and a loaf of white Warburton’s bread would come in at £3.24 in Asda. At Tesco, the same shop would set you back £3.33 – 9p more expensive. Every little helps?