Waitrose apologises after elderly struggle to secure delivery slots

Waitrose apologises after elderly struggle to secure delivery slots
Many Waitrose customers said they struggled to find a slot within two weeks - or struggled to find any slots at all.
// Waitrose increases number of home delivery slots dedicated for vulnerable customers by 50%
// Follows a swathe of complaints from vulnerable customers unable to book a slot online
// Waitrose said that this week alone, 50% of its online orders were going to elderly or vulnerable customers

Waitrose has confirmed that it has increased the number of online delivery slots dedicated for vulnerable customers by 50 per cent after the grocer was swamped with complaints.

The upmarket grocer also said that half of its online orders this week would go to elderly or vulnerable customers.

The news comes after Waitrose said last week that it would set aside up to a quarter of its online grocery delivery slots for vulnerable shoppers amid the coronavirus crisis.

However, a Retail Gazette article about Waitrose’s plans to prioritise the delivery slots was swamped with comments from elderly and vulnerable customers complaining about difficulty in booking a slot online.


Many customers said they struggled to find a slot within two weeks – or struggled to find any slots at all.

Others expressed confusion as to how they can register to be part of the priority service after receiving a letter from the NHS that confirmed their vulnerable status amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to Retail Gazette, John Baillie, 84, said he had filled an online trolley sufficiently to warrant a free delivery with Waitrose, but couldn’t book a delivery.

“When you try to checkout a message comes up to tell you about their policy to have slots available for the elderly and vulnerable – advice follows how you can tell them you are labelled as vulnerable, but no way to tell them you’re elderly,” said Baillie, who lives in Oxted with his 81-year-old wife.

“I have emailed their customer service twice to ask how to tell them our ages and each time just get a general information reply – no help at all. It seems to be checkmate.”

He added: “If you try on their app they show slots fully booked at least to early July.”

Baillee said he attempted Waitrose’s online delivery service after his regular grocer, Morrisons, struggled to keep up with demand and – like some other grocers – was forced to temporarily close their app.

“Now you have to join a queue even to get on to their main site,” Baillee said.

“Periodically you are told where you stand in the queue – often depressingly several thousand people before you.

“At least now an introductory notice to the queue is displayed which tells you, ‘you can edit your trolley but there are no delivery slots available’, so I no longer bother to join the queue.”

Unlike Waitrose though, Morrisons has not yet announced a plan to prioritise online delivery slots for the elderly and vulnerable.

However, just yesterday it announced a partnership with delivery giant DPD to provide next-day delivery of food boxes for those struggling to secure home deliveries in lockdown.

John Temple, 79, who lives in a small village in Essex, experienced a similar problem as Baillee.

“We have shopped with Waitrose for 40 years and cannot get on the delivery list for the elderly,” he told Retail Gazette.

“My wife is a paraplegic being in a wheelchair for 10 years, all we want is either a ration book or a fortnightly delivery.

“The annoying thing is [the grocers are] boasting that they are helping the vulnerable (a majority would have a carer) and the elderly but I can find no evidence of the latter.”

Les Watts, of Andover, had a similar experience with Sainsbury’s but he eventually got through.

However, the problem was never resolved when he tried Waitrose.

“Waitrose has no slots for myself and my wife because they say we are not registered on the government website,” he told Retail Gazette.

“My wife is on the shielded list and I am over 70. We both registered with the government and with the supermarkets.”

Both Baillee and Temple said they were fortunate enough to have neighbours who have been able to help, but rationing restrictions meant they were only able to purchase essentials.

Baillee said: “I’m sure there must be many that aren’t so fortunate and are forced to go to the stores for their shopping.

“This is clearly not helping to stop Covid-19 and putting the NHS under more pressure.”

Waitrose issued an apology after the issue was brought to its attention, and outlined measures it has taken to improve its online service for the elderly and vulnerable.

The grocer added that just this week alone, 50 per cent of its online orders were going to elderly or vulnerable customers.

“We’re very sorry to customers who are disappointed,” a Waitrose spokesperson told Retail Gazette.

“We’ve been working to increase our slots; by next week this will be by 50 per cent extra slots compared to usual, with 10,000 extra people-hours than usual each week picking Waitrose.com orders (nearly a 50 per cent increase), and hundreds of extra drivers.

“We’ve committed at least 25 per cent of our orders to elderly and vulnerable customers.

“We knew when we prioritised slots for vulnerable customers last week that we did not have enough capacity for all those who wanted a slot.

“However, we took the decision to reach some of those customers who needed help, rather than doing nothing.

“This was only the start of the process and we are actively looking at what else we can do, including how we can reach those on the government’s vulnerable list.

We’re doing all we can to give slots to as many people as we possibly can – especially those who need them the most.

“But we know we can still never have enough for demand. As an example of this, some days we have over 2 million visits each day to our slot booking page.”

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  1. Ref Waitrose
    Same situation here – I am nearly 91 years old – had a stroke with arthritis and cancer but do not fit the very vulnerable list issued by the govt so could not get on the vulnerable Waitrose list. Waitrose claims it has contacted the over 70s but this is not the case with me. I have shopped at Waitrose for years and also John Lewis and explained all this by phone but was told waitrose did not hold personal data so they could identify the over 70s which contradicts the statement given in your article. I have tried for a week to get a slot and now see that there are no slots before July 1st.

  2. Hi,

    I am a primary carer for my elderly mother and so live with her and gave up work to care for her though I do intend to return to work part time.
    She is vulnerable and priority according to my GP she should have had a letter but has not from the NHS or the government.

    People on the other article asked for the link to register it’s here if Retail Gazette can be kind enough to put it on ( I used to be an adviser) so am familiar with these sort of things.


    I have had to shop in M and S and Waitrose and although the branches I used had no queues compared to other Waitrose branches. I won’t queue for food as it increases the risk of infection.

    I have had to wear full PPE including face mask which does help, sunglasses to cover the eyes, a scarf and further gloves to give me max protection to decrease threat of COV19

    M and S branches I used were fine, no queues but not strictly enforcing social distancing and I had to keep away from people. Reasonably well stocked though.

    Staff has no PPE which they should have really. Supermarkets are a source of infection now.
    Waitrose branch I used. Again no queue at that branch but people not respecting social distancing but to their credit W/rose had hot water and soap which I used to wash my hands.

    Had everything I needed and Quick scan was a godsend. Like others tried to register for online deliveries and not happening. W/R and all of them should temporarily be giving online as an option to those only with underlying Health conditions and or elderly or disabled.

    Everyone else should be made to go to the supermarket in person.

  3. I feel the supermarkets should be giving all online slots in COV19 pandemic to elderly and those with underlying health issues and healthy people under 70 should be made to visit a supermarket. As a carer with a high risk parent who lives with her to care for her I still have to go out to shop and social distancing is not really being respected by other customers in M and S or Waitrose though the two I used have it in place but it’s not strictly enforced.

    Supermarkets are now the main source of infection .
    I would suggest that vulnerable people who are extremely vulnerable visit
    gov.uk website and register search for extremely vulnerable with your NHS number to register so supermarkets can access.
    Not everyone has received a letter from the NHS

    • Sorry the web site does not have an age category. The list of qualifying problems does not include serious heart or liver conditions. Mainly lung and cancer victim.
      Rather at conflict to what the Government actually tell us on TV.

  4. Waitrose is a joke in very bad taste. They lie and lie again and again. I feel sorry for their customer service people who have to bare the brunt of their complacent attitude. Let them eat cake springs to mind here. Proving yet again they are the civil service of grocery, simply awful

    • John I think you are absolutely right . When this is all over maybe Waitrose will learn the hard way. If John Lewis is struggling lets hope they are joined by their Partner they certainly deserve

  5. Waitrose have been very poor at indicating how and when elderly customers will be identified for priority delivery slots. I am 73, have been a Waitrose customer for 40 years and have a my Waitrose card as well as a my John Lewis card but have been unable for the past 2 weeks to get a slot. By contrast Sainsbury’s sent me an email 3 weeks ago to say that they had identified me as an elderly customer and would make priority slots available which I have now used twice for ordering groceries for our nearly blind widowed neighbour. Sainsbury’s have also set up a phone line via which elderly customers can register. Wake up Waitrose!

    • Hello Peter, I am 75 and therefore come into the elderly slot. I have looked at Sainsbury’s online but can’t see a phone number to contact them. Are you able to give this to me please? Like you I have been a Waitrose and John Lewis customer for many years but have heard nothing from them. My daughter in law has been able to secure a slot for me with Sainsbury’s but I would really like to register with them for myself. Thank you

      • Hi Ann

        Sorry for late reply. The number I found is 0800 953 4988. Haven’t used it myself but hope it works for you. Good luck!

  6. i,m a pensioner and cant get a delivery by Tescos Morrisons Asda Sainsburys Ocado to name but a few.I try everyday online …why does it take so long for these enterprises to get there act together…I,m in london

  7. I too have been unable to book any slot for groceries.
    My mother is 95 and my husband is 77.
    What am I meant to do in order to secure a slot?

  8. Waitrose does seem to be lagging behind I am90yrsold have always shopped at Waitrose I use their shop and deliver option which I have always found excellent but unfortunately nor supposed to go out now and can’t get anywhere near a delivery date before July ?so;will have to go out or starve , just hoping they still do shop and deliver as I can’t carry ha ve to walk with a stick

  9. I received the letter informing me that I was at risk and had to be shielded for weeks. I was therefore confident as a long standing customer of Waitrose that the govt website where I registered as having nobody to shop for me and being very vulnerable I would get a delivery slot. Nothing available. I have had a text from Tesco where I have never shopped and given a delivery slot for the next day. Waitrose are a disgrace.

  10. Speaking to a friend who is a Waitrose delivery driver, Waitrose currently have no way of identifing elderly or vulnerable customers. My friends store is currently making about a 5th of the total deliveries they could make each week as slots are set aside for the vulnerable but the system can not identify who qualifies for them. WAITROSE, MAKE ALL SLOTS AVAILABLE until you have sorted this, you never know maybe someone in need will be able to get a delivery. There are plenty of staff to pick orders and ample supply of items now.

  11. Same problem with myself. I am just on 89, have no living relatives near, have a health condition that keeps me in the house. I have mostly had deliveries from Tesco for about twenty years, from Ocado the last five. But I can’t get a slot. Have tried other local supermarkets I am registered with,to no avail. I am presently being ‘kept alive’ by little bits of food left on my doorstep by worried neighbours – who will not take money from me, so I feel I can’t tell them some of the stuff they give me is unsuitable; also there is not really enough of it! I can afford to pay may way – all I am asking is a chance to book a home delivery now and then! I have applied on the Government site also contacted my local Dr.surgery, who hadn’t a clue what to do. What a disorganized mess! Lots of impressive talk but no positive action.

  12. We’ve had online grocery retailing now for almost 20 years, and companies are still taken by surprise when demand exceeds capacity. All down to poor app design and ‘who’d have thought that would happen?’ stupidity: obviously, demand was going to exceed delivery capacity if Waitrose allowed new customer registration. So they go ahead and allow unlimited new customer registration. Obviously, they were going to run out of slots if they allowed people to order more than once a fortnight. So they go ahead and let them order weekly. Obviously they were going to run out of van capacity if they let people order £200/week baskets. So they go ahead and let them. Hopeless.

  13. Waitrose Twickenham …I’ve been with them 40 years….. now I need an online delivery ….. they’re fully booked until June. We are 76 & 80 years cannot go out during Coronavirus pandemic.

  14. We have been Waitrose customers for around 40 years and are in our 70s. We recently returned from abroad, so have been confined to the house for 2 weeks under strict quarantine. We wrote to Waitrose 12 days ago stating we needed home delivery, but have yet to hear anything back. It is galling to read they are prioritising elderly customers. Very unimpressed!

  15. Both my wife & I are in our seventies and I received a kidney transplant just 12 weeks ago, so on Government list, and I have also registered my details on line. Have been trying for more than two weeks to book a slot with Waitrose. No indication of how I can register as vulnerable with Waitrose; rather don’t contact us we will contact you!
    Contacting Customer care by e-mail results in a standard “no reply” response as do ‘phone calls even to our local branch.
    Very disappointed with Waitrose – expect better.

  16. Helen

    Waitrose are offering Rapid Delivery … 2 hrs wait…. at first I thought it was a scam… but further investigation proved its authenticity. I’m now going to use this service

  17. I am 53 immune deficient , with multiple health issues including a gastrectomy , I have 4 children – young teenagers . I have registered with the government and my GP has been awaiting a code to allow him to place me in the ‘ at risk ‘ list if you have lived abroad or had private treatment the government can’t access your records . I have spent thousands with Ocado up until a few years ago and similar sums with Waitrose . I spoke to waitrose today and was told they had not yet accessed the government list and even when they did they did they had no more capacity . I had written to them on March 20 asking how I could upload evidence to prove I was vulnerable. I received a generic reply . Hope less . Ocado promised me they had flagged my account as priority on 26 March but I cannot even log on to their site . Sainsburys flagged me as vulnerable and I have had a slot with them. Tesco have also flagged me as priority. The irony is the two outfits I have spent serious money with over a 16 year period have been useless . I have written to the head of customer service Berangere Michel and not had the courtesy of a reply . I wrote to the CEO of Ocado who whilst responding within hours with a promise of priority has clearly been let down by his team . I have dozens of friends all with upcoming Ocado slots despite having zero health issues purely because they have a smart pass . This all seems wrong

  18. You can take announcements from Waitrose about “Priority Deliveries” with a large pinch of “Pink Himalayan Rock Salt”! We have been customers of Waitrose since 1994 and have used them almost exclusively for our weekly shop. We have been MyWaitrose and MyJohnLewis members since the inception of these “accounts”. It took a huge effort to get registered as elderly in the first place and a long time to hear that we had been recognised as such. Elation soon changed to desperation when we found that despite on-screen pop-ups telling us we had been given a “priority delivery” and there were none right up to the end of the month. Repeated emails, Tweets and Facebook messages were met with the usual customer service responses that did not actually deal with the points we had actually made. What they did do was give advice that was patently untrue and a telephone number that no one can get through to. This is NOT the Waitrose we knew, it is not the Waitrose that has been able to respond to this crisis and not able to actually reassure anyone over 70 that they are being served well at all.

  19. Its no use complaining they are just not interested.When this is all over do what i am doing as a regular customer “CHANGE TO ANOTHER SUPPLIER”.

  20. I am immuno suppressed along with other things and fall in the government’s very vulnerable group. I have been checking for over two weeks and all the slots were taken up until the end if June. I have checked at least twice a day and they are now all taken up until nearly the end of July. I do suspect that Waitrose are not being quite truthful with us about the slots.

  21. I am 84 a long term customer and have been trying since this crisis began to find a slot in my Cambridge Waitrose . I should not have to get up at 1 am to search for a slot but this is how it has been for me. Why don’t you clear your booking system of all the under 70’s and allow customers like me and many similar “vulnerable ” people to take up slots even for a dedicated two week period asking those fit customers to either wait or shop in person. ??

  22. Waitrose Rapid Delivery Service… for which I was willing to pay their requested fee …. proved hopeless….. fully booked up until July.

  23. I am in my mid 80’s and have a partnership card (Millicent Cadbury ) I have had deliveries from Waitrose in the past but now CANNOT get a slot for a delivery

  24. Please may I have a slot for delivery? I have been trying for 3 weeks. My husband and I are in our mid 80’s
    I have a partnership card in the name of Milicent Cadbury

  25. It appears Waitrose are unable or unwilling to allocate delivery slots even when registered with gov.uk
    Sainsburys have managed the system for vulnerable people so why not Waitrose?
    To redirect you to their website and what they are doing during the Coronavirus pandemic is just not good enough
    I have emailed some four times to receive a stock reply and no way forward and certainly no follow up
    Even if they told people when and what time of day their slots are available would at least be something A friend said she had managed at midnight and 5 am to find a slot How does anyone expect a vulnerable sick person to access a site at this time.
    I do not believe for one moment that they have allocated 50% of their slots to the vulnerable
    I have been waiting for since the beginning of lockdown to get a slot if I had to rely just on Waitrose I would be dead now .

  26. I feel very upset with Waitrose, I have shopped there (Godalming ) every week for years. I am 74 and my husband is 80 and has Parkinson’s disease.
    I have tried all day and night to get a delivery slot, why are they saying the slots
    are reserved for elderly and vulnerable when it seems they have no way of knowing
    our age . Leaving messages with customer service to give them this information is pointless they have not contacted me as promised, they have removed the phone
    number from website.
    Susan Emden

  27. I too have been a waitrose customer for many years and have tried in vain for several weeks to get a delivery even though I am registered as vulnerable. Emails go unanswered after their first standard reply so i dont bother anymore. I was amazed that they ask customers not to book more than one delivery a week, so perhaps thats the problem. Those in the ‘know’ are booking up all the slots as they appear. Truly bad customer service Waitrose, which will not be forgotten. Whereas Sainsburys and Tescos emailed me with available slots soon after registering with gov.uk. I know who will be getting my orders after this is over.

  28. I have nothing but praise for the Waitrose delivery service.I had Waitrose deliveries prior to Cover so I suppose I was already on their site. I am a very vulnerable person and it comes up on the site that slots are available for vulnerable people.Once I place an order I do book the next date as well.
    Easy to put in £40 of items because every item can be changed later before delivery.
    You just have to be organised and think ahead in these strange times.
    My orders always arrive on time, sometimes things are not available but you have the substitute option.
    Excellent service Waitrose, keep up the good work.


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