By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – What once was considered a convenience has become a lifesaver for many people, as personal shopper and delivery services become a virtual lifeline for people trying to avoid coronavirus exposure.
Locally, Shipt and Instacart are the predominant shopping and delivery services.
Shipt partners with Meijer and Target, and recently started deliveries for CVS, Petco, OfficeMax and Office Depot. Instacart works with Meijer, Costco, Kroger, Plum Market and Whole Foods Market.
Shipt has monthly and yearly membership rates, with additional fees for orders $35 and under. Instacart has a yearly rate, or a rate per order. With both services, the people who shop and deliver are normally tipped.
Heather Lewicki, 45, of Lincoln Park, has worked with Shipt for two years, and has fulfilled more than 5,600 orders. She said there are hundreds of Shipt independent contractors in the metropolitan Detroit area.
Lewicki, who works primarily out of the Meijer at 3710 Dix, in Lincoln Park, said she carries her own sanitizing wipes to clean the grocery cart these days, and uses hand sanitizer frequently.
“I stop and wash my hands in the store bathroom a couple times a day,” she said. “Shipt encourages us to do what they call ‘porch dropoffs’ to limit exposure to customers, to protect us and them.”
Lewicki said it is a great service to use during this time of coronavirus concerns, but lately, with so many items out of stock, it has been challenging as well.
She said the items most in demand now by shoppers are toilet paper, bottled water, disinfectant spray and disinfectant wipes. She said store employees are working around the clock to restock shelves, but many pantry staples have been snapped up. Milk, egg and meat availability can be hit-or-miss.
Lewicki said the customer base is changing and expanding as more people seek the service because they don’t want to leave home, to avoid coronavirus exposure. However, with 24-hour stores closing overnight to restock, personal shoppers have lost hours during which they could have been fulfilling orders.
“Most of the customers have been very understanding when it comes to the out-of-stock items,” she said. “We work with them on substitutes. Many customers voice how busy we are, and are very appreciative of our service. I have been called a ‘lifesaver,’ an ‘angel’ and a ‘hero.’”
Lewicki said grocery shopping now is stressful.
“There are days when it is very difficult to get through the shops,” she said. “Then someone will tell you how grateful they are for your service, and you realize that you are truly helping others through difficult times.”
Lewicki, a mother of three, said when she gets home from public shopping, she immediately changes out of her work clothes and puts them in the washing machine, then washes her hands thoroughly. She also leaves her delivery bags in her car.
One of her customers, Donna Z. of Brownstown, uses Shipt to have groceries delivered to her elderly parents in Southgate, who are homebound and in poor health.
“I am the primary caregiver to both my parents, both who are immune-compromised,” she said. “I do not want to chance picking up anything in the stores or in public. Shipt has been a real lifesaver for me.”
She said in addition to shielding her parents from public exposure, the shopping and delivery service saves her time.
Emergency room nurse Maureen Rencsok, 37, of Allen Park, said she became a Shipt customer a year and a half ago, but began using it more lately because of coronavirus exposure concerns.
She said she has been limiting contact to others in case she unknowingly becomes exposed to the coronavirus at work.
“I have two boys under the age of 5 that I don’t want to bring into a grocery store and risk them coming in contact with anyone carrying the virus,” Rencsok said. “I am also an emergency room nurse, so I have been quarantining myself at home, except to go to work, the past 10 days.”
Pat Ward, 69, of Lincoln Park, said as a diabetic senior who is susceptible to bronchitis, using Shipt allows her to stay safe by staying home. She also watches her grandchildren, another reason for her to limit her exposure to the coronavirus.
Andy Lopez, 53, of Allen Park, said Shipt lets her stay indoors and avoid public exposure.
“Having an autoimmune disorder increases my risk factor,” she said. “Shipt saves me time, which allows me to focus my energy on other things.”
For information about Shipt, go to shipt.com, and for information about Instacart, go to Instacart.com.