Supermarket websites once again came under strain after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the latest Covid-19 lockdown. Supermarkets witnessed an immediate surge of concerned customers, resulting in many reported problems. The surge in demand is similar to customer reaction during the first lockdown.
According to the BBC, consumers reported problems with both the Sainsbury's and Tesco app, with Ocado having over 5,300 shoppers in a queue at one point.
Tesco’s spokesperson denied reports of issues on Monday. The supermarket chain had initially contacted consumers before Christmas about slot availability. At the time, the chain said it had increased availability of delivery slots and is allowing vulnerable consumers to register for priority slots. However, as of Tuesday lunchtime, Tesco was no longer accepting new customers to its "Delivery Saver" scheme.
Customers left frustrated
Many costumers were left frustrated with the various website problems and let out their frustration on social media shortly after the news broke. People were angry supermarkets hadn’t prepared for the inevitable lockdown. Twitter had plenty of complaints from shoppers talking about all the major supermarket chains, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Ocado. Customers reported trouble accessing their websites as well as issues in checking out their shopping.
Supermarkets still have priority slots available for the clinically vulnerable. You can also sign up for extra support through the government portal if you’re unable to get a slot. The sudden surge in demand could make it challenging to get through to customer service teams, and spaces are disappearing fast.
Ocado had its virtual queue in place on Tuesday morning with very few delivery slots available in the coming days and weeks. Customers also complained about lack of slots with Tesco and Sainsbury’s, often seeing first available slots up to three weeks from now.
New measures in place in-store
Supermarkets are also making changes to how customers can shop in-store. Among others, Tesco and Aldi have already introduced traffic light systems to ensure shops don’t become overcrowded. NHS and emergency service staff can also get priority access across supermarkets. Tesco also has dedicated hours for vulnerable customers to shop.
Many supermarkets were accepting new online customers right before Christmas. Ocado and Sainsbury's had to close their new customer registration during the first lockdown. The latest surge in online shoppers could well mean these services close to new customers once again.
The current lockdown rules in England mean that shops such as supermarkets, pharmacies and off-licences are allowed to stay open. Takeaways can remain open, but people can’t add alcohol to orders they collect.
Supermarkets have consistently urged people to shop normally. There have been no significant food shortages although congestion in UK shipping ports did cause temporary shortages of some goods before Christmas.