In its existential battle with Amazon, Walmart has one huge advantage: A network of nearly 5,000 stores and 1.5 million employees in the US, all in communities where its customers live and shop.
Harnessing that infrastructure is proving complicated, however, as Walmart has quietly ended a pilot program that turned store associates into delivery drivers.
The plan, announced with some fanfare last year at Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting, would help solve the famous “last mile” problem of delivery by having employees deliver parcels on their way home from work in exchange for extra pay. But according to Reuters, in January Walmart abandoned the pilot it was running in New Jersey and Arkansas after employees balked.
Workers were uncomfortable about using their personal vehicles (and car insurance), and had to be cajoled to join the program.with promises of free TVs and iPads. Then they discovered the extra money didn’t fully compensate them for their time and effort. Drivers would receive an hour of overtime pay and $2 per package, plus 54 cents per mile they drove, according to Reuters’ interviews with 16 drivers. One employee said the most she made in a week was $100, for delivering 12 packages.
Now, Walmart says it has relaunched the project with a new model at a store in Georgia, hiring dedicated delivery drivers. The drivers still use their own cars and insurance, but they make deliveries as part of their workday, not in addition to it. Walmart says the redesigned model should offer a better experience to customers and employees alike.
“There are many different ways we can deliver items to our customer’s door,” a Walmart spokesperson told Quartz at Work. “We’re testing different ways we can do that, from expanding delivery to using the third-party providers to potentially using our own associates.”