In 2019 I first became a customer of Walmart’s pickup and delivery services, now known as Walmart+. In early 2021 I became a driver for Spark, the independent contracting company that Walmart currently uses for its deliveries in the United States.

Through both of these experiences I’ve amassed quite a bit of knowledge that may be helpful to you, the customer. In a new world where grocery delivery is an essential part of everyday life, the more you know means more than ever.

Chances are you’ve had some successful deliveries and some not-so-successful ones too, if you’re a regular Walmart delivery customer. If you’re just on the customer end, the ‘why’ behind the unsuccessful or problematic deliveries may not be entirely clear.

This article contains six of those major reasons and I’ll also tell you six things you can do personally to make sure your Walmart same day delivery goes as smoothly as possible in the future and what to do when it doesn’t.

Groceries delivered by Walmart+, Photo via walmart.com

Writer’s Note: This article is solely about the current, widely-offered Walmart+ Delivery and not their new program, Walmart InHome Delivery. I have no experience with the new program and frankly do not ever plan to have any.

This article is strictly from my own point of view and the delivery facts contained therein may vary from market to market as Spark and Walmart are constantly changing and rolling out new programs and policies.

1. Very Little Training for Walmart Delivery Drivers

This is the first and probably the largest issue, if I’m going to be quite honest with you. From the time I signed up with Spark to start delivering until now, there has not been any mandatory training that I have seen. This includes for the driver-shopped orders I’ll talk about in a later section.

There are a few videos that gloss over the basics at a very Great Value-esque level, that are hidden in the “Credentials” section of the Spark Driver app, but again nothing mandatory.

These videos are the exact same ones in 2022 as they were in early 2021, even though they have changed the Spark delivery program several times. There is also nothing location-specific in the not-mandatory training either.

In fact, when I first signed up for Spark and attempted my first Walmart delivery, I was so overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do or where to go to pick up the order.

I went inside the store and found an employee to ask and they had no clue either, as the directions given in the app said to go to a certain location in the store that no longer even existed!

Actual photo of me in Walmart that day, probably. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

I unassigned that order out of confusion and frustration. I didn’t even attempt to deliver with Spark again until I happened to talk to a friend who was also a Spark driver who had figured it out already and was able to guide me through the process.

It went more smoothly for me after that, but I shouldn’t have had to rely on an also untrained friend for information.

2. The Driver Hiring Process Is Largely Problematic

I almost don’t even know where to start with this one, because the Spark driver hiring process is such a mess. It is not at all selective, not even a little.

It leads to them seriously over-hiring a bunch of drivers that are out to make a quick buck (especially during the holiday season). This is commonly known as flooding the market.

They typically start new drivers out with better pay as an incentive, leaving your regular, experienced drivers with less work and less money. This is a huge problem that is not Spark-exclusive in the gig work industry, but I digress.

Add to that the fact that they want to keep bonus & incentive pay as low as possible, and it leads to them seriously over-hiring a bunch of drivers that are out to make a quick buck (especially during the holiday season). This is commonly known as flooding the market.

Of course there are those more seasoned drivers like myself, who have made a living off of delivery work since well before the pandemic started. We care about doing our jobs well and making sure our customers are satisfied. We care about our ratings and even sometimes developing relationships with repeat customers!

Unfortunately, this is becoming less and less common due to Spark’s aforementioned shady and half-assed hiring practices.

On to my next point — Although they do a basic background check, I am assuming it only looks for things like theft (if that) because I definitely know people with violent charges on their record that should have been disqualified for customer safety — but somehow weren’t.

As if that weren’t a large enough problem in itself — like many of the other delivery driver platforms, there are no interviews. I didn’t speak to a single person during the hiring process.

For reasons I will go into more in the next section, this is terrible. Spark needs to start conducting interviews during the hiring process to ensure that language barriers do not become delivery completion barriers.

(Note: Please do not confuse this for me being xenophobic or believing that everyone in ‘Murica should just speak English, that’s not the case at all here. This just really isn’t the job for you if you can’t communicate effectively with your customers.)

3. Delivery Instructions & The Lack Of Accountability

I believe those who consistently ignore delivery instructions should be deactivated from the platform, but it takes a LOT for that to happen.

That last part about the delivery completion barriers? Yeah, my personal delivery instructions aren’t followed about 75% of the time when I order Walmart grocery delivery for myself. It’s unacceptable, in my opinion.

If a driver screws up and leaves a grocery order in the wrong location, they’re not just potentially compromising a single meal. They could be compromising an entire month’s worth of meals for some people.

If they cannot communicate effectively with their customer, they cannot guarantee a proper delivery. That’s just a reality of the job.

I almost thought I should put these up in my neighborhood, but they’d undoubtedly be ignored too. Photo by Jamie Templeton on Unsplash

I could go on for days about my various experiences with my own Walmart+ deliveries. I keep my instructions very clear, understandable, and specific. To keep it vague here, it’s something like:

“The entrance to my parking lot is on X Street, between 4th Street and 5th Street. It’s the only entrance on the block. Drive up the parking lot and I’ll meet you outside. Please do not leave the order on the other side of the building as this is the only accessible entrance and this customer is disabled.”

This customer meaning my husband, who is usually the one who grabs the grocery order outside, with a folding cart.

Our building takes up the entire block and the entrance I described is quite literally (and obviously, upon seeing it) the only one that takes you to a parking lot.

Regardless of the reason for my particular delivery instructions, I do believe they are easy to follow and could follow them myself if given them. I’ve followed far more confusing ones than that.

I believe those who consistently ignore delivery instructions should be deactivated from the platform, but it takes a LOT for that to happen.

For instance, we had a driver blatantly ignore our instructions and then call me to tell me he was at the entrance. I told him he was on the wrong side of the building.

He couldn’t follow the directions I was giving him while watching him via GPS, and he couldn’t figure out what I was talking about despite me giving him street names and telling him exactly where to go.

He literally only had to go around the block. Couldn’t do it.

He drove past my husband and roommate twice while they were trying to flag him down, and then he called me again and said he was just leaving the groceries on the wrong side of the building.

The driver then put them right in front of an outward-swinging door at the top of a stone staircase. It quickly went from a huge inconvenience to a huge mess.

Contacting customer service did nothing aside from a refund, because that same driver delivered to us again very recently. It didn’t go quite as badly, but it still could have been a lot better.

Situations like the one I described above happen more frequently than can be easily quantified, of that I am almost positive. That is an unacceptable fact in a world where people, especially elderly people and those with disabilities, are relying on grocery delivery more than ever.

Which brings me to my next point — There is no real, solid system of accountability for drivers other than deactivation for their customer rating being too low, which would obviously happen if poor delivery service were a chronic issue. But me reporting that driver to customer service for that incident likely did nothing, and there’s no way to know for sure.

There isn’t anywhere in the app that shows customer feedback or warns drivers of specifically weak areas in their delivery service. The only thing drivers are shown are their on time arrival, drop rate, customer rating and acceptance rating numbers.

Accountability and professionalism are so important, even in delivery, and it’s a shame that even Spark doesn’t realize that. The bar for Spark’s driver standards is so low and I don’t mean limbo.

4. Walmart Orders Are Often Shopped by Drivers

This is called Shopping & Delivery, and Walmart doesn’t tell you if your order is being shopped by a driver or a store associate.

Why would this matter?

I’ve gotten some atrocious produce that shouldn’t have even been on the shelves, and I’ve also gotten some that was decent. It’s really just a toss up.

Store associates are obviously paid hourly. Spark drivers are paid per order. That means that when your Spark driver is shopping for your order themselves, their goal is to get in and out as fast as possible. Store associates are there until the end of their shift regardless.

Some drivers don’t spend much time looking for quality item substitutions, quality fresh produce items, or put much care into how your groceries are bagged. This is not only because of their own desire to get in and out of the store as fast as possible to maximize their own profit, but because shopping & delivery orders are timed by the Spark Driver App.

Personally, my own philosophy on Walmart shopping & delivery orders is to pick items I’d choose for myself and mark an item as unavailable if there’s not a quality option among them. I wouldn’t want a squishy tomato, brown lettuce or bag of bruised apples, and I assume no one else would either.

A neatly stocked produce section at Walmart, which is obviously a photo from Walmart Corporate

But again, I know not everyone puts this level of care into it because I’m both a Spark contractor and a Walmart delivery customer. I’ve personally gotten some atrocious produce that shouldn’t have even been on the shelves, and I’ve also gotten some that was decent. It’s really just a toss up.

Of course, there are customer ratings to care about, but again — you don’t really even know who shopped your order. If your driver didn’t shop the order, the store associate did.

In that case, the driver merely showed up at the pickup and delivery area like you would if you were picking up your own order, so they’re not responsible for the quality of the items you receive.

So, could you give the driver a poor rating for your inedible asparagus when they may not be at fault? Sure, but they may not even know there’s a problem.

5. Substitutions…Or Not?

The Spark Driver app doesn’t always allow an adequate substitution, even when you, the customer, has allowed substitutions in your order and a perfect one is staring the driver right in the face. Without getting into all of the many ways that the Spark Driver app is flawed, I will say that this is a BIG one.

At random intervals, the app may or may not let the substituted item be added. If it doesn’t, it’ll say “department mismatch” and tell me to pick another item from the same department as the cream cheese. Well, I definitely didn’t go get it from the toy section, but I digress.

Just for example, if you order plain Philadelphia whipped cream cheese and it’s out of stock, I’d likely try to substitute the Great Value brand since those are the main two sold there. It would probably first offer me three or four options that may or may not be acceptable depending on flavor, etc.

Bagels that definitely didn’t come from Walmart, Photo by Vicky Ng on Unsplash

You could have had cream cheese for your bagels, but because of a clunky and poorly designed app you now have to go shop for it yourself.

I use my brain. If I just grabbed you some blueberry bagels, I’m going to assume you don’t want chive & onion cream cheese as a substitute for plain. The app will offer it anyway. I’ll hit the “can’t find substitution” button until either an acceptable choice comes up or it asks me to add my own, at which point I would try to add the Great Value whipped cream cheese.

Sometimes the app may not let the substituted item be added. If it doesn’t, it’ll say “department mismatch” and tell me to pick another item from the same department as the cream cheese. Well, I definitely didn’t run over and grab it from the toy section, but I digress.

At that point, the only real option is to select the “No Substitution Found” option, put the cream cheese back, and move on to the next item. You could have had cream cheese for your bagels, but because of a clunky and poorly designed app you now have to go shop for it yourself.

It’s not a driver flaw, but something that could make a difference in your order if it’s being shopped by a driver. I don’t know exactly how substitutions work when your order is shopped by a store employee, but I am willing to bet they have more power over substitutions and the ability to ask a manager to help if not.

Spark drivers don’t. Sure, we could call the support line and wait for someone who has no clue what we’re talking about to put us on hold for 10 minutes just to come back and tell us he has no clue, but that’s not gonna happen. Like, ever.

6. Nobody’s On The Same Page About New Programs

Poorly planned deals, promotions, and programs directly contribute to mass confusion, little guidance, and little (if any) help from designated support systems. All in the name of sales and convenience for the customer.

As Spark drivers, we regularly see new programs being implemented in the Walmart+ pickup and delivery program. These programs, whether temporary or permanent, are usually geared toward saving the customer time and/or money.

What they don’t do is make anything easier for drivers or the associates working in the pickup and delivery department.

It only makes sense that your delivery is only as successful as the system behind it is organized.

For example, this past holiday season Walmart ran a “Deals for Days” promotion that left approximately no one involved in the logistics of it with any holiday spirit. I saw pickup and delivery associates working outside in shipping containers — in freezing temperatures.

The reason? They were assembling massive Deals for Days orders in large, opaque gift bags, and there was nowhere in the store to do it. These orders were almost never ready for Spark drivers upon arrival despite anything the app said, with many drivers left waiting over an hour to pick up a single batch of 10+ orders including 55" TVs and anything else usually on sale for Black Friday.

The bane of my existence via Walmart Corporate

It was a giant mess. Associates were clearly frustrated and at their limit, drivers too because we had to not only wait in a mostly unpaid state for these massive orders, but we also had to then scan them into the app one bag at a time. Then, we’d spend an hour or more delivering the items.

Half of the time the store associates wouldn’t know where to send drivers for Deals for Days pickups, and the other half of the time it was in a different place than it was last time.

Poorly planned deals, promotions, and programs directly contribute to mass confusion, little guidance, and little (if any) help from designated support systems.

Add to that broken items due to not being able to move or pack them correctly thanks to these obnoxious gift bags, the bags themselves ripping, drivers not being able to tell if anything is missing inside of the bags with multiple items, and you’ve got a perfect holiday storm.

All in the name of sales and convenience for the customer.

It’s like Walmart Corporate thinks up these programs, sends promotional materials to the stores and says, “Well, you better just figure it out!” And that’s that. Thanks, guys.

Six Tips for More Successful Deliveries

Now that you know the six most likely reasons why your deliveries have been unsatisfactory, allow me to be your guide into making them as successful as you possibly can.

You can’t prevent every mishap, but there are six that can be prevented by a little pre-planning on your part as well. Some of these may be obvious to many of you, but I’m telling you anyway because I still see many of these preventable issues popping up all over the world of delivery.

1. Delivery Drivers Do Not Have Superhuman Strength, Okay?

The first and most universally ignored rule of grocery delivery is to remember that your delivery person is human, not some bionic creature with unlimited strength to carry your twenty 40-count cases of bottled water or five 35-lb bins of cat litter to your 3rd floor walk up. Tip amount be damned.

This also applies to large amounts of soda and anything else that you really wouldn’t want to carry yourself. Sure, order it — but in reasonable amounts, for the love of God.

If you’re a Walmart+ member there is almost no reason you can’t just have more delivered when you need it. Again, we’re humans. Humans that likely have other delivery customers to serve once we are finished delivering your order. Please don’t completely wear us out just so you don’t have to take two minutes to order more bottled water in a week or two.

2. Location, Location, Location

This is a BIG one. If you prefer your deliveries to be no-contact, have a safe and convenient place for your driver to leave your groceries. It seems like an obvious one, but if you order 15 pieces of poster board in the middle of a thunderstorm and tell me to leave it at your door which is not located under a covered porch — wish granted. You get soggy poster board!

3. Speaking of Weather…

If you live in an area that has snow or ice and you decide to order groceries, you have the responsibility to make sure your driver can get your order to your door — or back to the store it goes! Shovel your sidewalk and your driveway, and throw some ice melt down.

Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

If it’s a situation where you’re ordering for your grandma who desperately needs something and doesn’t have any snow or ice removed, SAY THAT in the instructions! Most drivers I know wouldn’t leave anyone’s grandma to starve. We understand that emergency situations can happen and we’re usually happy to help. Leaving a nice tip also doesn’t hurt, if you can afford to.

But ordering any kind of delivery service during especially snowy weather is a dick move if your intentions are to let the driver trek through knee-high snow to bring it to you while you stand there in your pajamas and watch us through the window.

Yeah, we see you. Nice bunny slippers!

4. Apartment Buildings and Gated Communities

If you live in an apartment building of any kind, provide instructions for your driver. Period! Want your order delivered to your apartment door and a code is needed to get past the main door? Instructions. Live in a complex with multiple buildings? Instructions, instructions, instructions.

Think back to the first time you laid eyes on your current place. Was anything confusing about it to you? Was anything hard to find, or did you find yourself feeling like you needed a map?

We don’t live there, you do, and chances are if you felt that way the first time, we may feel that way too!

Helping your driver know where to go decreases your chances that they’re going to give up and leave your order somewhere it doesn’t belong. As you read above in my own delivery story, it’s not a foolproof solution. But it helps!

That brings me to gated communities. For the love of all that is holy, if you live in a gated community you NEED to provide us a way to get past the gate.

Don’t tell us to follow someone else in and risk damaging our vehicle, let alone make your driver sit there and wait for someone else to open a gate for your own order!

If there’s a code, provide it. If you’re not allowed to provide it, drive to the gate and accept your groceries there.

5. Tip Baiting is Never Okay — Ever

Tip baiting, the act of adding a large pre-tip to an order just to remove it after delivery for no particular reason other than that you’re a cheap ass and wanted your order ASAP, is cruel. It’s also largely unnecessary with Walmart delivery!

Photo by Kai Bossom on Unsplash

This doesn’t mean it’s not acceptable to remove a tip for a valid reason. That’s why the option to modify your tip is there. You can add more if your delivery went super well and you think the driver deserved a larger tip for their exceptional service, just like you can reduce or remove the tip if your service was abysmal.

With most delivery services, acceptance rate is not a huge deal so many drivers decline orders that they deem not worth their time. It’s a more important metric for Spark, so we are more inclined to take orders that we don’t necessarily love the dollar signs on in order to keep our acceptance rate up and the orders rolling in.

Spark also has a tendency to pay better on many orders whereas companies like DoorDash — whose CEO, Tony Xu, earned the affectionate nickname Two-Dollar Tony — rely mostly on customer tips to pay their drivers. This makes higher tipped orders more likely to be picked up sooner.

Spark isn’t perfect, but in my experience it definitely pays better. That’s the difference!

If you can’t afford to tip, then just don’t. It’s really okay! Of course we all prefer tips and it’s just customary to provide them for good service, but I also know there are those on a tight budget and people who utilize EBT that can’t always afford the added expense.

I’ve had multiple repeat customers. You better believe I’d remember someone who tip baited me and never deliver to them again.

6. Communication is Key

If you are expecting a delivery, any delivery, and your phone rings — answer IT! None of us want to chit chat with you about the weather, we’re calling for delivery purposes. Whether its a delay, directions, or anything else that could pop up — if we’re calling you, its because it’s necessary.

With Walmart being headquartered in Arkansas, Spark driver numbers are typically masked as phone numbers from the Bentonville area with a (479) area code. If we try to contact you and you don’t respond, your delivery may not arrive as expected. We tried to tell you so!

What To Do When Something Goes Wrong With Your Delivery

Whether you’re missing an item or two, your order didn’t show up at all, your service was unsatisfactory or your item replacements were not up to par, getting refunded is really as simple as going back to the Walmart app or website and starting a return.

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

If you’re unsure of how to do this, you can contact their support team via live chat. My experience with live chat has always been great, and they’ve always resolved my issues quickly.

EBT refunds typically happen faster than those to debit and credit cards, with EBT refunds being received within 24 hours. Debit and credit can take up to 5 business days, I believe.

The End of Our Journey Together

I hope this article has helped you to understand a little more about what goes on behind the scenes with Walmart delivery, and maybe make the process a little bit less of a mystery to you.

I know I definitely had no idea how any of it worked before I became a Spark driver last year. Knowing more about both sides has given me a greater respect for the process as a whole, as well as improving my delivery and customer service skills for my wonderful Walmart customers.

Adi Cat is a writer, gig worker, parent, wife, logical thinker, and frequent daydreamer. She attended the Florida Institute of Technology for Business Administration & Management and has owned several small businesses over the past decade. She spent nearly three decades trying to fit into the world before being diagnosed with ADHD & OCD and now completely understands the square-peg-round-hole analogy.

Adi is sharp-tongued and fluent in several “languages” including sarcasm, pissy political commentary, arguing, and yelling at the steering wheel during rush hour traffic because, of course, no one else knows how to drive.

You can find Adi (and her cats) on Instagram and Twitter.

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Adi Cat

Adi Cat

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Mother to one human and two cats, wife to an awesome and supportive man. Lover of words, food, and stirring the pot. LGBTQ+ and body positive. IG: @adimeows