The real reason your Whole Foods delivery time might get stolen

With stay-at-home orders in place during the pandemic, the demand for grocery delivery from Whole Foods has been at an all-time high. This has consequently meant that people, especially those in bigger cities, have not been able to find open delivery slots for days (or even weeks) at a time. But those who are more tech-savvy have found a way to cut in front of the line — checkout bots.

What are checkout bots? They are automated computer programs that allow their users to claim Whole Foods delivery time slots that open up. Computer programmers have created these bots, which automate, and thus speed up, the sign-up process, reload, and track a delivery slot for you. An example is one that comes in the form of a Google Chrome extension, called "First in Line." Extensions like this one work like mini-applications to improve the efficacy of your browser, and therefore giving you an advantage when it comes to ordering grocery delivery. The purpose of this particular extension is to refresh your Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Market checkout page and alert you when a delivery window opens up (via Eat This, Not That!).

Who might be losing their Whole Foods delivery times?

Checkout bots have been commonly used for purchasing items such as limited-edition sneakers or concert tickets, but now that grocery delivery slots have been hard to nab, these bots have made their way to essential items, such as food. This development has people concerned that people who are less knowledgeable about technology, such as the elderly who don't utilize these bots, will be at a disadvantage.

Manfong, the developer of a Chrome extension that notifies its users when a grocery delivery slot is up for grabs, admitted to Motherboard that his creation does give "an unfair advantage over others who aren't tech-savvy but may still need to purchase items urgently." The developer stated that there were measures in place to stop abuse of the extension, such as a refresh time of 15 to 20 seconds, which is actually significantly slower than the manual refresh time of one to two seconds. Manfong also shared that the tool's page has a disclaimer to warn people not to abuse it and to help those in need.

How Amazon is going to address grocery delivery demand

Manfong's bot is not the only one out there. Pooja Ahuja, a data scientist, recently released her own bot to the public. Her tool not only looks for a free delivery window on Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh, but also secures it and checkouts automatically, according to Motherboard.

Amazon spoke up to the publication about what it is going to do to address the scarcity of delivery slots. A spokesperson stated that the company's primary focus is increasing its delivery availability by expanding grocery pick-up, increasing hiring, designating select stores to fulfill delivery orders exclusively, and releasing a new queueing feature soon. This feature, which will supposedly come in the coming weeks, will allow customers to hold a virtual place in line to shop and schedule delivery and create a more "equitable distribution of delivery windows."

As COVID-19 continues to be an issue in the U.S., people will presumably keep on using these checkout bots to claim grocery delivery windows, meaning those who don't download and implement these extensions may find it even more difficult to get necessary food items delivered to their homes.