COVID, Self-Isolation and Grocery Services during a Relocation to Canada

All Points has notified our clients of our COVID related services for some time now, right back to the origination of the ArriveCan App. But while we have been delivering the below service for some time now, we realized, we never fully explained the whys and wherefores of the service. So here it is. Your 101 on grocery services.

Why do we offer grocery services?

  • COVID made it necessary. Employees must go into quarantine for a total of 14 days, and they need to satisfy Canada Border Security that they have a successful quarantine plan.  Without the ability to feed themselves, you cannot satisfy CBSA that you have a successful plan, and the transferee is NOT ALLOWED to leave their home at all, even for food. If you are unable to satisfy CBSA that you have a successful self-isolation plan, you may be sent to a government site for the duration of the quarantine period, or not accepted entry.
  • We thought that Grocery Stores’ own Online Delivery Plans would help fill the need, but many food delivery services do not accept international credit cards.

Even if the international credit card works, there are a) the logistics of getting food to the property prior to the employee’s arrival AND into the room. If ordered after arrival, while some concierges will bring food to a doorway after the employee arrives, many concierges know which rooms are in quarantine and will not allow any visitors to go up to the room at all (and the employee is not allowed to exit the room, technically at all), and b) transferees seemed to find it challenging to anticipate what they would need to survive 14 days in quarantine. They did not think about certain main staples such cooking oil and spices, or laundry detergent and dish soap – things that are sometimes provided by the Temporary Accommodation, but in limited supply.

But why do you charge more than the Grocery Store Delivery Services?

I need to assure our readers that we do not make money on grocery pick-up and delivery services.  Grocery stores charge as low as $55, but remember, they are earning money on the food purchased. We are not.

Here is what else we are doing for the fee:

  • Through bitter experience we have developed a list of basics that transferees tend to forget.  We buy these no matter what, and we give this list to the transferee to add to.
  • We help the employee curate a list based on local availability and needs, dietary restrictions and preferences of the transferee and family.
  • We conduct a full review, based on our experience of the returned list, and ensure that the quantity of food makes sense for the family size and the duration of the stay.  Many employees underestimate this, and we return to them making recommendations. Your local grocery store does not do that.  
  • We will prompt the transferee if we feel like they have forgotten an essential item or if we need clarification on a certain item (i.e., pasta/rice — which type?)
  • We work with the employee to determine an appropriate budget for the size of family and current market prices.
  • Families obviously need more items than a couple – this may result in our consultant needing to shop the store twice with 2 grocery carts full (these are really, really full carts).

Then we start travelling:

  • We coordinate with our destination consultant to head out to the grocery store in advance of the transferee’s arrival. Due to current COVID capacity restrictions line-ups to get into stores are not uncommon (less likely) and line ups to check out can be very long (frequent).
  • Logistically speaking, we must line up the grocery pick-up with the delivery date, because we do not have means of refrigeration, unlike the grocery stores.
  • We shop in person so that our shopper will be sure to choose the best quality product available (within the guidelines of the list).
  • Substitutions may happen depending on the availability of the product- the shopper will ensure to make equivalent substitutions.
  • We put the grocery bill on our credit card, track the record and proceed to account for this internally as a transferee paid expense.
  • The delivery is brought right into the temporary accommodation unit, put into the fridge and freezer. Items will be put in the appropriate places to ensure freshness upon arrival. In many cases, this requires administrative coordination with the temporary accommodation facility (which we may or may not have chosen) to gain entry to the building and the unit.

Finally:

  • We collect payment for the groceries: very few employers pay for these groceries. They pay for the service but make the employees responsible for their grocery costs.  This means that we are collecting from the transferee, but only after they have been able to set up a Canadian bank account and have been paid, which may be 30 days after their arrival/grocery delivery.

So, that is everything we do with our grocery service. We hope this helped you understand why it is an important service, in the context of COVID, CBSA agents and isolation plans. We also hope you understand that our fees for all our actions taken are set to cover our costs, not for profit. We would be happy to discuss further if required. Please contact us about any of our COVID specific actions taken in service of your transferees.

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