Throughout the year we’ve been sharing customers’ stories about their favourite Asda delivery drivers and how they've been helping them through the pandemic – including Geoff Norris who arranged a special 90th birthday surprise for Eileen Hamilton after hearing she would otherwise have spent the big day on her own.
Geoff and Eileen are among the colleagues and customers in this video introducing our Delivering Christmas Kindness initiative.
As part of it, our delivery drivers will have the option of wearing a ‘Happy to Chat’ badge to let customers who may otherwise be lonely or isolated know they have time for them.
Research shows our Delivering Christmas Kindness initiative is needed now more than ever. According to the Royal Voluntary Service, nearly two-thirds of people are experiencing loneliness, with over 39% unable to see friends and family, and a quarter left without any support nearby. Our own study found that a quarter of people are only interacting with people once a week – many of whom will be delivery drivers.
Home shopping driver Geoff, who's based at our Wisbech store, is one of our delivery drivers getting behind the scheme.
Geoff, who was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his support for the community during the lockdown, said: “I think the campaign is fantastic. As a driver I count the customers as friends and some of these customers don’t get to see anybody all week at the moment.
"Christmas can be a very lonely time – even more so this year – so if we can make someone’s day a little bit better by just having a little chat I think it’s an absolutely fantastic thing to do."
Geoff says he was delighted to take part in the video launching the Delivering Christmas Kindness initiative.
"When I was asked if I’d like to take part in the video I leapt at the chance,“ he said. "Chatting to customers for just a few minutes does make their day – I know this from personal experience. They look forward to you coming, and it’s not just the elderly or the vulnerable ... it’s everyone!
"It’s just chatting about the weather or how’s their week been, that sort of thing. We’re not going into politics or anything, it's just general chitchat. It’s outside company that people do need as the normal social gatherings just don’t exist at the moment.
"Us going up to somebody’s door and talking to them means so much to them. You don’t know how much it means until you see their reaction and then you see them the next week literally at the curtains waiting for you to turn up."
Colin Bone, a delivery driver based at our Broadstairs store, is also supporting the initiative.
Colin's been going out of his way to put smiles on people's faces over recent months, dressing up as Batman, Spiderman – and now a Christmas turkey – to spread a little happiness.
Colin featured on our Facebook page when regular customer Sarah McCarthy called him a true superhero after he turned up on the doorstep dressed as Batman – much to the delight of two-year-old daughter Ivy, who's being treated for leukaemia.
Sarah said: "I think it's a really lovely idea to have that badge to say 'I'm here, we can have a chat' because some people might not want to take up their time."
Colin checks in on many of his regular customers and says all he wants to do is make his customers feel happy by the time he leaves.
He said: “Having a chat with your customers is a good thing – it makes you think that you are useful to them and appreciated. A lot of people do appreciate what we are doing.
“I’ve been delivering to a lady who's been having chemotherapy and she said to me that it was nice that our drivers come to see her and have a chat. For some people we are the only people that they see. Having a chat with a friendly face just makes their day.
"I just want to put a smile on people’s faces when I leave them with their shopping. You build up a good rapport with some of your customers and they treat you as if you’re part of their family."
Elesha Moses, who joined the home shopping team at our Farnborough store during the lockdown, is another of our delivery drivers who's looking forward to delivering kindness as well as groceries this Christmas.
She said: "The other day I delivered to an elderly customer and when I arrived and started to get the shopping out she opened the living room window and started to talk to me. We just talked about how she was and what she’d been doing, general stuff. She hadn’t left her house since February! She talks to her grandkids over FaceTime, but it’s just not the same as seeing someone face to face. She said she hardly chatted to anyone expect myself or the others drivers. We are, sadly, the only people some people do see at the moment.
“When I’m talking to customers I just like to reassure them that things will get back to normal and we will come out of it. I like to make them feel positive about things.
“I think our new campaign is great – it’s such a lovely touch. Some people may think that we are too busy to talk to them, but if we are wearing badges and they can see that then I think that will help.
“It’s not just the elderly or the vulnerable either that don’t get to chat, it's people who live on their own in flats or are single parents. I’d be the same I think if I was on my own – I would be looking forward to having a friendly face coming round!"
Other colleagues in our stores and depots will also be helping deliver kindness this Christmas. Our community champions will be working with local school children to create Christmas cards for local care homes and those isolated in the community. Special post boxes will be available in larger stores for customers wishing to get involved. Virtual community networking events are also being hosted to bring those that are isolated together to share tips and advice.
Many of our delivery drivers have gone out of their way to help customers this year – like Paul from our Wigan store who went back to the store to ensure two-year-old Amelia got the Frozen 2 cupcake mix she wanted:
Dan from our Fareham store made sure one of his regular elderly customers never felt alone during the lockdown, telling him to ring him on his mobile whenever he needs a chat.
Damian from our Swindon Haydon store made sure that four-year-old Amarii got the football he really wanted while he was self-isolating:
And Elaine from our Taunton store dressed up in a cape and colourful outfits to make people smile on her deliveries:
Our chief customer officer, Anna-Maree Shaw, said: "It’s a challenging time for everyone, especially those experiencing loneliness. While Asda colleagues have always made an effort to have a quick chat and raise a smile, we want to make sure that whether it’s in our stores, at the doorstep or in the community, we’re here for customers this Christmas."
Sam Ward, Deputy CEO/Director of Services at Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Royal Voluntary Service is incredibly proud to be part of such a wonderful initiative alongside Asda. We all understand that Christmas can be difficult for those who are on their own and that this year stands to be trickier than ever. With the help of this fantastic project, it shows that even just a little Christmas kindness will go a long way in making the festive season easier for those in need."
Delivering Christmas Kindness: If you would like to help deliver kindness this Christmas, visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk to find out how you can help in your community.