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Maurer’s Market, 2822 E. Milwaukee St., Janesville, has started a phone-in grocery-ordering service.

JANESVILLE

It might be among the lower-tech things grocer Jeff Maurer has done in years, and it might not ever be a cash cow for Maurer’s Market.

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In what is a true throwback—an amenity once offered to grocery shoppers when people’s telephones hung on the wall in the kitchen—Maurer’s Market has unveiled a phone-in grocery-ordering service.

Customers of the market, 2822 E. Milwaukee St., now can call the store and talk to a manager, who will fill out a grocery order by hand. Employees then will fill the order and deliver it to the customer’s home.

Maurer said the service is for customers who can’t or don’t drive and can’t—or don’t want to bother with—ordering groceries using an electronic app. It’s designed specifically for senior citizens who are disabled or are shut-ins.

“I was talking to a couple of different senior living centers, and there’s a lot of those people that just don’t like computers or don’t have computers,” he said. “For them, doing online shopping is extremely difficult.”

Maurer said he believes his market is the first local grocery store in years to offer phone-in delivery. The service went by the wayside years ago mostly because of labor costs.

Maurer’s Market has offered grocery delivery in the past, and Maurer’s and other stores offer online shopping through an app, which customers use to enter their grocery lists and let store employees shop for them.

The new system operates the same way the app does, except that employees take orders over the phone. The store even keeps a record of past purchases.

The phone orders can be simple or complex, depending on what the customer wants.

“We will ask a lot of questions, like you say you want a can of green beans. We are probably going to say, ‘Well, do you want salted or unsalted?’ You know, that kind of thing. So then it’s back and forth, you know, what size can? Eight ounces or 16 ounces? Twenty-four ounces?”

The Maurer’s Market in Wisconsin Dells has run a similar system for years. Janesville’s store might have some challenges linked to scale, but he said the system has worked fine in smaller communities.

Maurer said the service will help him with “brand-building,” creating a positive image for one of the newer players in the Janesville grocery market.

So far, it has drawn a handful of orders a week.

Maurer’s Market doesn’t expect the service to turn a profit because it’s free and has labor and transportation costs that can’t be offset.

“When you add the time and the labor to make the delivery and have that employee on the phone and processing these orders, it’s just not going to be profitable at all,” he said.

“But it is going to fill a void, I think, for those people who just can’t do online shopping and can’t get out. So that’s why we’re doing this. It’s the right thing to do.”

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