Coronavirus update for business: Puppy scam warning, Woolies goes checkout-free and Ministers consider post-pandemic innovation


Ciao to the checkout

Woolworths is accelerating its shift towards checkout-free shopping in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, the company revealed it had expanded its Scan & Go trials to 15 stores.

Woolworths made headlines last year with the first iteration of the checkout-free concept, which has been touted as the future of supermarket shopping.

Amazon has found success with checkout-free supermarkets in the United States, having been an early mover on the technology in 2018.

Innovation opportunities

Karen Andrews, Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, has hosted a meeting of state innovation and technology ministers, to consider the “unique opportunity to collectively lift the digital capability of Australian business”, particularly post-COVID-19.

A statement from the Department of Industry called the video gathering “the inaugural National Meeting of Digital Economy and Technology Ministers”, and the ministers collectively agreed to create a formal group to promote digital economy and tech policies in their respective remits.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked various digital solutions, from fintech solutions to remote working tools and education technology. At the same time, the statement suggests adoption of digital tools can save businesses up to 10 hours a week, and boost revenues by up to 27%.

“Ministers agreed that Australia’s recovery and future economy relies on our collective ability to capture and sustain this step change,” the statement said.

It may have been merely a meeting about setting up a group to consider opportunities for change. But, given the federal government’s track record for tech, we’d say this is a step in the right direction.

Paws for thought

The ACCC’s Scamwatch has witnessed a spike in puppy scams in April, with almost five times the usual amount of fraudulent floof vendors reported.

Australians have apparently been conned out of almost $300,000 through puppy-related scams in 2020 so far. That’s compared to $360,000 lost in the whole of 2019.

Scammers will ask for upfront payment for pups, before also demanding inflated transport costs for crossing interstate borders and additional fees for ‘coronavirus treatments’.

“A lot of people are stuck at home and going online to buy a pet to help them get through the loneliness of social isolation,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.

“Unfortunately the rush to get a new pet and the unusual circumstances of COVID-19 makes it harder to work out what’s real or a scam,” she added.

“Scam websites can look quite convincing, so try not to fall for the adorable puppy pictures they post, and remember, if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Pizza the action

An absolutely wild story has emerged about a pizza shop owner in the US who has been buying his own pizzas from delivery platform DoorDash — at a profit.

As we’ve seen in Australia, DoorDash has this terribly annoying habit of listing restaurants on its platform without their agreement, and sending in a driver to pay and pickup food inconspicuously.

As the economic fallout of COVID-19 bites, such sneaky tactics are even more unwelcome.

Well, one pizza shop owner decided to turn the tables on the delivery giant, after realising DoorDash were charging $16 dollars for dishes he charged $24 for.

Over a period of a few weeks the business owner and a friend successfully ordered dozens of pizzas off the platform. While he paid $16, DoorDash was paying his business $24, ultimately making him hundreds of dollars.

NOW READ: COVID-19: A state-by-state guide to hospitality restrictions

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