A grocery deliverer who’s not a fan of grocery shopping? Well, that’s only when he’s shopping for himself. But when CBE Delivery Service owner, Chuck Elliott (or Uncle Chuck to his beloved customers), shops for his clients, he’ll go to other towns, cities, and on long discovery trips to gather exactly what they need. And he does it in one of his 20 out-of-this-world suits designed for all holidays, seasons, and to spark joy in customers.
“I’ve been in sales and marketing for over 30 years and got my MBA in 2012 cause everyone wanted an MBA at the time, a bachelor’s wasn’t enough,” Chuck explains, “And prior to Shipt, I was a general manager for a fireplace and indoor heating business, but my store and my position were eliminated in January 2018.”
That’s when his wife, Dawn, and a friend recommended Shipt to make side money until he found a new full-time job. Within a few weeks, he fell in love with helping grocery delivery customers, and eventually, “I became one of their top shoppers not only in the Grand Rapids, Michigan Metro, but in the nation,” he says.
Yet the Shipt pandemic path changed how Chuck saw his opportunities for growth. “It was becoming quite evident that Shipt wasn’t caring for shoppers as much as they used to and we were becoming just a number to them and there had been rumors floating down that we were going to face a second pay cut in two years later in January 2022,” he explains.
At the end of January 2022, he decided to part ways with Shipt and start CBE Delivery Service because Dumpling kept popping up as a good Shipt and Instacart alternative. But a bit of research into Dumpling and he still had a few questions for the Dumpling team like:
– Is there person-to-person support for shoppers?
– What do I do when I have an issue with an order or in my business?
– How does Dumpling support me as a business owner?
– What’s your catalog of stores and number of retailers?
– What’s your catalog of items and/or store inventory?
“And I’m not the type of person to jump into something without looking, and I did a lot of research into Dumpling and saw they were a younger company, but had a solid platform, and actually cared not only for the customers, but also for the business owners,” Chuck explains, “And I called up Dumpling and talked to them, and together, Dawn and I made the decision to dive in and start our own company.”
Dawn, who has a full-time position outside of Dumpling, brought over 20 years of restaurant industry and accounting experience plus her astounding creativity, “then it just naturally fell in between his marketing and my creative part of me,” she says.
“And granted, we don’t always see eye to eye, especially since I’m 14 inches taller than her,” says Chuck, “[But] I do not have a creative bone in my body so we knew that if this was going to be a successful business, I’d need Dawn’s creative expertise cause she’s phenomenal with it, and she developed our Facebook page, business cards, thank you cards, and we’ve been going at it ever since [the end of January 2022].”
A Major Shift from Shipt to a Service Nobody Else in the Area Could Provide
The fact that they could talk to a real person at Dumpling before they even partnered was a vast change from the 30- to 45-minute wait times, confused employees, and sometimes false information they dealt with at Shipt when Chuck was one of their top shoppers in the country.
In his move to Dumpling, Chuck saw about a third of his customers follow him to the new platform and was careful about handling the switch. “I didn’t want to violate the user agreement with Shipt and I ethically didn’t feel right in saying, ‘Hey, dump Shipt, and come to me,’ so I created a video and shared it with my customers on Facebook and through email,” Chuck explains.
In the video, he went through why he was building his own grocery delivery business, and said, “I’m not asking you to come. If you choose to come, it’s a voluntary choice, but this is what I can offer you, and I stressed the number of stores. I stressed that they’re paying true store prices instead of the huge markups that Shipt and Instacart and DoorDash charge,” he says.
“And I also stressed the fact that they’re always going to have me as their shopper because where Shipt has gone now, even though you may have a customer labeled as a preferred member, there’s not a 100 percent guarantee you’re going to get their order now,” Chuck adds, “And one of the big things clients love, too, is that they get the actual sales, BOGOs, and with Meijer, what’s called their mPerks rewards.” From the Dumpling swap, his customers also noticed anywhere from a 5% to 15% decrease in their grocery bills.
As he ramped up, Chuck loved that he had their incredible coaching staff plus two levels of support with Dumpling: weekly business hour calls and the SOS support program. “What turned me on was the SOS support program, and I’ve had to use that a few times where if you need additional funding on your card or the card isn’t working, you can use the SOS system and have someone respond back within 1 to 3 minutes, and the matter is usually resolved within 5 minutes,” explains Chuck.
One of the other major reasons he traded up to Dumpling was “that not only could I shop Meijer in Greenville, but also could do the Walmart and shop in Grand Rapids at Costco and Trader Joe’s and all these stores for my clientele,” explains Chuck.
It was a new advantage for his business to provide a service “that no one else can provide because you’re shopping the big city and the products they can’t find in a smaller town,” adds Dawn. And that came from using the larger amount of stores and inventoried items Dumpling offers.
His shopping schedule became more manageable, too, by working Monday through Saturday. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday mornings, he shops Grand Rapids stores for delivery to Greenville from 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Wednesdays and Thursdays, he shops Greenville stores from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Saturdays is 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM shopping in Greenville.
It’s that adaptable schedule, more ownership over his income, and pricing options that continues to make Dumpling a win for him. “Shipt charges anywhere from 19% to 24% on all items and of that, the shopper only sees maybe 3% to 5%, but with Dumpling, I control how much to charge my clients and I go with Dumpling’s recommended rate of 15% or $15, whichever is higher, with the exception of Meijer” explains Chuck.
“Cause I know the Dumpling platform fee kicks in, too, so I wanted to undercut Shipt and charged 12% for my orders, but the thing is I know that 12% or 15% is my income so if I want to earn more money, I need to keep a happy customer,” he adds.
Instead of making $10 to $12 on a $200 Shipt order, with Dumpling percentages of 12% to 15%, Chuck makes $24 to $30 per order; twice or more than he made at Shipt and that doesn’t even include the tips he receives on top of that.
Personality, Wild-and-Crazy Suits, and Communication That Seals the Delivery Deal
Because he was out shopping every day during their lockdown from early March to Memorial Day Weekend, the local newspaper’s Reader’s Choice Awards voted Chuck as best frontline worker, and he still sees results today.
“And people to this day, who I haven’t shopped for in over 2 years, cause they strictly used delivery during the pandemic, are still making comments about how impressed they were with the customer service and shopping experience they had, and I love taking care of my customers; I mean to me, with my repeat customers, they’re friends,” explains Chuck.
When it comes to overall success, he squarely believes in being the eyes and ears of his clients in the store. Plus, high-quality communication, customer service, true personality, and customer service (like hand-written thank you notes and Jolly Ranchers with each delivery).
“Now with Chuck, when he started out with Shipt, he hated to grocery shop, hated being in the store,” says Dawn, and even now, Chuck says he “gets in, gets out” when shopping for himself. It’s those families and friends he serves that motivate his attention to shopping detail and phenomenal customer experiences.
“When it comes to substitutions, Chuck is one of those people who is a constant communicator with any difference that’s on that shopping list, they’re going to get some kind of communication from him,” Dawn says, “And that’s one of the things we’ve heard repeatedly is the communication factor is huge and how much people appreciate that communication.”
A frustrating drawback with Shipt that crunched communication was their third-party texting app that was “notorious for going down,” but “With Dumpling, not only do you have the chat built into Dumpling’s app, but you have your client’s cell so you can always call or text,” says Chuck, “Or if you want to do an email blast, you have that available. The amount of communication available to the Dumpling business owner, it’s wonderful.”
Having amassed about 20 seasonal and fun-themed suits, including Kentucky Derby, Easter, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, July 4th, and Halloween, Chuck also creates impressions and smiles no matter where he shops.
Inspired by a previous mentor, Chuck gave the outfits a shot, and “everyone in my area loves it. I have dozens of people stop me in the store and take my picture and say, ‘I love your enthusiasm,’” he explains. Chuck still has a big following even though he left Shipt and still has people refer to him as Uncle Chuck due to his personality and style.
With the outrageous suits and his Dumpling business, he gets recognized and makes TikToks about his shopping experiences with his uncle.chuck account. And this all stemmed from a minimalist “jeans and t-shirt” guy when he met Dawn to now having a closet solely for suits.
Already Earning More with Fewer Orders with Dumpling
“With Shipt, I had to run 40 to 50 orders a week to make between $1,200 and $1,600,” says Chuck, “I was averaging between $25 to $30 an order with Shipt, but with Dumpling, I’m now averaging $46 an order and still building up clientele.” Currently, he has 22 repeat clients, 131 total clients, 160 orders completed, and is aiming to be back at $1,500 to $2,000 per week by the end of 2023.
If you’re considering starting your own grocery delivery business or partnership with Dumpling, Chuck offers strong thoughts: “Don’t be afraid to try something new and I go back to the crazy suits. It felt weird putting on it at first, but the feedback I got was so positive.”
“Matter of fact, there’s a gentleman in my store who mimics me, he tries, but he doesn’t have a creative wife like I do,” Chuck says, “Dawn gets all the credit for the creativity, not just the suits, but the Facebook page and all the promotional items that we’re getting ready to do.”
With their grocery delivery business, Chuck and Dawn strive to create a fun atmosphere and “again, it’s not just a delivery service, it’s an experience so Chuck developed a lot of friendships with these customers and he can joke around and laugh and have a good time, but still provide them with a professional service,” explains Dawn, “And that’s one of the things we incorporate into our jobs; I do it at my full-time job and he does it with his business and we make a fun environment.”