Finding a Better Way: McDonough Undergraduate Student Creates an Alert System for Grocery Delivery Time Slots

Adrian Hellen

Posted in COVID-19 News Story  |  Tagged , , , ,

“There’s gotta be a better way,” said Adrian Hertel (B’20), a frustrated consumer and one of many who are reporting weeks-long waits for grocery and pharmacy deliveries due to the COVID-19 crisis. Many are staying up through the night refreshing their browsers in the hope they will snag a coveted spot, but for many the wait persists. 

Hertel, a graduating senior at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, had recently moved home with his parents in New Jersey in the midst of the pandemic. In an effort to prevent the spread of infection, many states have implemented social distancing and self-isolation orders. His parents both have auto-immune diseases and have been following the state’s stay-at-home orders, but were still venturing out to grocery stores to get the necessities. 

Solving everyday problems with creative solutions

Hertel realized it was too risky for his family to continue in-store shopping, so he started looking into grocery delivery services. With the demand to find an open grocery delivery spot so high, he worried he was falling short. He knew there had to be a better way — so he created one.

“I had a problem in my own life, and it turns out a lot of other people had the same problem,” said Hertel. “From there, I used what I had to find a solution.”

Hertel developed a tool using AppleScript that automatically notifies consumers by sending an alert when an Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods delivery slot opens up. The tool works on Mac computers in the Safari web browser, and anyone can set it up themselves with a little bit of patience and time.

An operations and information management (OPIM) major and computer science minor, Hertel drew on his internship, classroom, and real-life experiences to develop this tool that has impacted the lives of his parents and many others.

“During these uncertain times, the university has encouraged students to take what we’ve learned and use our skills and passions to help others,” he said.

Community impact beyond the classroom

Talia Schatz, director of the McDonough Undergraduate Career Development Center, worked closely with Hertel on creating a strategy around his post-grad job search. When he told her about the tool, she thought it would be a fantastic way to help his community and also prove to employers that he was able to use his sophisticated business skills for good. 

“I think this has impacted our McDonough undergraduate community in very positive ways,” said Schatz. “Adrian’s story illustrates how our students can leverage the skills they’ve been learning in the classroom to find creative solutions to today’s problems.”

Hertel appreciates that Georgetown has anchored its Jesuit values with compassion during this crisis. He noted that even though students remain physically apart from one another, they are still fostering a global connection by finding creative ways to help their friends, families, and neighbors. 

“As we all move online, this tool has given me the opportunity to impact more than just my immediate surroundings,” said Hertel.

Making the tool accessible

When developing the code for the program, Hertel wanted to ensure it was accessible and easy to use for everyone — even those with no experience in computer science. Anyone who would like to use the tool on their own Mac computer can find step-by-step instructions on Hertel’s GitHub page.

“I wanted to make an already stressful time a little less stressful,” he said.

This isn’t Hertel’s first entrepreneurial endeavor. The 23-year-old has started and sold a company, written a book, completed an entrepreneurial fellowship, and had internships working with Wal-Mart e-commerce and startup tech companies.

Although his first love is computer science, he knew he wanted to explore entrepreneurship from an early age. Hertel was unsure how to merge the two until he came to McDonough, which allowed him to hone his entrepreneurial skills while also sharpening his computer science expertise. From there, he was able to discover a symbiotic relationship between business and technology that he feels adequately prepares him to seek out solutions to everyday problems.

“McDonough offers a space for students interested in both business and tech, so I never felt like I had to choose one over the other,” said Hertel. 

Exploring the next phase of his career and the tool

Hertel’s GitHub page has received overwhelming support from his peers who have worked collaboratively with him to fix bugs and enhance the tool. People have even been reaching out to offer donations, but Hertel instead asks people to consider donating to charities that help communities affected by COVID-19.

Although the tool hasn’t been developed for mobile phones, Hertel says it’s something he wants to continue to explore its evolution.