This past Saturday, 4/11/20, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and under “shelter at home” guidelines. We had to drop off my wife’s car for maintenance and went for a short drive. “I wonder what the crowds are like at Target and Home Depot,” I thought, and so we went to look.
There were families shopping at Target, which doesn’t seem like a good idea, and the same was true at Home Depot, where the parking lot wasn’t packed, but was a lot fuller than I expected.
Are all these shoppers buying essentials?
I want to go shopping at the local Home Depot and Lowe’s stores too – very much so – but it’s inadvisable and I’m trying to adhere to official guidelines and recommendations as best as possible.
The more people there are in the store, the greater the risk to everyone and to staff.
The big thing about the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is that some people are asymptomatic, and even those that do suffer from the illness can transmit it to others before they even know they’re sick.
COVID-19 cases are still rising, albeit at a slower rate than before. But if you’re in public, every person you encounter could be sick and could infect you. That’s the basis behind social distancing – the less close-contact we have with each other, the less the risk of transmission and infection.
Until recently, cloth masks were optional. Some stores are now allowed to kick people out for not wearing face masks, others are starting to let their workers wear masks.
When you have more people in a store, social distancing becomes harder. Carts and people create bottlenecks in aisles, especially if there are several shoppers in a group, such as couples or families with kids.
Given the current “stay at home!” and social distancing guidelines, families of 3, 4, or more don’t need to be out shopping at stores right now. That’s not just my opinion, I’m going by health officials’ advisement.
We’ve heard from workers who are under a lot of stressed, partially because stores can be understaffed. Many high-risk workers are staying home, and there are a greater number of sick call-outs in general.
I spoke with someone from Ace Hardware the other day, who said that they’re dealing with 150% more orders right now.
A lot of new hires are also no-shows.
So, according to what I’ve heard from some readers, there are fewer associates in stores right now. With the level of foot traffic they’re seeing, there’s more to do and fewer people to do it.
Some customers aren’t adhering to social distancing guidelines.
From what I read, some customers are acting like jerks towards employees who urge precautionary distancing, although hopefully these are isolated incidents.
Let’s look at that image again:
Looking at how many people were shopping at Home Depot over the weekend, you’d forget that there’s a global pandemic right now, with federal, state, county, and local recommendations to stay home and not visit stores except for essential needs.
A lot of people are adhering to these recommendations, but a lot of people aren’t, which is also why people are still getting sick.
In our town, there were 19 new cases in March, after they started tracking them on 3/14/20. There have been 37 new cases in April, as of 4/11/2020. Of these, there have been 5 deaths and 15 recoveries, for 36 active cases. People are getting sick after social distancing guidelines and shelter in place orders went into effect.
The garden center is busy, and I can understand why. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s changed policies on online ordering to where a lot of items are ONLY available for in-store purchasing. I don’t know what I’ll do about potting soil – maybe I’ll wait until guidelines ease up, or maybe the local garden center can do curbside pickup. Or, I’ll change my plans for this year a little bit – I ordered some supplies online and have enough for some of my vegetable container growing plans.
But it’s not just people flocking to the garden center – we’ve heard a LOT of reports about people being in the stores because they’re bored and the malls are closed. Associates are offering their assistance and some customers respond with “I’m just looking around,” which quite frankly isn’t appropriate right now.
Let’s say there was something I needed right now, and it was considered essential. I understand that some people might be single parents, or there are other reasons they have to bring their children with them, rather than leaving them at home with adult supervision. But why are couples bringing their kids to the store right now?
Fortunately, from where we were parked to take the photo, I saw that most people were walking solo in the parking lot, some with spouses waiting in the car. But there were also families and groups of people out shopping – at least one that I saw in the Home Depot parking lot, and at least two when we drove past the front of the nearby Target store.
For those that are out shopping, most were wearing masks, but some weren’t, despite current CDC recommendations.
How many people – customers or store associates – will get sick over the next two weeks because too many people couldn’t refrain from shopping at Home Depot last weekend?
It’s up to everyone to practice self-restraint and use their discretion. I’m a little upset because I’m adhering to official guidelines more strictly – I want to be out shopping too!
But, I suppose it’s up to store managers and corporate to adapt and create new rules if they feel that there are too many people in stores. Some stores have “one in, out out” policies, and now require face masks for entry. But would they restrict children if accompanied by more than one parent?
And please, no more “it’s a hoax,” or “it’s a government conspiracy,” or “it’s a media fabrication” comments. People are getting sick, overwhelming many hospitals, and dying. This isn’t make-believe.
Let me ask you – do you think there are too many shoppers at Home Depot and Lowe’s these days, or rather, are too many people not adhering to shelter at home except for essentials guidelines and recommendations?
It’s hard to judge what others deem essential, but “I’m just looking around” and store employees’ accounts of other such “just browsing” customers makes it pretty clear that not all shoppers are making essential purchases.