Tuesday, June 2, 2020

How to navigate the grocery store during a global pandemic

April 24, 2020
People and cars move through a busy parking lot March 12, 2020 after MSU cancelled classes due to coronavirus.
People and cars move through a busy parking lot March 12, 2020 after MSU cancelled classes due to coronavirus. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

In a time where travelling to a public place is taking a risk, grocery stores are a necessary risk that everyone must take, but how can you limit your risk while also getting the things necessary to get by during quarantine? Here is a guide outlining how to safely navigate grocery stores and what large grocery stores like Walmart, Meijer, Target and Kroger are doing to ensure safety for you and their employees. 

When to go 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery stores have had to make many accommodations regarding when they do business. To start, stores now have limited the times their stores are open to allow for workers to clean and sanitize the store for the next day. Walmart President and CEO John Furner described in a video to their customers their efforts to keep their store as clean as possible. 

“We’re open from 7:00 in the morning to 8:30 at night, and this is previously a twenty-four-hour store,” Furner said in the video. “But we did that to give our associates time to rest and recover, but also to get the store stocked, clean and sanitized before we open in the morning.” 

Many other stores have chosen to go this route, including Target (8 a.m. - 9 p.m.), Meijer (8 a.m. - 10 p.m.) and Kroger (varies by region). One of the unique acts stores have done is hold special hours for those who are at risk like the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. Meijer holds a special 7 a.m. - 8 a.m. time slot on Mondays and Wednesdays for essential workers and on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. 

“We continue to look for additional ways to ensure the safety of our customers and team members in the face of this difficult challenge,” Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes said in a Meijer press release. “By working together, we can reduce the spread of this virus and help keep our communities safe.” 

One other measure stores have taken is limiting the amount of people in their store at one time, which varies by the store typically based on the square footage of the building. So, when traveling to get groceries, you might be asked to wait until the store frees up. 

Navigating the store 

Yes, by now we all understand what social distancing is, six feet apart, stay at home as much as possible etc. But what if you have to go out in public? 

Stores are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their customers and staff, including some stores such as Walmart and Kroger placing pathways for shoppers to follow to keep people apart. With this, it essentially makes the aisles one-way, so everyone travels in one direction, rather than two lanes of traffic. Target has implemented a different system where some of the employees are tasked with monitoring, and occasionally intervening to have customers follow social distancing. 

Another key to social distancing is having less people, and stores are asking that you limit the amount of people you bring with you to the grocery store only the amount that is absolutely necessary.  

As for choosing your items, it is vital to try not to hoard and buy excess goods, as it limits what others can have. 

“We know communities are counting on us more than ever and we are determined to serve the broadest number of customers and ensure they have access to the key items they are looking for,” Walmart said in a press release. “Our stores will have limits for customers in certain categories including paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.” 

Then lastly, conducting the purchase of your items. If you chose to do the old fashion checkout with a cashier, cashiers are protected with plexiglass at many groceries stores now, including Meijer, Walmart, Target and Kroger. 

However, if you feel safer proceeding through self-checkout, stores have self-checkout options available online that allow you to move through checkout without ever touching the screen. 

“We’ve enabled Walmart pay on our self-checkouts and on our registers, to make sure that you can pay on the app without having to make contact with the screen,” Furner said in the video.  

Meijer, Target and Kroger all have the same or similar feature to make checkout safe for shoppers. 

Taking your items home 

Despite workers being asked to wear personal protection equipment such as gloves and masks and even getting their temperatures checked, anyone could come in at any time and possibly bring in any type of illness, not just COVID-19. Kroger is asking for its customers to do safe food handling back at their homes. This could include taking a disinfectant wipe and wiping down the boxes and containers or washing fruit and vegetables before you consume them.  

At the end of the day, what’s important is to do your part while in these grocery stores, and that comes down to three keys: practice social distancing, limiting the amount of people that come in the store with you and only take what you need. 

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