Shelves are empty, products are out of stock, store hours are cut short, and people are panicking. COVID-19 or “Coronavirus” has people flocking to the grocery store despite the government’s warnings to stay home. Deemed an essential business, Big Y remains open with limited hours during the quarantining and social distancing that have come along with the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
Big Y shopper Ashley Mauke described her experience as a customer since the outbreak of the pandemic. “It’s been kind of crowded and hectic lately,” Mauke said. “The toilet paper is always gone; Lysol products, gone, and other cleaning products are slim to none. Different things from meat to produce are sold out all of the time too, which is crazy.”
Mauke also commented on the fervor of the customers. “I think that there’s too many people in the store,” she said. “I couldn’t get away from anyone. I went to two different Big Ys, and it was the same eight, nine, or ten people all in one aisle.”
Although Big Y advertises for its customers to try and remain six feet apart to prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no limit to the amount of people that may enter the stores at any given time.
Jacob Hartling, a customer service booth clerk at the East Longmeadow Big Y, shared how the pandemic situation has affected his work. “It’s been very overwhelming for me,” Hartling said. “I’ve been picking up a lot of extra hours, and I’ve had no time outside of Big Y.”
Hartling spoke about the difficulties of working with such an increase in business and demand at the store. “It’s a lot to have ten people all needing my help at once,” he said. “This isn’t something that we’ve dealt with before.”
The response has shifted since the public first learned of the COVID-19 threat. Hartling claimed that the customers are beginning to accept the changes being implemented within the store as the situation becomes more serious. Early on there was a lot of uncertainty about what was to come.
One of the East Longmeadow Big Y’s head cashiers, Nick Piris, described all of the precautions his store is taking to help “flatten the curve.” He spoke about the new plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers, extensive sanitizing procedures for both inside the store and the carriages outside, and markers on the floor to help customers remain six feet apart.
“I think the customers’ response to all of it is pretty positive,” Piris stated. “They are going through it too, and they don’t want anyone to get sick.”
With customers’ newfound acceptance of the severity of the COVID-19 problem, panic buying is beginning to subside, but everyone is still dealing with its aftermath. Big Y stores are out of hand sanitizer until further notice, toilet paper shipments are small and unpredictable, and returns and refunds are mostly prohibited.