Customers rampage grocery stores in response to COVID-19



As the world is put on hold after the closures of schools and several businesses across the nation in an attempt to cease the spread of COVID-19, a growing fear among those living in the United States is that there is no sight of the pandemic abating anytime soon.

Practicing healthy sanitation habits is crucial, especially during à widespread pandemic. Cleaning supplies have been disappearing from grocery store shelves at a rapid pace. Photo courtesy of Matthew Wehrum

With this newly developed notion, people have taken extreme precautions, such as stocking up on common necessities, leaving the aisles of grocery stores barren. 

In addition, Governor Mike DeWine issued a mandatory stay at home order for the state of Ohio, which was put into effect March 23 at 11:59 PM. Although the order excluded any necessary trips, including those to the local grocery store, the thought of quarantine at home has prompted numerous Ohio residents to buy an excessive amount of products at once to last them several weeks. They hope that this will reduce their risk of potential exposure to the virus, given that they will be taking fewer trips to the store during the time in which the worst of the pandemic persists.

“Shoppers have been buying everything that won’t expire for a long time,” said Wadsworth Target employee Lauren Conley.

Wadsworth Buehler’s has installed barriers at check-outs to separate customers and employees and follow social distances guidelines. Photo courtesy of Ken Cornacchione

Some products have notably been disappearing at a faster rate than others.

“People are mostly buying canned foods, toilet paper and hand sanitizer,” said Conley. “Toilet paper seems to be in very high demand. We stock it, and it’s gone in 20 minutes. Milk is also being bought out like crazy. As soon as I get it on the shelf, it’s gone.”

With these items vanishing immediately upon arrival, store employees are working diligently to keep them on the shelves to satisfy all customers’ needs.

“When customers are not in the store, stocking shelves is prioritized,” said Wadsworth Walmart employee Mason Blackmur. “There are trucks that deliver to our store on the daily. We usually get at least four truckloads worth of store products, if not more.”

However, due to these products being purchased at such a rapid pace, it is difficult for workers to keep up with customers’ excessive demand. 

Immediately after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the state of Ohio, several residents traveled to their local grocery store to stock up on necessities. Photo by Micah Beck

“The only problem is, as soon as we get products on the shelves, they are taken from customers,” said Blackmur.

 Shoppers are leaving shelves empty much faster than stores can keep pace with restocking.

“Restocking shelves has become very hard because sometimes, for certain foods, we just don’t have the inventory since it’s selling out so fast,” explained Conley.

In response to the issue, stores have taken measures to reduce the hoarding of key items. They are encouraging customers to only buy goods that they need for the time being. Several supermarkets in Ohio have even begun to limit the number of shoppers at one time and are implementing certain restrictions on high demand products, such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies.

Toilet paper is on unusually high demand following the COVID-19 outbreak, and most stores cannot keep up with how quickly the product is being purchased. Photo courtesy of Lauren Conley

Additionally, the COVID-19 outbreak has prompted grocery stores to frequently practice safe sanitation procedures. 

“[Walmart] has changed its operating hours from 7:00 A.M. to 8:30 P.M. in order to sanitize the facility more efficiently,” said Blackmur. “This also allows many of us to efficiently get products where they need to be in a timely manner. Management has also prioritized the front end departments of the store to sanitize shopping carts and any surface. For example, anytime a person goes through self-checkout, one of the individuals in self-checkout will sanitize the surface.”

In response to customers buying large amounts of certain products, many stores in Ohio have begun to put restrictions on the number of items a shopper can purchase in one trip. Photo courtesy of Ken Cornacchione

Supermarkets are closely monitoring the current situation with COVID-19 and are devoted to ensuring the health and well-being of all customers and employees. 

As the global crisis continues to consume the daily lives of those living in the United States, both employees and consumers are left to adjust to this new reality in hopes that things will soon return to normal.