20,000 and Counting

It seems just yesterday we were watching China locking down Wuhan Province, then the whole of Italy shuttering its doors. Now we are watching Coronavirus unfold in our own U.S. of A. while wondering how it could happen here on such a large scale. I’ve already talked about that topic in this space, and won’t rehash again today.

As I, or we, go out to fill prescriptions, attempt to buy groceries, and selectively try to help some of the local business stay afloat, I wonder why it takes such a long time for our politicians to take action; I wonder the same about businesses.

We are embarking on a pandemic no one alive has ever experienced on such a grand scale. We are about to embark on the greatest depression no one alive has ever experienced. And, we may be about to embark on a massive loss of life than any one alive has ever known.

If you’ve been to the store lately, you see many empty shelves. I am still in shock as I walk around any store trying to find flour, sugar, toilet paper, or even just some soup. It’s all gone!

People are afraid for many reasons, and our psychology is to feed into, and off of, what is happening around us, i.e., if we go to the store and everything is gone, when we see an item still available, we want to buy as many as we can afford just in case even that one item wouldn’t be available later. I know because I fight this urge when I’m shopping. Several times I’ve put several items in my cart because there were only a few left, only to take a pause and put some back. I put it back so maybe it will still be there for an elderly couple or a single-parent raising several kids may need it more than we do. But it is a battle against the urge to protect my own at the expense of others.

I wish stores, restaurants and other businesses would stop thinking we are operating under normal circumstances. We have a new order of the day, which will be here for at least the next 30-days, if not beyond.

Grocery stores need to institute a numbering system like the DMV. You walk to the only open door (all others are closed to help funnel traffic), and take a number. The store, in order to help with social distancing, only lets so many customer clusters in at a time. As one customer leaves, a big screen or a text message or a phone call tells you its your turn to come in (how you are informed is based upon how the store sets it up). As you shop, you keep your purchases to the maximum allowable for any particular hard to find item, such as toilet paper or hand sanitizer. This ensures hoarding becomes harder and provides safety to everyone in terms of limiting large crowds in a small area. A grocery store could even institute appointment times, with so many slots per time period—one signs up in person or electronically.

Restaurants could institute, as many governments have allowed, drive up, carry out or delivery only. Even the fanciest of restaurants could do carry out or delivery. This allows them to stay open, keep at least some of the employees on, and serves the greater public, especially when stores are running low on supplies.

Businesses would be a little harder depending on the industry. Banks still have their drive-through and ATMS, plus could do things by appointment, such as notary services. A Bed Bath & Beyond would fulfill either online orders for pick up, or take a persons order should they arrive as a walk-up. I would imagine it would even be possible to do the same as grocery stores above with numbers or appointments.

Those businesses, stores and service industry folks who don’t begin to think outside the box on how to provide services will most likely not still be around when this is all over. Maybe that is a good thing, maybe that is a bad thing.

All I know is, life happens and sometimes you have to adapt to the situation if you want to survive.

What ideas do you have to help businesses of all sorts survive?

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