The immediate threat of getting the virus from anyone and anything has somewhat tapered off in the last week, will grocery stores be filled with people once again?
Going to do the weekly supermarket shop pre-COVID was a scheduled-in chore (post COVID-19 a good or bad chore depending on how risky you felt it was). It possibly was a time for parents to get out of the house, others to have a quick browse at new products and sometimes, just to have a moment to yourself. There are, of course, those that love going grocery shopping as a social activity too.
With lockdown and the various alert levels came new rules surrounding how customers shopped and a limitation was put on how many people were allowed in-store at any given time, and those waiting to go in, spaced out in a line (in some cases huge marquees were installed to shelter customers from the weather). A few stores set up virtual queues so customers could wait in their cars and were notified when it was their turn. This, however, only happens when you register. But what if you entered the store address that you wanted to go to and when you came within a kilometre of the store, it placed you in a virtual queue. This is the format of a new app by David Chura in the USA called Safe Queue. A unique QR code is then sent to the user along with updates about their place in the line and the same QR code is presented to the store personnel on entry who can scan it for authenticity.
Despite these features and apps that have been created to ease the stress of shopping during the crisis, it still highlights a certain inequality. Those with smartphones and devices are able to wait in the comfort of their own car, while those without have to physically wait in line. So how is the order of the line determined to be fair?
For some online shopping will be the only way in future, well, people have been saying that since it was e-commerce was launched all those years ago, and yet only a small percentage of people utilised the service in pre COVID-19 times.
Post COVID-19 customers that were not as tech-savvy, those that didn’t want to wait up until midnight to secure a delivery spot or click and collect time, those that didn’t have access to the internet or computer, or simply those that lived in remote areas where online wasn’t even on offer – everyone focused on getting their groceries, in fact, that is pretty much all anyone did for the first four weeks of lockdown. Making sure that there was an endless supply of food in the cupboard – a veritable pandemic pantry.
This, in turn, put incredible pressure on supermarkets, on their teams and their infrastructure. In the end, it all boiled down to people, the workers, the frontline heroes and behind the scenes worker bees. Employees from around the country who selflessly worked through the crisis putting themselves not only at risk of contracting the virus, but also having often to face verbal abuse from the shoppers they were trying to help.
For some, ordering online for delivery or click and collect was a novelty and they will happily return to shopping in-store to avoid the always disappointing out of stocks and substitutes. For others, they may have found a new way to shop, a foodbox or home delivery that is outside of the supermarket experience and depending on their experience and the convenience, will continue to do so. For those who already were using the various e-commerce platforms, they too will continue to shop the way they prefer, providing that not too many others are making delivery and click and collect times disappear before their eyes, voiding the service of any convenience.
And for the rest of the shoppers, with many shops and restaurants still closed or just slowly finding their feet, the supermarket will always be a special outing that is looked forward to each week.