People wearing protective face masks while carrying groceries outside Trader Joe's in Union Square during the coronavirus pandemic on April 14 in New York City. Noam Galai / Getty Images
By Nancy Schimelpfening
- The CDC has made certain recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep us all safer.
- Being a considerate shopper means following these guidelines.
- It’s also important to be aware of the needs of others so everyone is able to buy the food and supplies they need.
- Store employees and delivery personnel also deserve our consideration.
If you’re the person who does the shopping in your home, you may have felt a great deal of frustration during the past several weeks.
Although we’re being encouraged to follow certain measures to prevent the spread of the disease COVID-19, it seems that some of our fellow shoppers are not always following them.
Whether they’re crowding in between us, bursting our carefully cultivated 6-foot bubbles of space, or leaving their discarded gloves in their carts for the next person to remove, these shoppers are rude and infuriating.
But for the rest of us who may not want to be “that person,” here are six ways to be a more considerate shopper.
1. Wear a Face Mask or Other Covering
Wearing a face mask to prevent the transmission of the virus is one of the most basic things we can do to be considerate of our fellow shoppers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently recommending that all people wear cloth face coverings in public spaces where it’s difficult to maintain social or physical distancing, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.
They recommend wearing cloth masks rather than professional-grade equipment like surgical masks or N95 masks so that medical personnel, who are at the greatest day-to-day risk, have enough for their needs.
The CDC notes that the virus can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or even just speaking.
You can also be a carrier for the disease in the days and weeks before you start to show symptoms.
The CDC’s website contains complete information about how to make and use a simple cloth face mask, including no-sew directions for those who don’t sew.
2. Practice Physical Distancing
Some of the ways we can do this, according to the CDC, are:
- Stay out of crowded places. While this can be difficult with activities like shopping, some of the ways we can do this include shopping during less busy hours and shopping at smaller, local stores, which may be less busy than larger chain stores. We can also take advantage of online shopping and delivery services.
- Don’t gather in groups. In the context of shopping, this can mean designating one person as the shopper and leaving everyone else at home. Keeping the number of people inside the store down makes it safer for everyone.
- Stay at least 6 feet away from other people. While this can be difficult in a setting like a store, Labus suggested it’s important to “wait your turn, be deliberate about your actions, and keep your distance from others.”
3. Don’t Hoard Food, Water, or Supplies
When we buy more than we need of essential items like food, water, medicine, and cleaning supplies, it creates shortages for other people — including older adults and those who may have an illness or disability — who may not be able to get out and shop as easily as we can.
In addition, it’s simply not necessary.
Labus explained that stores will remain open during a pandemic, and there won’t be an interruption in our food supply. It’s not necessary to purchase more food than normal.
There’s also no danger of a water shortage, he noted. A pandemic is different from other natural disasters, where utilities like water might go offline for a period of time.
“We have also seen people stocking up on toilet paper,” he said. “While it makes sense to have some spare toilet paper, hoarding has made it difficult for people who need it to find it.”
4. Avoid the WIC Label
On March 15, Suit Up Maine, a grassroots progressive group located in Maine, posted a tweet that quickly went viral reminding shoppers to avoid purchasing foods labeled “WIC.”
According to Diane Rigassio Radler, director of the Institute for Nutrition Interventions at the Rutgers School of Health Professions, WIC refers to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
This program provides assistance for low-income women to purchase healthy, nutritious foods for themselves and their young children.
Often, these women are restricted to which brands or package sizes they’re able to purchase under the program.
During periods of panic buying, when supplies become limited, shoppers may resort to buying whatever brands are still available.
Radler said the aim of the tweet was to educate shoppers to look for the WIC labels and buy other brands if possible so that people using this program are not left without needed items for their families.
5. Clean Your Cart for the Next Customer
According to a recent study, the virus that causes COVID-19 can remain active on plastic and stainless surfaces for up to 3 days.
In addition, it can remain viable from a few hours to a few days on a variety of other surfaces, according to the CDC.
With this in mind, it’s a considerate move to make sure we leave our shopping carts clean for the next customer.
If you have access to disinfectant wipes, wipe down the handle of your cart as well as any other surfaces that people are likely to touch.
You can dispose of any used personal protective equipment, such as gloves or disposable face masks, in the trash. You can also place them in a baggie to dispose of at home.
6. Be Considerate of Store Employees
Store workers and delivery personnel are currently working overtime to make sure we have what we need.
In addition, they’re putting themselves and their families at increased risk of contracting the virus.
It’s important for us all to remember this and treat them with the respect they deserve.
Some of the things we can do to make things easier for them are:
- Buy only the essentials. While we’re all going a bit stir-crazy at home, now is not the time to crowd into stores to relieve our boredom.
- Shop efficiently. Have a list of what you need. Get in and get out.
- Dispose of used gloves and masks properly. Think of these items as potentially being contaminated with the virus, and handle them accordingly.
- Be polite and courteous. Store employees and delivery drivers are working hard and doing their best. It is not their fault when shortages occur.
The Bottom Line
During a time like a pandemic, your actions can literally make a life-or-death difference to another person.
Following the safety measures laid out by the CDC and other government agencies is an important part of shopping etiquette during this time.
It’s also important to consider the needs of other shoppers and make sure there’s enough available for everyone by not purchasing more than you need and avoiding products marked with the WIC label.
Finally, treat store employees with the courtesy and respect they deserve. They’re working hard and at great risk to themselves to make sure you have what you need.