Navigating the "new normal"

Businesses of all types are navigating the pandemic and it can be challenging. As a small business owner myself, I am working hard to prepare to reopen next month. I went on my first shopping trip yesterday, since the pandemic began. It was a different experience and I hope that as time goes on, that I'll be more prepared and know what to expect.

My shopping trip began with a department store. As I approached the store from a distance, an employee who was wearing a mask, stopped us in our tracks to fill us in on the store rules. He told us that we needed to use hand sanitizer, before we're allowed to enter and asked us not to touch anything in the store. A couple of customers didn't agree with using the hand sanitizer and were turned away. As we entered the store, I noticed that it was extremely quiet. There were arrows on the floor that went around the store but, they were complicated to follow. I very quickly found myself walking in the wrong direction of the arrows and wondering where things went wrong. Employees were wearing masks and there were no floor employees, from what I saw. We located what we were looking for and proceed to the marked lineup, where an employee, who stood behind glass - rang us in. The employee told us that they weren't accepting cash, as we handed him our products. He rang in our items and politely told us to have a good day.

We went to another department store next and that was probably the most unique experience. Outside of the store, there were approx. 10 long rows of empty lines that resemble a maze. We followed a few people, as we weaved up and down the lines - one after the other until we got to the front of the line. It felt like a corn maze, but less entertaining and some customers looked annoyed as they attempted to push a stroller through these very narrow and bumpy walk ways. Once we got inside the store, an employee approached us and the informed us that we wouldn't be using carts and to proceed to the stairs or escalator, to access the show room. This was my first time in this store and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We got upstairs and I picked up a product, to see if it's what I was looking for. A clerk quickly jolted over and told me " Don't touch anything, if you don’t plan on buying it." In a harsh tone, she told me to "think about other people." I felt mortified and quickly put the item down and apologized several times. She continued to repeat that I shouldn’t touch anything, while I stood there feeling like a small child being scolded. As she spoke, I watched as dozens of customers, picked up items and placed them back down and wondered why I was being singled out. After we navigated our way through the show room, an employee directed us to the main shopping area, where we were instructed to take a cart. We walked through - what felt like a theme park, while we attempted to dodge people, as if we were in some sort of video game. Other people seemed to be doing the same thing and a lot of apologies were both given and received, as we all tried to make our way around the store, while keeping a distance.

Next we went to a value shop and there was no hand sanitizer or clerk present at the door. Inside the store, we saw large crowds of people and nothing seemed out of the norm. Employees were not wearing masks and groups of employees were gathered chatting in various departments. We found what we were looking for quickly and proceeded to the self check, paid and then exited.

Last stop was a hardware store. There were no employees present at the door and the shop seemed slightly crowded. We had trouble trying to locate what we were looking for, so we approached an employee to ask for help. Unfortunately, he saw us and quickly scurried away. We attempted to approach another floor worker who was standing in an aisle but, he quickly turned away. During our third attempt we spoke briefly to an employee, who told us that he wasn't familiar with the product and doesn't know if they carry it. None of the employees were wearing masks and there wasn't any hand sanitizer available for customer use. We searched for the item without any luck and sadly left empty handed.

From these experiences I learned a lot of things, that you might find helpful:

  • Don't bring a reusable bag, you likely won't be allowed to use it and some stores won't let you bring it in to the store.

  • Expect the unexpected, every business is navigating the unknown

  • Every store is different and be sure to follow directions as best as you can

  • If possible, know what you are looking for prior to entering and where to locate it

  • Bring a credit and/or debit card, because the majority of businesses are not accepting cash

  • A lot of stores have a final sale policy due to germ concerns

  • Shopping has become more independent, therefore self reliance is key to whether you will get what you need

  • Be patient, compassionate and try not to take things personally. Everyone is coping with the stress of the pandemic and workers are focused on implementing new safety procedures.

  • Some experiences will be better than others and businesses might change their procedures to either tighten or loosen things as times go on

"Social distancing doesn't mean that we aren't together!"

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