What’s Scarier: COVID-19 or the Retail Industry?

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Hannah Minnick , Staff Writer

I have worked in the retail industry since I was 16. Up until this point in my life, I have viewed it as nothing more than a job that provides me a paycheck. I have been able to balance a full-time job while attending Brookdale Community College as a full-time student, all the while keeping my complaints at a moderate level. After the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, I have been able to feel the wrath of shopper greed first-hand.

If I have learned one thing over the years, it is that customers will shop regardless of the circumstance. Whether it’s a blizzard, a hurricane, or Thanksgiving, customers will always go shopping. Recently, I have been able to add “global pandemic” to that list. When businesses like restaurants and gyms began to close in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I began to see several customers shudder at the thought of shopping malls closing as well.

Day by day, customers flocked to my store in a panic over the possibility that they would not be able to go shopping when they should have felt panic over the real problem: the global pandemic. Some customers walked into my store wearing layers of latex gloves, sunglasses, and a medical mask, while others laughed at the sight of hand sanitizer. I couldn’t believe how divided the shopper population was, I even had a customer offer me $100 to buy every single hand sanitizer bottle we had. After that, I had to write in bold letters “NOT FOR SALE” on each bottle to ensure this would not happen again… but it did, several times.

After receiving an email from my company stating that they were holding a region-wide conference call, I dialed in and waited for the closing announcement that many other stores around me had received already. When I listened in on the conference call, however, the overall message was “wash your hands” and “cover your mouth.” If that wasn’t bad enough, managers were told to socially distance physically without socially distancing mentally. When I heard this, I wished there was a section in the employee handbook to clear up my catastrophic confusion.

After a week of frantic shoppers making generous offers for my store’s hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes, my shopping complex finally made the decision to close the center until further notice. Perhaps I should consider socially distancing myself from the retail industry after the threat of the coronavirus has subsided.