Northeast MS – Northeast Mississippi retail businesses were caught off guard with the threat of the coronavirus looming. People are stocking up on items in fear of possible quarantines.
Area Walmart stores were not immune to the buying frenzy. At 11:00 pm Saturday, March 14, at the New Albany Walmart, shelves that usually hold staple foods were nearly bare. The bottled water was almost cleaned out, with only a few gallon jugs remaining. Employees were scrambling to unload a truck, but the water was said to be located at the back of the truck. This meant it would take at least an hour for workers to get to it.
Rice and beans were also hard hit. There were boxes of instant rice and bags of specialty rice, but most of the rice was gone. The bean shelf was similar, with things like lentils being the only items on the shelf.
As expected, toilet tissue was nowhere to be found. Only flushable wipes and facial tissues remained on the shelves.
Deli meats had been picked over. The less expensive brands were not stocked. Specialty meats, such as pickle loaf, were still available. Breakfast meats had been picked through as well. Items like sausage patties and bacon were not on the shelves. However, there was plenty of turkey bacon. There was a wide selection of fresh meats available.
When asked, one associate said “They [customers] are buying stuff that won’t have to be refrigerated. Deli meat and breakfast food will be eaten in a day or two.”
Over-the-counter medications were one of the first things to be stripped from the shelves. Finding pain relievers was next to impossible. Associates were just starting to open new boxes of the medications in order to re-stock them.
Even though the store seemed relatively empty, the only two registers open were congested. There were 10-12 customers in each line. Customers could look forward to standing in line for at least 15 minutes before being checked out. This in spite of warnings to avoid close contacts to decrease the spread rate of coronavirus.
When asked if other registers would be open to avoid crowding, an associate responded with, “No.”
Walmart stores will be closing to shoppers daily from 11 pm until 6 am to give employees a chance to clean and re-stock the sections that have been hardest hit. This is a 29 percent decrease in time available to customers trying to practice “social distancing” while shopping and checking out.
It is unclear how long it will be before stores go back to 24 hour a day operation.
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