KANSAS CITY, MO – MARCH 19: A sign inside Costco greets shoppers with a social distancing message … [+] as the coronavirus pandemic continues in America on March 19, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. Confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus have reached nearly 10,000 in the United States with a reported 150 deaths having been recorded. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Big news at Costco: The company is reducing store hours during this coronavirus crisis.
It has been frantic at Costco warehouses. Some have described it as “panic buying” while others call it “hoarding” as shoppers swarmed around Costco’s limited, low-priced assortments of much-needed groceries and other daily household items. The effect of this higher demand has been a frantic shopping condition that has created stress on warehouse store teams to replenish shelves and service customers. Paper goods such as toilet paper have been in high demand, cereal boxes are flying out of the door, there are long lines at the pharmacies, and some fresh fruits and roasted chicken have sold quicker than ever.
A recap of the changes:
New Store Hours: Warehouse store hours will be cut on Monday by two hours. That means that most stores will close at 6:30 p.m. instead of 8:30 p.m. It appears that the weekend hours will remain the same since they are top shopping times—on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The company plans to take extra time to enhance the sanitary conditions of the warehouses. Already, early into the COVID-19 outbreak, Costco took all their demonstrators/samplers off the floor and added them to their sanitary staff to ensure that the warehouses were in tip-top sanitary condition.
There is evidence that employees complained of exhaustion since they were trying to help shoppers. Management had indicated that everyone was working 24/7 to keep the shelves filled and demand satisfied. Management expressed gratitude for the devotion during the COVID-19 surge. This reduced schedule change should alleviate some of that exhaustion.
Senior Shopping: Senior hours at most warehouses have been instituted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. These exclusive hours are excellent shopping times for senior citizens who are most at risk during this scary period, since it allows people who are more vulnerable to the virus to shop in greater safety and comfort. Many supermarkets, as well as Target stores, have also instituted senior shopping hours early in the morning for the duration of the crisis.
Gas Stations: Costco gas stations will close at 7 p.m.
Return Policy Update: The company also announced that it will not accept returns of specific items including toilet paper, bottled water, sanitizing wipes, paper towels, rice, and disinfecting spray. They are some of the items that are in short supply at this time.
In-Store Service Changes: In a memorandum to customers, Costco president and CEO W. Craig Jelinek indicated that Costco has reduced services in some departments in order to limited personal contact and create more space for social distancing for the time being. At some locations, there will be limited or no service in the hearing aid department, Costco Optical, the floral department, and the jewelry department. There are limitations that vary by locations.
Costco food courts are available only for take out. There is no seating available. To maintain some crowd control, only members with IDs can use the food courts. Costco is enforcing the CDC recommendations and asking members to keep at least a distance of 6 feet between each person while shopping in the warehouse.
When the COVID-19 panic first started, Costco was forced to limit admission so that warehouses didn’t get overcrowded. There are now associates that remind customers to keep their distance from Costco employees and other customers. Despite these safety measures, the company is right to take these added steps to ensure that their associates are safe and sane.