“People are starting to get mean,” says one Camden County store manager, as sales are up but limited supplies trickle in. “Nobody else is open, so who else are they going to take it out on?”
By Matt Skoufalos | March 19, 2020
Amid the effects of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), shortages in toiletries are leading to short tempers and selfish behavior.
The manager of one Camden County-area pharmacy reports that a customer attempted to bribe staff to purchase some of its limited inventory of toilet paper as a delivery arrived this week.
“We were unloading the truck and he tried to hand the driver a $20 bill, saying, ‘Just set one aside for me, I’ll pay for it later,'” said the manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Then I come to find out that he tried to slip my cashier a $50,” the manager said. “All I got on my truck yesterday was five cases of toilet paper and they were gone within 50 minutes of hitting the shelves.”
Sales in the local pharmacy are up 50 percent over normal levels, “and I don’t know what people are buying because we’re out of everything,” the manager said. “And we’re a slow store.”
The most sought-after items are things like hand sanitizer, alcohol, toilet paper, hand soap, and thermometers. GOJO, the makers of Purell hand sanitizer, have stepped up production, but as the products are shipped out, they’re cleared off store shelves almost immediately.
“I have no idea where along the supply chain they are,” the manager said. “We have conference calls within our division about two-to-three times a week now. Everybody’s in the same boat. Our warehouse just isn’t getting it in.”
In the absence of new inventory and new information, “people are starting to get mean,” the manager said. Customers who don’t see products on the shelves presume that staffers are “just too lazy to go look in the back” for them.
“People seem to envision ‘the back’ as this place the size of a skating rink with oompa-loompas bringing things out through a waterfall,” the manager said.
Stores are also on heightened cleaning protocols, with staffers encouraged to wear gloves and masks, and sterilization of counters and payment terminals between transactions. One employee has been designated to clean a minimum of every half-hour throughout the day, with special focus paid to touch points like light switches and bathrooms, the manager said.
With pharmacies on the short list of essential businesses allowed to operate outside the restricted hours most locations face, staffers are bearing the brunt of customers’ anxieties.
“Nobody else is open, so who else are they going to take it out on?” the manager said.
“Be nice to the people that are still working. It’s the best way that we’ll get through this.”
Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.
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