Things have been crazy at Costco since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. Deemed as an essential service, Costco warehouses have experienced a surge in sales and demand as panicked shoppers flock to the store to stock up on all kinds of goods. So let’s take a look at 10 Ways Costco has been affected by Covid-19.
10. No More Free Samples
Everyone loves the free samples at Costco. Consumers love to congregate around work stations in close proximity to get a taste of the free samples. To deal with the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, Costco had to put certain measures in place to protect not only its customers but its employees as well. So, Costco decided to suspend giving out its free samples until further notice. This measure will enforce social distancing by preventing people from forming huddles. Concerns arose last month when panicked buyers rushed to purchase certain items and caused pile ups in front of toilet paper and bottled water. Standing in front of workstations waiting for free samples could potentially spread viruses even quicker among customers. And of course, there’s also the matter of people touching other people’s food, therefore increasing the risk of spreading germs even more. Therefore, most Costco stores began abiding by new regulations set forth by the CDC in March. The first States to implement this rule were California, Washington and Florida. The rest of the country soon followed as well. Costco Canada and China also pulled free samples from their stores. There is no date or indication as to when the suspensions will end. It all depends on when the government eases up on certain regulations, but it may not be for a while. Of course, consumers mourned the smorgasbord of free snacks on social media and Reddit. Costco is legendary for its free samples, and the practice is one of the stores biggest draws. The old Price Club does not stand alone; most warehouse-type stores have also put a stop to the samples. During this crisis, it’s absolutely better to be safe than sorry.
9. Food Court – Take out only
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a disaster for the restaurant industry, causing closures and many jobs losses. Costco’s food court, which falls under this category, must abide by the same rules and regulations. While most grocery stores have to remain open, that does not mean the food court does. With regulations banning gatherings in restaurants, Costco had no choice but to comply and shut down its food courts for the time being. The restaurant is open but only serving a limited menu, and orders are available for take-out only. Condiments can no longer be found in the food court area and must be requested at the cash. All these added precautions are in place to ensure customer and employee safety. Food courts are usually areas where people love to gather in large groups, sitting at close proximity for long periods of time. The Costco food court is no exception. Customers love its food court not only for the cheap grub, but also as a way to sit and relax after shopping. It’s one of the most popular areas in the store to congregate. Since many restaurants are now only providing take-out options, it’s only wise that Costco would follow suit. The way people shop has also changed as they’re no longer able to spend hours in stores just browsing.
8. Limit People in Store
At the start of the outbreak, many Costco members feared there was going to be a total shutdown or a shortage of food and supplies. Some people rushed to the stores, going into panic buying mode. Large crowds flocked to stores, causing traffic jams and mass frenzies. Viral images online and on television showed shoppers clambering to get in, jostling and grabbing at each other at entrances. The scene was almost apocalyptic. The situation got downright dangerous. People were verbally abusive, pushing each other to grab the last items stocked on shelves. Some made mad dashes for toilet paper, sanitizers, wipes, bottled water and even rotisserie chicken. Since then, to further assist customers with social distancing and for safety purposes, Costco has temporarily implemented limits on how many people can enter its stores. It has also set limits on how many items at a time customers can buy. Costco warehouses in the U.S will only allow two people per membership card to enter. In other countries, like Puerto Rico and Canada, only one person is allowed to enter at a time. Costco stores in China, which have massive warehouses, are limiting the amount of people in their stores to about 2000. Standard procedures apply for all shoppers. Employees control seemingly infinite lineups, only letting customers enter once someone has left, to prevent overcrowding. Customers are required to take a cart which helps increase the social distance. They’re also given wipes to clean their hands and carts.
7. Social Distancing
Costco warehouses are usually very busy places, at any given time. They can fit hundreds and even thousands of people on certain days during peak hours. The lineups are long, with people standing close to each other as they browse the aisles. No doubt, warehouse stores can become prime areas for infection. To counter this, Costco has enforced rules and recommendations made by the CDC in regards to social distancing. In order to minimize risks to their members and employees, they have set up numerous measures to ensure there is an even flow of customers in and out of stores. At the entrance doors, they have guidelines in place for people to read while they wait in line. People are required to stand at a minimum of 6.5 feet from each other anywhere in the store. Upon entering, customers are required to wait and are prompted to move ahead by store employees, who then give them wipes or hand disinfectant. Costco has set up arrows on the floor aisles that lead directly to the back of the store for essential items only and have quartered off some sections deemed non-essential. Once at the cash, the same rules apply in regards to spacing. While the usual help is available, you are asked to self-bag outside the store. Most employees wear gloves and even masks. They do not touch membership cards, or debit and credit cards. To avoid a bottle neck at the exit, for receipt checking, Costco employees now wave you through, ensuring the process remains fast and efficient.
6. Return Policy
Last month, Costco experienced a major surge in sales due to shoppers going into full panic-buying in fear of the virus. It may be a good thing for Costco sales, but it wasn’t so good for customers and staff. With all the panic buying, staff quickly saw stocks deplete. Some customers were left without, while others hoarded massive amounts of supplies such as toilet paper, sanitizing products like Lysol wipes, paper towels and even bottled water. There was such a frenzy, Costco had to implement limits and put restrictions on certain items and their returns. This, on top of it being a health and safety concern, means Costco is no longer accepting returns on such items as toilet paper, paper towels, sanitizing wipes, disinfecting spray, bottled water and even rice. According to CFO Richard Galanti, “We were getting deliveries daily, but it still was not enough given the increased levels of demand on certain key items’’. Costco has also set limits on other products to help ensure that more members will be able to find and purchase what they need when they come to Costco. They have also increased the stock of more popular items. Their buyers and suppliers are working hard during the Covid-19 outbreak to provide essential, high demand products as well as the usual favorites that Costco sells everyday.
5. Reduced Services
To further limit personal contact and also create more space, Costco has temporarily reduced services in some departments. Temporary closures vary from one location to the other, but there is limited-to-no service at the Optical, Hearing Aid, Travel, Floral and Jewelry departments. However, Costco members may continue to shop for these items online. Some stores have even gone as far as sectioning off some areas to prevent access. This keeps customers only in designated areas that are deemed essential. The grocery section, as well the bakery section have no limits or barriers; they remain open for all. For the bakery section, certain special orders have to be placed ahead of time and picked up by appointment. The pharmacy remains open and they have implemented special designated hours for their senior members only. Gas pump hours have also been reduced; they are open daily but only until 7 pm. This gives customers an hour to fuel up after the store has closed. All Business Centers will continue to operate during normal store hours.
4. New Store Hours
The pace has been frantic at Costco warehouse since the coronavirus hit. Customers and staff have described it as a mix of pandemonium, hoarding and panic. High consumer demands have brought more work and created stressful situations for Costco staff. From having to replenish store shelves quickly to appeasing irate customers, it’s been tough on them. Because their jobs have made them more susceptible to contracting the virus, the members of this once-overlooked segment of the population have been elevated into modern-day heroes. After the first initial wave of panic buying hit, Costco had no choice but to put into effect reduced hours for their employees. So, for the last month, they have reduced their store hours and changed things up a little to protect customers as well as their overwhelmed staff. Most Costco US stores will cut two hours Monday through Friday. That means most stores will close at 6:30 instead of 8:30 p.m. It appears weekend hours will remain the same since they are prime shopping time: Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Costco gas stations will open at 6 am and close at 7pm from Monday to Friday. Costco Canada has closed their stores on Sunday entirely. Of course, hours and closures vary from location to location and depending on the state and the country in question. So it’s best to check your location’s hours before heading out.
3. Senior Shopping Hours
Costco has members of all ages; shopping there is not relegated to a specific age group. One of the ways Costco has been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak is they have to be extra vigilant and take precautions towards all their members, young and old. Costco is being mindful as they want to prevent anyone from potentially getting infected while shopping at one of their warehouses, and they’re aware that the elderly are at particular risk. They have implemented special shopping hours for those aged 60 and up and for those with disabilities. These groups can be seriously and detrimentally affected by the virus, due to age and possibly suppressed immune systems. This will allow the most vulnerable to shop in a safe environment and avoid the regular crowds, putting them at the least risk possible. These exclusive senior hours are from Tuesday to Thursday at 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Many supermarkets have also instituted senior shopping hours early in the morning for the duration of the crisis and until further notice. The Costco pharmacy will also be open early for Senior shoppers to allow them to fill their prescriptions before the store is overwhelmed. Unfortunately, the Costco Food Court will be closed during these hours and not accessible. Remember: only members who meet these criteria will be able to shop during these hours. Guests will not be admitted with senior shoppers unless absolutely necessary.
2. Priority access for Health Care & First Responders
In the midst of COVID-19, Costco has temporarily allowed priority access to healthcare workers and first responders during regular hours. Nurses, police officers, paramedics and firefighters receive special treatment at Costco warehouses. All this group has to do is present their membership card and official ID and they can enter the store immediately. Since the outbreak, the spotlight has been on front-line workers, and for good reason. While many Americans can work remotely, many of these essential workers still have to go to work and still take care of their families at home. Costco recognizes the vital role these employees play during the crisis and are making moves to support and protect them. Costco store employees are also at risk, and the warehouses have taken measures to also protect them by installing shields at the cash and providing staff with masks and gloves.
1. Employees infected with Covid-19
There has been lots of reporting in the news with regards to many Costco employees getting sick. Costco is also being transparent in reporting these cases to the public. Costco store employees are at very high risk, even though they have taken all necessary measures to protect their staff. Costco recognizes this and is grateful. In an email sent to all US employees and viewed by Business Insider, Costco CEO Craig Jelinek announced that hourly employees in the US and Puerto Rico will be paid an additional $2 per hour for time worked from March 2 to present. Other stores have also followed suit during the crisis. Costco CFO Richard Galanti told Business Insider that the company is “actively trying to figure out the best ways to take care of its employees”. They are calling the increase “appreciation pay” on top of their normal and overtime wages. Many people think that it’s the least they can do for their employees. With so many lay-offs in other sectors, where people are not so lucky, having a guaranteed job and a pay increase is a huge plus.