GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Grocery stores have been packed with shoppers during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two weeks, managers say, and many shoppers are buying items in bulk.
To make sure stores are free of germs and fully stocked, many stores, including Aldi locations across the Upstate area, have added additional temporary employees to clean frequently touched areas, offer extra assistance with customers and restock shelves.
Every morning for the past couple of weeks, customers have waited outside the doors of local Aldi store to be the first inside when the store is fully stocked and freshly cleaned, but that’s not even the busiest time of day.
“Our stores are always slower in the mornings rather than say 5 or 6 when work gets out,” Aldi Upstate District Manager Payton Anderson said.
Anderson says mornings are less crowded than around 5 or 6 in the evening, and says 10 a.m. is the best time for seniors or those who are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because there are less people in stores than at other times.
She oversees four stores in Greenville, Spartanburg and surrounding areas, and said they are still hiring employees to help stock shelves and clean stores.
Anderson hired 50 employees last week and is still looking for temporary workers, she said, and has increased pay from $12.70 an hour to $14.70 an hour.
“These temporary employees are essentially providing that support, making sure our stores stay stocked and neat,” she explained. “[They are] making sure if some of our employees do get sick and have to take time off we’re able to supply that to them.”
To prevent hoarding, she urged customers not to buy more than a 2 weeks supply at a time.
“If we get shut down nationally and we go on a lockdown, grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies will stay open, so there won’t be a shortage of food supplies,” she said. People will still be able to leave the house and go to the grocery store, so we just ask customers to take what they need.”
At Aldi, per shopping trip, you can only purchase four canned goods per item, two packs of toilet paper and two cases of water. That is the limit for those items. There are also notices posted throughout the store to remind customers.
Managers have noticed an increase in personal shoppers who are independently contracted by the startup company Instacart. According to CNN, the company plans to hire 300,000 full-service shoppers, who are treated as independent contractors.
In Spartanburg, Phoebe Wabbington said she started delivering groceries for added income after losing work due to the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m in perfect health and I’m not worried, so I’m happy to help,” she said.
While using the app, people who would like to stay home can select their zip code, choose a store and create a shopping list. They are then matched with a shopper who buys the items and delivers them to the customer’s door, providing a source of income for many in the service industry like Wabbington.
“It’s a really good opportunity for me,” she said. To protect customers, she said she makes sure she is healthy before accepting an order and sanitizes frequently.
“I’m the only one that touches the items. I sanitize before I walk in the store [and] spray with Lysol the bags when I’m done.”
Managers also suggest that seniors wear gloves when coming in for added protection to items that have been touched by others, and to wash produce carefully after purchasing.