Justin Smith uses the Kroger mobile app to shop for groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo/Will Broadwater)

Online Shopping Gains Popularity In Wake Of COVID-19

Online shopping has become an increasingly preferred method of getting groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak, as both employees and customers see it as minimizing human contact and enhancing safety to slow the spread.  

The CDC reported 895,766 cases of COVID-19 as of April 24, 2020, with the first case in the U.S. being reported on Jan. 22, 2020. As cases have spread nationwide, people are concerned with how to get the food and supplies they need to survive with minimal exposure to others. Online shopping allows shoppers to be socially distant, avoiding the still-crowded grocery stores.

On their “Tips for Safe Grocery Shopping” page on their website, Kroger has encouraged shoppers to order online if they can to reduce human contact. The CDC released guidelines for people to follow in order to slow the spread of the virus. They encourage social distancing, saying that people should keep at least 6 feet between them and others, as well as avoiding large gatherings or confined areas. 

 Why It’s Newsworthy: The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted how everyone gets food and supplies, while still maintaining good health. Online shopping allows customers to get their groceries and supplies without going into crowded stores, avoiding possible exposure to the virus. 

 

Kroger’s app allows you to sign-in to your account and set a store location for pick-up and item stock purposes. Customers add items to their online shopping cart through Kroger’s search function, as well as having the option to search by department. Once they are finished shopping, customers enter their credit or debit card information to pay and schedule a time for pick-up. However, due to high demand during these unprecedented times, customers should be prepared for delays. 

According to Lance Stechshulte, a Kroger employee in Alpharetta, Georgia, his store has gotten a large increase of online orders in the last month. When customers go to pick a time for pick-up, the app gives time options for almost a week later at the earliest. If customers want to make an order, they would need to make sure they have enough food to last them until they can go pick up their order. 

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in the amount of orders,” Stechshulte said. “Every day is pretty much full with orders five days in advance.” Customers who use the online ordering system should plan their pick-ups accordingly. 

Employees Adhere to Enhanced Safety Precautions

Stechshulte said he feels safe at work and that it is becoming safer everyday, as more questions about the virus are answered. 

Personally, I choose to wear gloves but it’s not a mandatory rule, yet. I think it should be, I think people should wear gloves,” Stechshulte said.

“I think it’s just [an added] level of protection, especially when handling other people’s goods,” he added.

He explained that employees sanitize all of the carts and baskets regularly. When customers come to pick up their groceries, employees let them open their car doors and trunks to avoid touching the car. Once the groceries are in the car, the employee and customer go over the items to make sure everything is correct.

On the FAQ page on their website, Kroger explains that perishable items are chosen shortly before the customer arrives for pickup. This ensures freshness for the customer. If the customer does not like a particular unit, they can exchange it for a substitute. According to Kroger, customers normally receive a full refund if they are not satisfied with an item. 

However, Stechshulte said that due to the virus they are not currently taking returns, as items could be contaminated once they leave the store. Stechshulte referenced a time when he and a customer finalized and signed an order. The customer got home and realized that he didn’t like the eggs. When he tried to make a return, he was not given a refund since he had already signed off on the order and left. Stechshulte explained that this is for the protection of everyone. 

Stechshulte explained he has had good experiences with the pick-up orders and that most people are very understanding since everyone is being affected by the virus.

Will Broadwater is a senior majoring in journalism at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. 

 

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