The recent changes to shopping are not necessarily all bad. On the bright side, some people are being more mindful about what they buy and from where. And many are paying more attention to the safety aspects of shopping – both in person and online. Here are some of the biggest changes for shoppers, and some suggestions for navigating the new way of shopping.
Shopping for Groceries
For those who consider grocery shopping a chore, new guidelines in the grocery store may provide another reason to grumble. But like other changes to daily life, there are some upsides to consider as well. Many stores are offering special early hours reserved for older shoppers and people with medical conditions. This means grocery store personnel are more attuned to the needs of older shoppers than they were before. And perhaps the biggest plus of all, shopping early in the day means fewer people in the store and cleaner conditions throughout.
Some quick tips to make grocery store shopping easier:
- Make a list and have a plan. Knowing what you need allows you to spend less time in the store
- Sanitize cart handles before shopping
- Consider wearing disposable gloves. Remove and discard gloves after shopping at one store before visiting another
- Keep your distance. While it’s not always possible to have an entire aisle to yourself, you may be able to maintain some distance by moving to the next item on your list while waiting for a crowded spot to clear
- If you’re concerned about surfaces, wipe down packages when you get home. You may also want to remove and discard exterior packaging for some products when it makes sense
- Depending on local regulations, consider wearing a mask while shopping to protect others
Of course, if you can’t or don’t want to go into the store, many grocers offer online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery.
- Get familiar with the store’s website and ordering process before ordering
- Make a list of what you want before starting your order
- Have some substitutions in mind if any items on your list are unavailable
- Make sure you know when to expect your grocery order to arrive; there may be a delay in some areas
Getting Takeout Food and Beverages
Many restaurants are continuing to offer takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery, which can make restaurant dining more convenient than ever. Even fine dining establishments have followed the lead of neighborhood pizza parlors and Chinese takeout joints, offering an abbreviated online menu, or even a full menu complete with beverages.
Top considerations for safe takeout:
- Order locally from restaurants you know and trust
- Order directly from the restaurant whenever possible; consider a meal delivery service as an alternative
- Ask about your approximate wait time if it’s not posted on the restaurant’s or delivery service’s website
- Request contact-free delivery and have the delivery person leave your order at your door
- Add the gratuity when you place your order rather than handing cash to delivery person. You’ll avoid unnecessary hand-to-hand contact, and the delivery person may not be permitted to handle cash anyway
- Remove food from the bags used in transport when bringing food into your home. Discard bags outside your home
Shopping for Clothes, Shoes and Accessories
As with the grocery stores, knowing what you need or want ahead of time and where you’re likely to find it are important safety considerations. Check the store’s website to see if they have what you’re looking for. Call ahead to see if they have the size and color you want. Many retailers are offering curbside pickup, and delivery is usually an option too.
Top tips for safe shopping include:
- For apparel items, stick with brands you’ve bought before to ensure a consistent fit
- Many retailers are offering private shopping for single shoppers. Call to see if your store is offering this service
- Some brands are getting very creative with social media. Check the store’s Facebook page to see if they are highlighting new items or offering any kind of unique shopping experiences
- Be aware that fitting rooms may not be available to try on items before purchase. Call ahead to find out, and ask about sanitation of fitting rooms between customers
- Know that some stores (both online and retail) are not accepting returns or may have more strict return policies than you’re accustomed to. Ask about return policies or check the website before making a purchase
Shopping for Medication and Personal Care Items
If you’ve never taken advantage of delivery for prescription medications, now is a good time to start. Most of the large pharmacy chains are offering some type of delivery service. Check with your pharmacy or healthcare provider to be sure your prescriptions are eligible for delivery.
Top tips when shopping:
- Be sure to refill your prescription before you run out. While some medication deliveries can be delivered on a “rush” basis, most services require at least one or two days to get your prescriptions to you
- You will probably have to download an app or sign up for text messages from the pharmacy to participate in a delivery program
- If possible, add personal care items to your Rx delivery. Many pharmacies are happy to include personal care items and sundries to your order
- If delivery isn’t an option, check to see if the pharmacy has a drive-through or if they’re offering curbside pickup. You may be able to refill your prescription, shop online for other items, and pick everything up outside the store
Shopping for Repair Services
Washing machines, air conditioners and other appliances can go on the fritz any time, but they usually do so when it’s least convenient! If you need service or appliance repair, there’s no need to put it off. Most utilities and repair services have established new guidelines for working in your home in a way that’s safe for you and for their employees.
Top tips for repair services:
- Ask how the service provider is checking employee health and if the service person will be wearing a mask. This may or may not be a requirement in your area, but it’s certainly something you can request
- Ask how the service person will be practicing distancing and other safety measures while in your home
- Understand what type of clean up and sanitation practices will be followed after the work is finished
- Steer clear of the work area for 24 hours if possible
- It doesn’t hurt to do your own clean up, too. Clean door handles and other surfaces in the work area with sanitizing wipes or spray
Safe Online Shopping
The new normal has forced many people to shop online, even if it wasn’t their preference before. If you’re new to online shopping, you’ll probably enjoy the convenience a virtual shopping experience provides.
Top tips for safe online shopping:
- Only shop online with reputable merchants you know and trust
- Be careful with credit card information and shop only on secure websites
- Use strong passwords for any accounts that require a login to shop. A strong password includes letters, numbers and special characters (?, @,! or *), and should be something that you can remember easily
- Keep an eye on your credit card account for any suspicious charges
- Take advantage of online shipment tracking to know when to expect your deliveries
- Provide delivery instructions to ensure your packages get to you safely
For anyone who has lived through other trying times during our nation’s history, you know there’s a period of adjustment before anything seems routine. Shopping is one of those things we all need to do, and now we’ll just do it a little differently. Hopefully, the tips above will help you feel comfortable and secure about shopping for anything you need.