Rules for Grocery Shopping in a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best of us (companies 3D printing personal protective equipment, distilleries manufacturing and donating hand sanitizer, etc.) and the worst of us. One place that has routinely been the site of the worst behaviour is grocery stores. 

Panic buying is the most egregious grocery shopping sin to emerge during this pandemic. Hopefully, as self-isolation has become the new normal, people will take a deep breath and realize that we are not in any danger of running out of food or other household supplies. (At least here in Canada, where even toilet paper is slowly returning to store shelves.) 

But there are other transgressions occurring in the aisles of grocery stores. Couples/group shopping is still happening, even though governments and store owners have asked that only one person per household shop at a time to avoid overcrowding aisles and checkout lanes. The other sin? Ignoring the two-metre rule. 

Surely we are all familiar with this rule by now. The government has been shouting it from the rooftops–stay two metres away from everyone when you venture outside your home. (And, while we’re talking about rules, it’s worth repeating that you should only be leaving your home if you are feeling well and have no symptoms of coronavirus or any other viral illness.) 

Perhaps people are still in panic buying mode. Maybe they are too accustomed to just pushing ahead and grabbing what they need, whether or not someone else is there, and haven’t gotten used to the idea of allowing space when shopping . Whatever the reason, I have seen people getting far too close to each other while shopping for food. And since even the most ardent social isolators have to go out for food eventually, it behooves us all to follow a few basic rules when shopping: 

Wait your turn. This fundamental rule that most of us learned in kindergarten has special relevance when shopping during a pandemic. If an aisle is already occupied by two or three carts, just hang back and wait until someone moves on. There is no need for you to go crashing through, obnoxiously and impatiently pushing your way up the aisle while others are quietly browsing the wall of crackers or cereal. Let the people who were there first finish, and then slowly and politely proceed. If the aisle you want is particularly busy, go to another aisle and come back later. Or park your cart at the end of an aisle, then tiptoe up, careful to avoid others, grab what you need, and tiptoe back. 

Be mindful of others. You are not the only shopper in the store. We all want to get in and get out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most of us don’t want to linger by the egg cooler, waiting for you to finish your 5-minute phone call to your spouse about whether to buy free-run, grain-fed, organic, Omega-3 brown eggs or basic no-name eggs. If you really have to discuss such things, move two metres from the cooler door and let others get the items they need. (Yes, I did witness this exact behaviour the other day.)

Use your words. Another kindergarten rule. If someone is blocking access to an item you want, like I inadvertently did the other day when looking for plain Greek yogurt that actually contains fat, politely ask if they would mind moving so you can reach what you need. Sometimes people don’t notice that others are waiting and most would be happy to scooch back to allow you access while they browse from a distance. 

These are simple rules that will help all of us maintain the all-important two metres of distance we need when shopping. Not sure what two metres looks like? Use an imaginary hockey stick as your guideline, “the standard Canadian measure of a safe distance,” according to The Out and Abouter. It’s not quite two metres, but it gives you a general idea. 

And remember, the two metre-rule applies to everyone in the store, including cashiers and employees stocking shelves. These employees are putting themselves at risk so we can continue to shop. The least we can do is respect their space and, in the words of Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo, not burst their bubbles: 

Metre Stick Image from Clipart Library.

Leave a Reply