As businesses across Wisconsin shut down to protect against the spread of coronavirus, grocery stores must look at alternative measures to keep their vital service available.
As one of the two main grocery stores in the Dells, Maurer’s Market has to deal with the same levels of panic buying and customer stockpiling as companies like Walmart. According to store manager Ken Rupnow, some preparation for a lockdown is alright, “but too much can hurt others who may need what you’re buying too much of.”
“Obviously, it’s great to stock up on non-perishables,” Rupnow said. “These options are out there, but if more people don’t stay home… if (coronavirus) comes to this town, it’s going to spread fast.”
One of the most common examples of panic buying has been toilet paper, and Maurer’s is no exception. Rupnow said that in the first few days of the outbreak spreading in the U.S., one customer left the store with 240 rolls of toilet paper, and he doesn’t want to see people going without an important commodity.
“Day one hit, it was (a) Wednesday, I remember selling 240 rolls to someone,” Rupnow said. “And they made a comment, ‘Well, you never know how long you’re going to be in.’”
Since then, Maurer’s staff keeps the toilet paper supply in the back of the store, and brings packs out on request to sell one at a time. Rupnow and his staff have done the same with products like distilled water, as he knows that seniors with CPAP machines need purified water to breathe at night.
Classifying between customers who need a certain product and those who want it has been a key difficulty for Rupnow during the outbreak. Within two days, Maurer’s ran out of powdered milk, so some customers began to buy baby formula instead.
“She went and grabbed baby formula,” Rupnow said. “And then I have mothers crying because they can’t find baby formula anywhere in town, so I had to start hiding that.”
Rupnow does what he can to limit the pandemic’s spread; work stations are sanitized every hour, all cashiers have to wear latex gloves on the job and hand sanitizer is dotted throughout the store. But he acknowledged that if vulnerable people keep coming to the store en masse, the disease will be more able to spread.
If someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has come into contact with a diagnosed case, Maurer’s offers grocery delivery services to their front door. Rupnow said he’s trying to push the delivery on the store’s social media channels to cut back on crowds.
“We do deliver,” Rupnow said. “That’s the thing we’re doing social media blasts on, and it’d be a great thing for the community to know. Hey, you can either shop online to be picked up at the location—we’ll bring it to your car, you can stay out of the store—or we’ll drop it off at your home.”
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