ST. GEORGE — As people prepare to possibly self-isolate in their homes as result of COVID-19, they are beginning to buy up mass amounts of shelf stable and frozen goods.
At Costco in St. George, people were walking out with their carts full while various other grocery stores in St. George and Washington are out of rice and other canned items.
The Costco in St. George is the closest location for Southern Utahns, as there are not any others south of Spanish Fork and north of Las Vegas. As a result, they see plenty of shoppers from across Southern Utah and sometimes people from further. Because of this, the St. George location is always busy – but since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, it has been even more busy.
At Costcos in California, there were reports of brawls breaking out and police officers being called on scene. At one location in Canyon Country, California, the line just to get into the Costco wrapped through the entire parking lot. Other locations in California reportedly had people lining up at 3 a.m. to try and get their hands on toilet paper and other bulk goods.
While there have been issues at some Costcos around the country, one worker mentioned that everyone at the St. George location has been respectful. Some customers get angry when workers tell them that they are out of toilet paper, but tempers have not flared beyond that.
Costco has brought in extra workers to handle the increased demand and shipments of new goods, which are being brought in daily. To combat the rapid sales of toilet paper, paper towels and bottled waters, Costco also implemented a limit of two items per person for each good.
One patron called over a Costco worker to ask where all the toilet paper was and the worker told him that they had sold out. This is a message workers have been telling people for days. He also mentioned that people lined up at 7 a.m. to get into the building, which was two and a half hours before they opened on Saturday morning.
When they get a new shipment of toilet paper, they immediately put it on the floor, and that is why they cannot tell people exactly when toilet paper will be available. One thing that is guaranteed: As soon as a new shipment comes in, it goes quickly.
The items that are selling the quickest are shelf-stable goods and frozen goods, –items that will last a long time. Another thing that has been flying off the shelves is dog food. On Thursday, people were seen walking out with four 35-pound bags of dog food in their cart. There were no bags left on Saturday morning.
Most of the frozen goods were limited earlier in the week, but those items have since been restocked. Where there were only a few bags of frozen chicken breasts left on Thursday, there are now plenty.
The canned items aisle, which included rice, canned vegetables and some pasta, was barren.
A Costco worker talked about how hard it has been to restock and keep things on the shelves. They said, “it’s been hard to keep up.”
At the St. George location on Saturday morning, parking was a hot commodity. Patrons were circling the parking lot, sometimes twice, just to find a spot. As you walk into the location, people are filing out with carts stacked and sometimes even overflowing.
While there was no line to get into Costco, there was a massive line near the toiletries and larger lines at the checkout registers. Each register had a line with at least 10 people in it, waiting to pay for their items.
A worker told St. George News that, “it’s Costco, we’re busy all the time.”
They seemed to be handling the uptick in business well and people were getting in and out of the location easily if you take away the wait times to checkout.
Costco is not the only store seeing an increase in the sale of items. Walmart, Smith’s and Albertsons are other stores that have seen empty aisles. At the Washington Walmart on Friday, the canned goods and rice were all gone. The same applied to Albertsons and Smith’s.
At the Albertsons, the line to checkout at 9:30 p.m. was filled with at least eight people with their carts filled. As for Smith’s, their empty shelves were seen on Friday night at the Bluff Street location. The dry goods were gone, as were the dairy goods.
For those people who are wondering when new shipments will get in, a Costco worker mentioned that they come in daily.
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