We’re more than a half year into the coronavirus pandemic. At this point, even if COVD-19 hasn’t transformed your life in a drastic way, it has likely caused a permanent shift in some of your daily practices. For my family, the entire retail shopping experience has been changed.
We were already doing a lot of online shopping. A considerable amount at Amazon, but also retailers such as Target and Kohls. This has accelerated in recent months, as we’ve made every attempt to shrink our bubble and limit outside exposure. We’re lucky enough to be able to work from home, and the kids are able to attend school remotely. The next step was to push more of our shopping online. It’s rare to have a couple days pass without having a delivery of some sort.
I wouldn’t say that we’re hoarding, but we’re certainly making an effort to keep more inventory on hand. Even though we’re not facing rampant shortages, we do have stretches of a few weeks where it can be difficult to find items. In the past, we’d keep one spare Tide on hand. Now we have a couple extras. We buy Clorox wipes whenever we see them, of course. Spottings are as rare as Bigfoot sightings.
I have always hated grocery shopping. There are always items I struggle to find, and I end up backtracking. Canned fruit and fruit cups are in two completely different sections of the store. Why? Nobody knows.
The local grocery store offers free pickup for orders of more than $35. When we first started using this in March, it was a bit of a mess. Even if you showed up in your correct time window, you could end up waiting an hour or more, and items were often missing from the order. The process has gotten much more efficient. In the best situations, it takes less than five minutes. Even if things go a bit awry, it’s faster than a trip to the actual grocery store. Overall, it’s a great experience.
Although our first foray into pickups was for groceries, many other retailers off the same service. The aforementioned Target has a pretty slick process. They’ve actually improved it in the past couple of weeks. Previously, you entered your car information, and they’d confirm your identity verbally. With the recent changes, a numeric code pops up on your phone’s screen, and you simply hold your phone up to your window.
A number of smaller retailers at the local mall are currently offering drive-up service. For some small retailers, it’s a lifeline to keep afloat, and likely won’t remain in place after the pandemic passes. For other retailers, it will remain an important channel in the future.
At the age of 45, I may have attended my last movie. I had soured on the experience in recent years anyway. The local theater moving to a reservation system made things much worse. Previously, if you got stuck behind tall people, or loud people, or whatever, you could simply move. Now you need to go out and change your reserved seats. Additionally, the seats have a tendency to hurt my back. In general, attending a movie in person had become a much worse experience than streaming something online – and much more expensive as well. I’m content to just wait for the latest blockbuster to roll onto Netflix.
I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man, but I’ve never really cared about the ambience of a dining experience. My primary goal, especially with two kids, has always been to avoid having the experience swallow up an entire evening. That goal has been accomplished, at least in the short term. I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant since March 6.
That doesn’t mean that we haven’t eaten food from a restaurant. About once or twice a week, we use a local service called Chomp that is a competitor to companies like Grubhub. Chomp has a cool logo (dinosaur) and the majority of the company is owned by local restaurant owners. The guy who started Chomp lives in an adjacent neighborhood, and has been an active volunteer in the community’s youth sports program. Being able to help this guy’s small (but growing) business while also getting access to restaurant food is killing two birds with one stone. Not every restaurant participates, of course, but we’ve gotten a wide variety of food delivered – everything from shrimp to pancakes. We’ve also had a few pizzas delivered, of course. There are occasional glitches – like the time Popeye’s only gave us three meals instead of four – but in general the order are accurate and are delivered hot.
At some point, I’m sure we’ll resume in-restaurant dining, but my guess is that this will be less frequent, and that we’ll continue to use the delivery service.
We’re probably going to steer clear of buffets for quite a while, though. The pandemic has heightened awareness of some unsanitary practices of some of the guests.
One restaurant that has completely dropped off the radar is McDonalds. I’m not sure if the kids (13 and 10) have just completely outgrown it at this point, or whether it simply loses out to delivery options, but the kids haven’t even asked for McD lately. I have used the Hardees drive through a few times. I love their monster biscuit and bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.
Subway is another restaurant that has gotten completely neglected. My guess is that we’ll eventually return to Subway when we need to grab something quick before rushing off to a school event. But with the social calendar bare at the moment, there just hasn’t been the need to eat quickly.
In non-shopping news
My company hasn’t announced a plan to return to the office. They’re planning to work on the plan over the course of the next month. My guess is that we’ll return to the office sometime in late spring, that some areas will remain primarily work from home, and that the company will use “hotel” cubes in an attempt to reduce the real-estate footprint. If given the option, I would probably only come into the office about once per week. Occasionally, if we’re working on something like screen design, it can be helpful to be gathered in front of a big whiteboard. A lot of my recent work has involved abstract concepts where the need is more cut and dried. In those cases, remote working is a great solution. I’m in the process of moving to a new area. That area supports our tax area, and I’m guessing that even more of my work will deal with the abstract and less of it will deal with user interfaces.
When I worked in the office, I’d buy things from vending machines pretty frequently. I’m guessing this is another habit that I’ve shed. Considering the markup on items in the machines, this should save a fair amount of money over the course of the year.
In case you’re worried that I’ll eventually become a complete hermit, that probably won’t happen. We do look forward to making occasional forays in the outside world at some point. We have a trip to Door County (Wisconsin) that had to be delayed and is now scheduled for June of 2021. We enjoyed a previous trip a few years ago and are looking forward to the encore trip.