The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Hoarding strains suppliers


March 25, 2020

Peter Stein

Shoppers peruse the frozen foods aisle at S&S Supermarket in Clovis on Monday afternoon, including one shopper wearing a protective mask.

CLOVIS - Thomas Paine wrote in 'Common Sense:' These are the times that try men's souls.

If Payne had been alive to write about the coronavirus he might have referred to these times as trying men's and women's souls, especially those who work in the supermarket industry.

Since COVID-19 became a pandemic in the United States two weeks ago, grocery stores have been crowded, and some of those crowds have been hoarding essential items like paper products, cleaning supplies, meat and bread, leaving shelves bare for others who may want and need those products too.

Yes, some have become a bit grabby here in the time of the plague. And local supermarkets have been affected as much as anywhere in the country.

"It's just way above normal," Tommy Firestone, manager of the Clovis S&S Supermarket, said Monday afternoon. "People are hoard-buying. Instead of buying one package, they're buying three and four packages, and now our suppliers are all behind. We're just putting on the shelf what we can put on the shelf."

Paper products have been hard to keep there. S&S was cleaned out of them on Monday afternoon.

"I got some paper towels in today (Monday), and limited one package per person," Firestone said. "And I sold them out in about an hour, a whole pallet of paper towels. It's crazy. I've done this for 46 years and I've never seen anything like that."

"Certainly there has been some panic-buying, and that has put a strain on our supply chain," Nancy Sharp, spokeswoman for Albertson's Market, said Monday by telephone from Lubbock. "We feel like we could slow the curve if people would buy what they need, not what they can. It's really about being a good neighbor."

The Clovis Albertson's was wiped out of paper products late Monday afternoon. A good portion of the store's meat was also gone, as was its bread.

"Those have been things in high demand across the country," Sharp said. "So we're shipping those products as fast as we can. We're just asking our guests to be patient and understanding as we work through it together."

S&S still had a decent supply of cleaning products Monday. But not a full supply.

"Disinfectant, a lot of that's gone. Like Lysol, things like that," Firestone said. "But we have been able to get regular cleaners and that stuff. And we're keeping it on the shelf."

The suppliers are running like crazy, trying to meet the demands of a frightened society. Normally, S&S gets new paper product shipments twice a week. But these are hardly normal times.

"The warehouse is running about three times their normal loads right now," Firestone said. "Normally they run 250 loads a day; they're trying to do 500, 600 loads a day. The trucks aren't on time. ... Most of them can be anywhere from an hour or two late to 12 hours late. That's not normal; normally it's on a schedule. Normally, for example, a truck would be here at 6 (a.m.); now we've been getting them maybe 2, 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon. It's because they don't have enough drivers."

Aside from the hoarding, other changes are appearing at supermarkets. More and more people are choosing to shop while wearing masks and rubber gloves.

The stores too are implementing change. Sharp said that Albertson's is unveiling social-distancing markers on the floors, so customers can see just how far apart they are from each other, as compared to how far they need to be.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure our guests stay safe," Sharp said.

That's a priority for every store and every business everywhere. People are trying to stay safe, trying to cope.

"You just deal with it," Firestone said, "and do the best you can."


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