Grocery shopping as we knew it is over, at least for the foreseeable future. But there may be a little, tiny — just a pinhole — light at the end of the tunnel, as by Thursday the logjam seemed to have eased somewhat.
Early in the week, news from the front was bleak so I turned to the computer, just to find I couldn’t even reach the sites for Amazon Fresh or Amazon Whole Foods. An attempt to schedule pickup from Smith’s (the closest supermarket to my house) was shelved because the first slot was three days away. And a Smith’s delivery scheduled for Tuesday would prove to yield less than half of the items I’d ordered as the shopper made her way down the aisles and tossed everything that wasn’t available, letting me know by text. But the delivery process was smooth, the quality of the produce excellent. And while the normal charge is $9.95, the first one was waived.
Duty called Tuesday and I got a personal view of the situation while out reporting. I went to a Cardenas Market with the thought that the smaller stores might draw smaller crowds. Wrong: I could get plenty of beef tongue but not more mainstream cuts, produce bins were empty and an egg wasn’t to be found.
A Vons seemed promising, with an employee piling up fresh tomatoes near a display of numerous types of salad greens near literally piles of red bell peppers, but no eggs, and no ground beef.
Trader Joe’s didn’t have many empty shelves (except that, oddly, one of the frozen-food cases was entirely bare) but not a trace of ground beef or eggs.
Pleased, like lots of other people, that Smith’s was opening an hour earlier Wednesday (as well as Fridays and Mondays) for those 60 and older, I showed up at a Henderson store about 6:40 a.m. and found a line snaking across the parking lot. (I left.) RJ copy editor Joe Hawk had a similar experience at a store in the northern valley, where a crowd of 40 at 6:30 a.m. had grown to 350 by 7. (He stayed and found little milk, few eggs, no bread and virtually no meat).
Thinking that maybe I would have more luck with an earlier time slot, on Wednesday I again tried Smith’s pickup, snagging one on Thursday morning. (This time the fee was $4.95, but waived for the first three pickups, and Smith’s currently is waiving pickup fees for those 60 and older.)
I made up my list and anxiously waited; when the notification arrived, it was only that my $1.99 eggs would be subbed for some that were $4.99 a dozen, and no, still no ground meat. (I didn’t even really want ground beef, but it was an interesting barometer.) The pickup process was smooth and easy; I pulled into a marked space in front of the store, called the number on an adjacent sign and in a few minutes an employee wheeled my groceries into the parking lot and put them in my trunk.
And then I walked into the store, at around 10 a.m., and found little of the shopper surliness of earlier in the week. The most popular commodities were, thankfully, being limited to one per person. Still no ground beef, but there were those $4.99 and some $5.99 eggs and a fair selection of dairy products and some paper products. We’re unfortunately nowhere near the end of this social experiment, but perhaps people have wrested control of their hoarder tendencies, or their homes have reached capacity.
This fresh hell we’re experiencing right now is bound to change some of our habits. As someone who hates to shop, I liked the convenience of ordering from my phone, and $4.95 seems worth it, though $9.95, maybe not. And I have a feeling my Amazon shopping will only expand.