SIERRA VISTA — Across the nation people have been panicking and frantically clearing shelves of local grocery stores, making everyday items hard to find.
Local stores are seeing the same behaviors, with the same results, despite stocking as fast as they can. Walmart, Fry’s, Safeway and other chain stores have and continue to be wiped out of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and other daily needs.
Monique Stepka spent at least an hour navigating the aisles of Fry’s Food and Drug Monday morning in a scene she could only describe as “crazy.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this, even living on the east coast with hurricanes,” she said. “You can see those (people) are panicking.”
Stepka, who is visiting the area from Nevada, said the stores in her home state are just like what she’s seeing while visiting family in Sierra Vista.
“Usually people here are nice, but you can tell everyone is tense and guarded,” she said. “We should be spreading some human kindness.”
Walmart shelves are full when the store opens, but early-bird customers clear the shelves by midday. Shoppers Monday afternoon were greeted with empty baby wipe shelves, empty paper product shelves and empty water bottle areas. Lunch meat and sliced cheese selections were limited due to the high demand.
According to Walmart’s official statement, which was emailed to the Herald/Review, “Beginning Sunday, March 15, Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets will adjust their operating hours to help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing. Unless they already have more reduced hours, stores will be open from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. until further notice.”
When asked if the Sierra Vista Walmart was adequately staffed for restocking and customer service the Herald/Review was referred back to the above statement.
According to a March 10 press release that was forwarded to the Herald/Review by Leslie Sonnenklar, a public relations representative of Walmart through Zion & Zion: “As one would expect, paper products, cleaning supplies and other items are in high demand as customers prepare for the possible impact of COVID-19. We are working to replenish those items quickly, including diverting products to areas of the country where they are needed most and routing deliveries directly to stores. We have also authorized our store managers to manage their inventory, including the discretion to limit sales quantities on items that are in unusually high demand.”
A local manager said they were not limiting the amount of certain products customers could purchase in one trip, but referred the Herald/Review to Walmart’s media relations hotline when asked if they were considering it.
Walmart isn’t the only local store struggling with the high demands of paper and cleaning products. Target, as well as Fry’s Food and Drug, were out of the high-demand items early Monday despite having limits on how many a customer could purchase. Safeway stores in Bisbee and Sierra Vista were out of paper products Friday afternoon. Nancy Keane, a media relations person for Safeway, said they cannot comment on the quantities and stock of each store. She did confirm that they were not putting limitations on how many items a person can buy.
In an effort to help consumers, Sara Arsenault, operations manager at ACE Hardware in Sierra Vista, loaded up on products customers were asking for that the store had in fairly small quantities. She said she ordered extra Clorox wipes, toilet paper, masks and hand sanitizer.
“If we could get it, we wanted to get it because people want it and asked for it,” Arsenault said. “We’re getting shipments from all over the country. If we see it, we want to scoop it up, so now it’s ours (to sell to consumers in need).”
ACE received a shipment of Clorox wipes and toilet paper on Monday and are limiting how many of each can be purchased by one person. Arsenault said the store also has cases of water and distilled water available. She said she has had more people asking for distilled water for their CPAP machines, which has caused her to think about the reasons certain people need items that are rapidly being bought out.
The Herald/Review will continue to provide information regarding COVID-19 impacts in the community as information becomes available and the ongoing, rapidly evolving situation further develops. For complete coverage, see the “coronavirus” page on the Herald/Review website at myheraldreview.com.