As the coronavirus saga continues to unravel in Bucks and Montgomery counties, so, too, do the effects of the crisis, from a special shopping hour for seniors, to jobs on hold like 28,000 Bucks hospitality jobs and increased cases including local COVID-19 deaths.
Now that some area supermarkets have established a 60-and-older shopping hour, will underage customers try to beat the system with a fake ID? Such a con often involves alcohol consumption, but today’s frenzied coronavirus buyer has me curious.
Soon after Giant supermarket held the special hour one recent day, I checked with Heather Pohl at the supermarket’s Horsham store. It had been harried during the 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. shopping period, held seven days a week.
“A lot came out this morning,” said Pohl, a customer service representative. “A lot.”
The supermarket does not check IDs at the door to verify a shopper’s age, but Pohl gave it her eye-dentification test.
“Some customers looked of age and some didn’t,” she said. ““I questioned someone because they didn’t look of age. She said she was 67. I had no idea and said ‘you look amazing for 67.’ For the most part, it’s been pretty fair.”
The shoppers bought a range of products, said Pohl, but especially went after a certain paper item.
Said she: “They wiped out the toilet paper. But we just got more.”
Giant supermarkets regionally have trimmed hours to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, she said, and have managed to keep shelves mostly filled.
“We have stuff, but it’s not necessarily a huge variety,” said Pohl. “It depends on what you’re looking for.”
Shoppers are limited to two items of certain paper products and disinfectants. The new hours will be in place until further notice, and crews will sanitize, take deliveries and stock shelves during off hours.
“We’re exhausted, but all good,” Pohl said of employees.
Scores of jobs here and nationwide have been negatively hit by the forced closure of businesses, bars and restaurants, and by orders for the public to stay-at- home. And with travel restrictions in place, the tourism trade has been struck and impacted the 28,000 hospitality jobs in Bucks.
Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie said the hospitality trade is one of the hardest hit industries, and that state and federal officials are weighing steps to ease the suffering felt by that trade and other businesses. In addition, he said, the county’s consumer protection department is investigating reports of price gouging for possible referral to the state Attorney General’s office.
“Hopefully we are past the stage where people are hoarding,” he said. “We hope that people now are beginning to settle in a little bit and resist that.”
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Bucks and Montgomery grows daily, as does the state and national number. The first virus death in the two counties was recorded when a 72-year-old Abington man died from COVID-19. Other deaths have since been reported.