COVID-19 Panic Buying and Impact of King Soopers Hours Change

The King Soopers branch at 11747 West Ken Caryl Avenue in Littleton.
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The King Soopers branch at 11747 West Ken Caryl Avenue in Littleton.
In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, Governor Jared Polis has ordered the statewide shutdown of restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and casinos, as well as other facilities that attract large gatherings, with the specific exception of grocery stores. But while Polis rejected the need for panic buying of toilet paper and the like at a recent press conference, noting that there's been no disruption in the supply chain for such products, it's still been happening at select locations across the metro area.

In response, King Soopers stores announced a schedule change, with stores now opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m., in order to give overburdened employees a chance to restock the shelves.

Has this move calmed a nervous public? Not quite — but there are actually at least a few positive signs, based on the experiences of one shopper over the past couple of days.

On Monday evening, the shopper went to the King Soopers at 11747 West Ken Caryl Avenue in search of corned beef and potatoes as part of a traditional St. Patrick's Day meal for a sizable group — one in excess of ten people (sorry, President Trump), albeit the last of its type for the foreseeable future. But the stop revealed neither item; the meat section had been entirely decimated, and there wasn't a single spud to be found. The shopper discovered similar situations at a nearby Sam's Club and a different King Soopers branch before actually scoring two packages of corned beef at a Safeway.

The shopper had a few potatoes at home but needed more and made plans to stop at the Ken Caryl King Soopers early the next morning to see if any of the bins had been replenished. At around 6:40 a.m., however, there were already dozens of people in line outside the business — at least thirty and perhaps as many as fifty. And they weren't practicing social distancing, presumably because staying six feet apart would hinder a rush for the doors.

Rather than joining this gaggle, the shopper decided to swing by another King Soopers, located at 3400 Youngfield Street in Wheat Ridge, on the way to work — and found a very similar line. But by the time the shopper parked, the entryway had opened and everyone was filing in.

The shelves inside were full, if not overflowing, with goods; no one carrying cash or an operational credit card would go hungry. The shopper didn't check the toilet paper aisle, having plenty on hand from long before rolls began vanishing at jaw-slackening speed, even though the paper-product aisles were empty at all four stores visited the previous night. Instead, the destination was the produce stations, where there were potatoes aplenty.

This scenario didn't put everyone at ease. Despite signs all over the store warning customers that they'd be limited to a quantity of two for any item (a measure intended to prevent hoarding), one woman was overheard telling a companion, "Just put as much of anything in the cart as you can. It doesn't matter what."

To her credit, the companion balked, saying, "We don't need to be selfish. We need to think about other people, too."

Good advice.