Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Stop&Shop, and Aldi have announced reduced store hours during the COVID-19 outbreak—another part of a rapidly shifting scene across New York City as schools close, restaurants and bars move to takeout and delivery only, and social distancing guidance intensifies.
For weeks, some larger grocery stores have had lines around the block and bare shelves of staples as people stock up on groceries, not due to food shortages, but in anticipation of a more sweeping shutdown, though some have pointed out bodegas and corner stores haven't experienced the same stockpiling from customers.
“It’s like we’ve had Superstorm Sandy but every single day for the last three weeks,” said one Manhattan Trader Joe’s employee, who declined to be named. “We’ve always prepared for a week of craziness but nothing at this level for this long ever.”
Beginning Monday, Trader Joe’s hours are reduced from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. as a part of broader efforts to "safeguard the health and safety" of employees and customers, like increasing cleaning with focus on "high touch areas," according to an update from the company.
Stop & Shop's new hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. beginning Monday to allow workers to unload deliveries and stock shelves, according to a press release. On Thursday, Stop & Shop will open early hours—from 6 to 7:30 a.m.—for customers older than 60 to allow those most vulnerable to the virus to shop in a "less crowded environment."
"Although Stop & shop will not be requesting ID for entry, they request that we all respect the purpose of the early opening—and do the right thing for our older neighbors," the store said in a release. "We’re also taking additional measures during this time, which include wiping down checkout areas including the belts and pin pads with disinfectant even more frequently."
Aldi and Whole Foods also announced reduced hours, but didn’t specify times or locations.
The Trader Joe’s staffer was glad the stores were staying open but hadn’t been told specifics regarding how the reduced hours would impact her working hours. Staffers stay long after closing hours for other tasks, she added. Trader Joe’s did not immediately respond to a press inquiry.
Employees at Trader Joe's are being provided additional paid sick leave, food sampling has been suspended, and routine cleaning has been increased, the company said in its update. Whole Foods has also suspended food sampling and reusable containers, and workers diagnosed with the virus or placed in quarantine will get two weeks of pay. An emergency fund is available for workers as well, according to Whole Foods.
But workers at both companies have raised concerns about how the companies are handling the outbreak. Whole Foods workers are organizing a sickout on May 1st at stores across the globe in protest of how the company is handling the coronavirus outbreak, led by union organizers. A group of Trader Joe’s employees leading union efforts has demanded hazard pay for workers amid the crisis.
“Across the country, cities are shutting down,” a Twitter account called Trader Joe’s Union wrote. “Crewmembers are terrified, knowing their job is putting them on the frontlines of a global pandemic.” The staffers behind the union account also raised concerns reduced hours could mean reduced pay.