COVID-19 and me

I’ve been working at Shoppers Drug Mart for over a year. I don’t work in the pharmacy department, but people still ask me medical questions I can’t answer. The only way I help them is by finding out if we have stock of the items they’re looking for.

When it came to COVID-19, I wasn’t able to help most customers.

Storefront of a Shoppers Drug Mart

Since COVID-19 was confirmed in Canada, people have been afraid, understandably, of becoming infected. Between five and ten people a day have been asking me if we have face masks and hand sanitizer in stock.

So, I decided to ask customers why they wanted these items. At first, I assumed it was because of the flu season. I quickly found out it was because they didn’t want to catch COVID-19.

Some customers only wanted hand sanitizer, but most wanted a face mask. It became a big problem soon after the store ran out of stock of these items. We may have run out of masks and hand sanitizer, but customers would come in just as often to ask us if we had any in stock.

A box of face masks.

I asked a co-worker about whether we would be getting more masks and hand sanitizers. She told me that the store ordered new supplies weeks ago, but never got them. The warehouse we ordered from was out of stock. It was clear this was because the items were in high demand.

A few weeks later, the pharmacy got more hand sanitizer and masks. The hand sanitizer sold out in a day. The masks took a few more days to sell out, likely because we put them as a behind-the-counter-item. Customers had to ask us for the masks. They were placed there to avoid theft.

Customers asking for hand sanitizer and masks have been calm. Some seemed concerned when I told them that we’ve been sold out of the items for weeks. But everyone has been reasonable. No one panicked.

Recently, customers have been coming in less often asking for hand sanitizer and masks. The demand seems to have slipped. We still haven’t received any more stock since my last shift. The slump in demand is a welcome reprieve.

If COVID-19 spreads in Canada, I think the demand for masks and hand sanitizers will spike again. Until then, I’ll just have to wait and see.