I had several reports on recent travels started but I’ve put those aside. I’m not sure it adds a lot of value to anyone right now to write about award travel to Bora Bora, or why I love to go to Paris over the winter (contrary to popular wisdom December and January are my favorite months).
As the world’s lock down continues I may change my mind, for myself more than anyone else, to make my recent past travels seem more real and to re-live better times.
Now though my trips to report on revolve around the grocery store, part of an ongoing series on the world’s most extreme staycation. Instead of a city trip report, I can write a home one. And instead of room service, there’s Doordash, Postmates, and UberEats.
Stockpiling For The End Times
I had already gotten stocked up on dry goods, apper products and cleaning supplies in mid-February expecting that things would be worse than most people were saying at the time. Back then many commenters compared COVID-19 to the flu, suggesting I was overreacting. But I was seeing this as likely deadlier (at least because it was new, without built-up immunity), possibly spreading faster, and in any case happening on top of the fly meaning that it could overwhelm health care systems.
I wasn’t smarter than anyone else. I just realized that there was a chance it could be bad, and I should probably be better prepared for long tail risk events anyway. Living in Texas I have a whole lot more room for long-term storage than I did when I lived in a condo in Arlington, Virginia. So why not have paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and dry boxed and canned food?
I probably went a little overboard thinking through what would happen if we lost electricity or drinkable city water – the water stayed on in Wuhan – but my plan was to prepare for a variety of different future risks, not just this one.
I’m very fortunate that I still have a job (besides this blog – travel businesses aren’t great these days) and am able to afford to stock up – whether canned and boxed foods, batteries, gloves, or paper towels.
So many people who were living paycheck to paycheck are out of work, and even ‘streamlined’ government assistance is taking time for individuals, even as CARES Act Payroll Protection Loans for businesses with fewer than 500 employees are on a crash course unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Banks have no underwriting liability for the loans, qualifying is based entirely on self-certification and payroll tax returns. There’s $349 billion on the table and it’s all “first come, first served.”
Grocery Shopping And Receiving Packages
Our local preferred grocery store offers shoppers who will pick up and package your order. You pick up the groceries, but do not get out of your car. Pop the trunk, they put the bags inside. I prefer this over instacart delivery,
- The store does not charge extra for the service
- Their shoppers do an excellent job. I’ve had bad luck with instacart ‘not finding’ the most obvious items, or substituting for expensive alternatives (I didn’t know $40 maple syrup existed).
The only challenge is getting time slots, available times can be several days in the future so we order groceries several days in advance and will have multiple orders queued at a time.
Regardless I really appreciate the option of not going inside the store. They don’t let you order toilet paper and paper towels this way. I stocked up in advance, but I find that grocery stores have them and have limited the number of items of each you can buy. Our grocery stores now enforce maximum numbers of shoppers inside the store at a time and social distancing in line (as well as for lines to get inside of stores).
Once home we have a protocol for arriving groceries – as well as packages and mail. When we bought our house several years ago we re-did the kitchen. We kept the refrigerator that conveyed, and it’s downstairs. That’s for items freshly received. After several days those items move upstairs. Meanwhile anything that doesn’t need refrigeration or freezing stays in the garage. Cardboard boxes and paper envelopes stay for at least 24 hours.
Wash hands every time we come inside the house, and wipe down door handles (including car door, not just garage door) regularly too.
Venturing Out Into The World
It’s still possible to go to parks here, subject to social distancing requirements, though many parks where people normally congregate have been closed.
My wife and I have shared a car for many years. When I lived in the DC area I walked to work, and my experience living in Austin is largely flying to work. (I think my work from home tips offered a month ago have actually aged pretty well, because I’ve been doing this for five and a half years.)
When I’m home, if I go somewhere, it’s either with my wife or a few short trips in the general neighborhood each month. Spending less than $100 a month on Uber (outside of airport trips I’d make anyway) is cheaper than a car.
I replaced our six year old car just a few months ago and boy that feels silly now. I’ve made very few trips out into the world the past three weeks. Three weeks ago I got a haircut. What will I look like eight weeks from now?
My wife and I took our daughter to her pediatrician for her 18 month checkup – she had a vaccination due, and I want to make sure everyone stays out of the hospital for reasons other than COVID-19, too. Her doctor’s office had a great protocol, you stay in your car and call to be let inside. There’s no waiting room, you go straight to a room that’s been sterilized between uses. The doctor is wearing a face shield in addition to a mask.
Re-stocking Supplies Online
A lot of local stores have had things that have been tough to find with Amazon. In normal times I loved Amazon because you always knew when your item would be delivered, while with most online stores you may know how long shipping will take but not when an item would ship.
Amazon has been especially go-to during the pandemic. (Remember when, six weeks ago, people wanted a government crackdown?) I’m a lot more careful with my Amazon buying these days because while they have always been good to me with returns, who wants to deal with shipping returns now? UPS scheduled pickup has failed to pick up items for days.
I went to a UPS Store the other day, still deemed an essential service, because I needed to notarize a document and it was the closest place. I didn’t go inside – there were workers and customers not even trying to social distance. My Chase bank was still open and they had a notary and plenty of sanitizing supplies.
Amazon shows delivery times now far off into the future, given the volume of orders they’re doing, and for some items how long it may take to get (or bring into the country). One thing Amazon does well is cancellation, so I’ve been comfortable making future purchases – things that I know I’ll need to stock up on later – since I can cancel if needs change or delivery doesn’t happen as-promised.
I was having a look at face masks on Amazon, and there’s a ton of scammy products for sale. I mentioned being especially careful up front with purchases, not wanting to deal with returns. I noticed someone was selling masks with what used to be a listing for a Dr. Seuss book. The children’s book had 5 star reviews from over 6000 customers. That makes the face mask, on first inspection, appear to be the most desirable buy out of all of the scammy sellers on the marketplace.
Here’s what they’re selling:
And here’s what customers have to say about this 5-star product:
(Having tweeted this, with several folks reporting it, hopefully it’s been fixed by the time you read this.)
How Are You Sheltering In Place?
How’s your staycation, and what are your new routines like?