I Went To Wal-Mart on the Day President Trump Declared COVID-19 a National Emergency, and Here’s What Happened

March 13, 2020

Note: This blog post includes some light-hearted sarcasm to lighten the mood a little. I honestly want everyone to be safe, I respect all readers, and wish everyone peace and ease as we all cope (in our own ways) with a very unexpected worldwide event. 

I went to Wal-Mart on the day that President Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency. Wanna know what happened?

I mean, I definitely gave myself a moment before leaving my house with my reusable grocery bags. I reminded myself that I like people, I have compassion, and I empathize for people who are stressed and/or panicking but I am not personally stressed or panicking. I also made a shopping list, which is good practice with or without a viral outbreak.

So I pulled into the (surprisingly but not unexpectedly) full parking lot and prepared for the worst.

Just for some context — I don’t do Black Friday. I don’t grocery shop on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays (or even Mondays, really, because the grocery store looks pretty wrecked after a weekend of shoppers). Grocery shopping and meal prepping people get weird even without the announcement of a national emergency.

The only crowds I like are the ones at Disneyland, and I live my life in honor of that preference.

But today, I went to Wal-mart because we need food. 

I expected stressed people, crying babies, and empty shelves.

I expected big signs with large panic-inducing text warning people to limit how much they buy.

I saw none of those things.

Instead, it was just a slightly more crowded Friday afternoon shopping trip.

My local Wal-mart looked like more people than usual had come and bought food, which is exactly what had happened. 

Here are a few things that looked a little out of the ordinary at Wal-Mart:

Upside down carts on the side of the Wal-mart building

Our Wal-mart has a long line of carts turned upside down on the side of the building. My guess is they’re doing that to discourage people from using carts (or perhaps someone pulled a prank overnight and did that, and the employees just didn’t have the time or manpower to reset the the carts where they should be). Maybe it’s a combination tactic to both discourage the spread of the virus (you can only offer so many wipes and hand sanitizer stations) and to prevent people from carrying out too many jugs of rubbing alcohol.

I’m not a reporter, so I didn’t flag down an employee and ask.

People were calm, peaceful, and respectful and NOT panicking

People seemed calm, and — dare I say it? — grateful to be able to grocery shop in the middle of the afternoon on a work day. I remember how weird that was when I first quit my day job and could go to my favorite stores during the day. Today I felt happy for these peaceful-looking families with small (again, calm!) children in their shopping baskets. 

How nice to do your errands before you’re exhausted at the end of a work day! 

Almost completely bare shelves in the canned food aisle

The canned food aisle did look rough, I’ll admit.

I don’t personally cook with canned food so I don’t shop that aisle that often, but those bare shelves did look a little armageddon-y.

But walking through that section had me wondering if the hysteria and panic (and bulk purchasing of nasty, tasteless canned food) is actually a symptom of some people not knowing how to cook for themselves.

If I’m packing up to hunker down at home for 4-6 weeks with no physical connection to the outside world and I’m resorting to canned food to sustain me for that duration of time, I must not know how to cook with raw ingredients and dry goods. I must be thinking one can of food = one (very skimpy) meal, and in that case, times are going to be rough.

The ransacking of canned food made me feel sad for people who rely on ordering take-out and eating at restaurants every day, and how knowing that they don’t know how to cook must bother them on some deeper level. It also made me curious about what proportion of the population actually goes grocery shopping regularly. 

Or maybe I’m just overthinking it and canned food is the bomb. Who knows.


Staple food items were still aplenty, and Checkout lines were normal

If you go to my Wal-mart on Monday or Tuesday on a normal, non-pandemic week, the pickings are slim when it comes to the staples of grocery shopping:

  • If there are any eggs left, they’re usually the smaller quantities or the schmancy (read: more expensive) eggs that are cage-free, organic, and laced with superpowers. On today’s trip, there were plenty of eggs.
  • Milk, butter, and pre-bagged salad go fast on a normal work week, but today the shelves were full.

And as far as lines go — the Grocery Pickup area in the parking lot seemed to have their hands full. But when you got into the (again, have I mentioned — pretty calm and not too dramatic) store, everything seemed fine.

We used the self-check-out area (the one where there are about 8 small kiosks, not the full-sized aisles) and only had to wait about 30 seconds while someone asked the supervising clerk a question in an unexpectedly polite tone, which is worth noting because people who don’t normally shop at Wal-mart tend to be really mean to the people who work at Wal-mart.


So there ya have it. Totally decent visit to Wal-mart and not at all what (I admit!) I was expecting.

I like it when I’m wrong!

Have you had any strange experiences during this coronavirus pandemic? If you can keep it lighthearted and neutral, share below!

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