Checking up on checking out

Drew Butler

Grocery stores across the nation are putting new policies into place to encourage social distancing and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Stores in southern Oklahoma are no exception to this rule, and both Walmart and Homeland are enacting new procedures to help do their part.

The current store hours for Walmart in Ardmore are 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily, and the auto care services have been closed until further notice. The store holds a special shopping hour from from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Tuesdays for senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems.

Store Manager Adam English said one of the biggest changes has been the social distancing capacity the store has recently enacted to limit the number of people in the store. He said the normal capacity is around 5,011, but they are currently limiting the maximum number of people inside to 938. This equals out to around five people per 1,000 square feet.

Once the store is at its new maximum capacity, customers will be let inside in a one in/one out manner. Outside the grocery entry, signage is posted at 6 foot intervals to show where people should stand to maintain social distancing.

English reviewed some of the latest policies the store has enacted to encourage additional social distancing.

“We just opened up both sets of doors,” English said Tuesday morning. “We had it to where everybody was coming in on the grocery side, but as of this morning we have opened up both sets. We’ve also increased the number of time slots for the online grocery shopping, and we have four spaces reserved outside for curbside delivery of prescriptions. We have also just implemented a policy to mail some prescriptions as well.”

English said supplies in the store are generally well-stocked with only a few exceptions, namely eggs and toilet paper.

“The only thing that’s really changed inside the store is that toilet paper is still limited and eggs are still limited,” English said. “The maximum quantities for purchase of water and milk were taken off Monday.”

At Homeland in Ardmore the store hours are currently 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the first hour of the day is set aside for seniors and those with compromised immune systems. They are also asking customers to utilize a one customer per cart policy unless there is a small child with the shopper. For example, they would ask a family of four to only send one person into the store to do all the shopping.

Director of Marketing Dennis Maxwell said Homeland is also enacting a social distancing capacity. Once the store is at capacity, each customer must wait outside the store until another customer leaves. At that time, an associate will sanitize the shopping cart and give it to the next person in line.

Maxwell said every Homeland location will be getting signage that marks 6 foot intervals for customers waiting in line to checkout and for other amenities such as the pharmacy and ATM. They are also going to be installing directional arrows to mark all the aisles as one-way.

“Wednesday and Thursday all the stores will be getting directional arrows,” Maxwell said. “The arrows will go on both ends of every aisle and ask you to shop in one direction. The purpose for that is even if all the aisles are six feet wide, you come really close when you pass by. If you turn everyone in the same direction, you’ll have your cart to help enforce social distancing also.”

Maxwell said all Homeland locations are stepping up their cleaning procedures.

“We’re sanitizing our carts before we send them back out,” Maxwell said. “Obviously our cleaning measures, which have always been rigorous, are being implemented much more frequently. We’re providing hand sanitizer and gloves and allowing our employees to wear masks. We’re doing everything in our power to provide safety not just for our customers, but for our employee owners as well.”