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Costco Shortages in the Age of the Coronavirus

The arrival of the coronavirus has transformed the Costco shopping experience. Once upon a time, Costco was a convenient place to shop for food and household goods. And, if I visited a store with a familiar layout early enough in the day, I could be in-and-out quickly.

Those days are officially over. Just getting into the store could require an extended wait. With Santa Clara County’s new order that imposed customer capacity limits and a six-feet social distancing requirement when waiting in line, the back of the queue came close to curling out of the parking lot.

Once inside, items that were once in abundance now have strict purchase limits. I’ve seen what happens when someone attempts to buy more units than permitted. The item is flagged at the cash register, and the customer cannot purchase the extra unit.

I’ve also seen Costco reduce the item limits. A few weeks ago, customers could still purchase 2 packages of toilet paper, paper towels, water, Clorox wipes and rice. Now, those limits have been reduced to one per customer. These limits also apply to milk, eggs, and fresh chicken. At first, I didn’t understand why people would be suddenly eating more eggs and drinking more milk. However, now I understand it.

If the adults are working at home and the kids are home from school, that’s a lot more mouths to feed. You might have noticed the same in your household if the food in the refrigerator no longer lasts the week.

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