I work at a Sam’s Club where people are starting to panic shop. My observations from the inside.

by m5ind

Let me start by saying that these are my own observations, I’m not speaking on behalf of Walmart or Sam’s Club. Walmart has made it clear in internal communications that they are taking the threat of this virus seriously and have come right out and said for associates to stay home if they are sick. As far as I know there’s no formal policy on workers wearing masks, several associates in my club have been wearing them. As always disenfecting wipes for carts are at the entrance door for people to use.

My club is in Northeast Ohio.

In my opinion Sam’s Club has done a good job of keeping high velocity items available for members to buy, but it’s just not enough to keep up with demand right now. Things like water and paper are flying out the door just as they are everywhere else. Over the weekend we sold the equivalent of four 53 foot trailers of 1 sku of water, 1 sku of paper towels and 1 sku of toilet paper. That’s about 100 pallets of only 3 skus. As of right now there are no transaction limits on paper or water, I don’t really expect them to be implemented anytime soon either. Supply is lagging behind demand at my club but it is steady and we have not gone more than a full day with any one sku of paper or water being out of stock.

Things get a little less great when it comes to things like hand soap and sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, bleach, gloves and bleach cleaners. These items are sent on mixed loads from a DC rather than in full truckloads like paper and water. We’ve been out of sanitizer since last Friday, we’re running dangerously low on Lysol spray and sanitizing wipes as well. All of these items have a sales limit of 5. I can’t tell when these specific items are going to be in until they’re loaded on a trailer to be sent to the store either, usually the same day it arrives, so this has started to cause some tension with some people getting frustrated that we don’t have the answer of when we will get something. Paper and water are scheduled a week in advance so it’s easier for us to say when those items will be back in stock with some certainty.

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Shelf stable food is starting to thin out as well, everything from snacks to canned fruits and veggies to rice and beans.

I’ll give you some rough numbers to put the spike in sales I’m seeing in perspective. A normal Monday in club is usually around $130k to $150k. Today we did well over $220k. Some other categories that are spiking are pharmacy (just prescriptions, not including any health and beauty stuff), freezer and cooler, pet supplies, baby care and snacks and candy. All of these categories sales increased over 50% with about 10 categories having an increase of 100% or more. If this is what a Monday looks like I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.

Overall people have been understanding of the out of stock issues, but more than a few have taken their anger out on us in the club over bring sold out on things out limiting quantities. A few things to remember please when you go shopping anywhere during this crisis:

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Believe me when I say I don’t know when something is going to come in. I literally don’t know until the day of when it’s loaded onto the trailer to be sent to the store.

Everything is sent just in time, we rarely have much overstock in the best of times of high velocity items.

We have no power at the store level for ordering product in. It’s all allocated by the home office based on demand and availability.

Be understanding when it might take longer than usual to get help with something. Wage budgets are going to take a long time to catch up with the increase in sales if they ever do. Stores just aren’t staffed to do 60% total store sales increases every day like we have for the last three days. We are doing our best to keep up with everything and get everyone what they need as efficiently and quickly as we all can.

As time goes on I expect things to worsen in the stores, but as of now things aren’t too bad. If things start to get worse I’ll post again but as it stands this is what it looks like from the other side of the panic shopping.

Everyone stay safe and please be kind to us trying to help you get what you need as best as we can.


Disclaimer: This is a guest post and it doesn’t represent the views of IWB.