Unadd to cart? What to know before online shopping during pandemic

Some people are questioning whether we should be online shopping during this pandemic, as it could be dangerous for public health.  
Photo by needpixSome people are questioning whether we should be online shopping during this pandemic, as it could be dangerous for public health.  

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has jeopardized one of America’s favorite hobbies: shopping. Now that people are scarcely at malls and shopping outlets, there have been a surge in online orders. The United States has experienced a 56 percent increase in online orders year-over-year from March 22 to April 4. 

Stores have been having enticing deals to try and keep their businesses afloat. With everyone resigned to their couches or beds, the opportunity to engage in retail therapy and online shopping is hard to pass. But, it brings many complications. Is it right to put your money toward inessential goods when lives are being lost everyday? Are conditions safe for workers? 

Here’s all you need to know.

People worry if they’re going to get the coronavirus by picking up a package. Scientists have found that the virus can live up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces, according to Paper Magazine. So it is advisable to sanitize your packages before bringing them inside and washing any clothes you bought before wearing them. But, since cardboard is a porous surface and good for avoiding viral transmissions, it isn’t hazardous.

On the other hand, conditions for workers who package and deliver the goods can be dangerous. Amazon and Instacart workers have gone on strike, retaliating against unsafe conditions and demanding paid sick leave. There have been breakouts of the virus in Amazon warehouses, and employees lack the sanitary products they need to protect themselves like hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. For a company that is known to treat its workers poorly, this isn’t surprising but disappointing.

But retail is a significant part of the economy and small businesses could use all the revenue they can get. Shopping is as much a moral question as it is a consumer question, as fashion critic Vanessa Friedman said in her column in The New York Times. Small business owners have come out and expressed gratitude for their online sales so that they can keep their jobs. 

Friedman also recommends buying directly from a designer or a small chain than a department store, as they have less assets to support their employees. But, there are loopholes as shown in the case with Amazon. 

The bottom line is: Be strategic about what you buy online and who is being impacted or supported. Buying essential items like groceries and cleaning supplies is necessary. But, if you’re going to shop for cute clothes, take note of where you’re buying it from.

For many people, getting dressed for the day improves their productivity and self esteem even if they’re not leaving the house. For fashion lovers, their best option is to shop from local designers and shops because it would not only support the retailer, but also their employees as well. So if you have your eye on comfy loungewear or workout leggings, look into smaller outlets. 

There are several factors to weigh before you make an online purchase. On one hand, an order can benefit those responsible for delivering goods because they have something to package and deliver which means they get to keep their jobs. On the other hand, if they don’t have the proper supplies to protect themselves from infection, it could threaten their safety and livelihood. 

So, carefully consider what you’re buying online and where you invest your money in. Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University College of Public Health, recommends limiting online purchases to essentials items and thinking of everyone involved. Amazon may be the easiest option, but there are businesses out there that are hurting during this time and could use our support now more than ever. 

Shop safely.