a system to allow queuing during a crisis such as a pandemic. ( yes, covid-19 )
Against my better judgement, I went to the a supermarket today. I was a bit disturbed at the number of people ignoring the CDC's advice. I realize they had good intent - preparing for their quarantine, but the customers were grabbing carts with bare hands, crowding the store, overstocking on junk food, and otherwise, in my opinion, aiding the spread of COVID-19.
While we are being advised to stay apart from each other to prevent the spread of the virus, grocery stores, and other essential businesses, are still getting crowded.
Humans are social creatures. Even during the final night of open restaurants and bars in New Jersey ( 3/16/20 ) small crowds amassed for happy hour and dinner despite the heavy warnings.
I personally observed inappropriate behavior that same day at the overcrowded store where customers grabbed carts barehanded without any type of antibacterial wipes or sprays. People congregated around the checkouts en masse, openly touched produce, and touched unclean credit card payment keys. This is/was contrary to EVERY guidance sent out by the U.S. government and the Center for Disease Control.
It’s 2020. Websites and smartphones are ubiquitous. If the store had limited occupancy to under 50, or other appropriate number, and allowed new customers in after customers exited the store, the sales would remain the same, the lines would be non existent, and public safety would be maintained.
This would also serve prevent unnecessary hoarding as the ‘scarcity’ effect of crowded aisles would not exist. It would also eliminate stress on the store’s infrastructure of employees, stocking, and day to day flow.
This ‘governing’, or ‘throttling’ of customer flow can easily be created via a website, or app, that allows customers arriving at the store to maintain a place in line via store assigned codes similar to how a deli hands outs number. Customers could wait in their cars until it’s their turn. I wouldn’t advise allowing ‘reservations’ and there’s no way to make sure a customer will actually come to the store at their scheduled time, although, like other industries do, the store could simply overbook.
A customer would drive to the store and would either be assigned a number by driving past a gate like a parkway toll, or handed a ticket from an employee, or have a GEO located smart phone website or app assigned numbers when the customer was in the parking lot. There are many technical options available to create this inexpensively.
When the customer’s number comes up, their phone alerts them. The option to do this via APP, or simple website, is up to the provider although I’m more towards an open source HTTPS web site as it’s universal and APPS are proprietary – it should be open to everyone.
I’m working on a prototype at ‘makethemonkeydance.com’ ….. but any programmer worth 2 cents can knock this out in 24 hours or less.
The name and location of the store in question has been removed from this article
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