INDIANAPOLIS, Ind – Long lines and empty shelves are leading to tension as Hoosiers try to stock up on supplies in anticipation of spending more time at home amidst the coronavirus crisis.
Around 6:30 Friday evening, Indianapolis police responded to a disturbance involving handguns inside the Costco store in the 4600 block of County Line Road. According to an IMPD incident report, a woman told officers a man started calling her names and arguing with her after she stopped in the aisle to check her phone. When the woman’s husband intervened to defend his wife, the other man pulled a handgun from his waistband. The husband, in turn, pulled a handgun from his waistband and a shoving match ensued.
The report states a store manager and off-duty officer escorted the first man out of the store. The report said the manager and off-duty officer were unaware of the altercation involving weapons at the time. The woman’s husband had a valid permit to carry a firearm, according to the report.
Arriving officers were unable to find the first man in the parking lot, according to the report. No shots were fired and no injuries were reported.
The incident happened as stores across central Indiana were packed with shoppers looking for cleaning supplies and essential items amidst the coronavirus crisis. Many Hoosiers have found empty store shelves and limits on how many items can be purchased at one time.
Ananth Iyer, a professor of supply chain management at Purdue University, says he understands that many shoppers are tense right now. Situations like this can lead to frustration at stores and “panic buying.”
“If customers just knew how much inventory there was in the system, they would rest a little more easy,” Professor Iyer said. “It’s just most customers don’t know.”
Professor Iyer says retail stores are constantly restocking their in-store supplies. An empty shelf today will likely be restocked within the next day or two, he said.
“Studies of the U.S. grocery supplies chain, particularly non-perishables, show that there are between 80 and 120 days of finished goods inventory in the supply chain overall,” Iyer said. “So that means that most U.S. customers should feel very comfortable that there is stuff out there that they will get.”
Iyer encourages shoppers to accept the idea that they may not find what they’re looking for the first time they search for it. He also encourages stores to clearly communicate with customers about when their next deliveries will be coming in.
“One way that stores can keep customers comfortable is to, in some sense, assure them of supply availability in the future,” Iyer said. “Stores can also commit to customers that prices are not going to go up, and that might go a long way.”
Iyer says stores should make sure employees are prepared to answer questions for customers, especially regarding sold-out items.
“That’s something that customers should feel comfortable going to customer service and asking, and stores should be ready to tell customers,” Iyer said.
Iyer also recommends stores and customers work together to make arrangements to reserve items for pickup later.
“One way that stores can deal with this is to give rain checks,” Iyer said. “Rain checks mean that if you want a few items, you get rain checks for it and you can pick it up. It’s held for you.”