THE SONIC BOOMER
So, here we are, still mired in this pandemic. This week, many businesses began opening their doors — against all medical advice but with the OK of some of our elected representatives — not all of them, some of them. Depending on which country, state, county and town you live in, it may or may not be a good idea to re-open. I just hope someone explains this to COVID-19.
As a retail store owner whose customers generally fall into the “higher risk” category due to their age, I kind of resent not having clear guidance on this one. How can even a limited “soft opening” be a good idea if the numbers of those infected are still going up? And yet, how long can the government be expected to dole out money before they look even more fondly toward my Social Security as a bank they haven’t tapped yet?
I’m not judging; I’m saying it’s a conundrum.
By way of research, I polled (from a distance!) the two 96-year-olds who live on my block. I figured that, even though neither of them had lived through a pandemic, they had lived through the Great Depression and the Not-So-Great Recession, and they would have a clear view of things. They told me the economy needs to re-open because people have no money and are hungry.
But, as a retailer, how are they going to buy my stuff if they don’t have money? Then how do I pay my clerks to (not) wait on them?
I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m better off being a small business owner than a big business owner. My sister the flight attendant told me Delta Airlines is paying hundreds of dollars per day to park one of its jets at Kansas City International Airport. To date, there are 100 jets lined up there — and that’s just one airport.
I also realize that big business needs to re-open in order to earn the money to pay for the ads it is running to thank healthcare workers. In these ads, the healthcare workers are literally begging us to stay home. So, if that isn’t a disconnect, I don’t know what is.
I had to go to the grocery store last Saturday, shortly after the possibility of a “soft opening” was first announced. The place looked like school was out for the summer. The parking lot was jammed; few people under age 60 were wearing a mask; and even though there were directional arrows taped to the floor, two-thirds of the shoppers were going the wrong way. I felt like a U.S. Marine entering a war zone — I jumped in, did my business, jumped out.
Yet further research showed me all my competitors are re-opening.
So now I have to decide — open my shop, save my customer base and pay my clerks or add a tiny drop to the “safe bucket” by staying closed. I would certainly decide one way if I had a degree in economics, the other if I had a degree in medicine.
And if I had a degree in political science? That’s easy — tell the stores to re-open, then stay home.