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The coronavirus pandemic has caused toilet paper shortages and long lines, but panic buying is not a new phenomenon and it certainly isn’t helping. USA TODAY

Curbside pickup used to be a popular perk. Now it’s a public health necessity.

As the nation continues to grapple with the deadly coronavirus and social distancing guidelines extended through April 30, a growing number of retailers are using the same technology that has helped with crowd control during holiday shopping to limit potential exposure to COVID-19 for consumers and employees.

Buy-online-pickup-in-store orders, which includes curbside, jumped 87% year over year between late February and March 29, according to data from Adobe Analytics. 

“As the public became more informed on COVID-19, we saw a rush to stock up on essentials,” Vivek Pandya, a lead analyst for Adobe, told USA TODAY. “But, increased awareness of social distancing meant that consumers grew weary of spending too much time inside physical stores.”

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Yet many shoppers trying to order essentials online like toilet paper or hand sanitizer quickly found “out of stock” messages or canceled orders – a side effect of panic shopping.

Just as stores have not been prepared for the daily influx of shoppers waiting outside for hours before opening, online systems weren’t designed for so many people to order at the same time, said David Marcotte, senior vice president of cross-border retail for Kantar Consulting.

“This is not working very well at the moment,” Marcotte said. “A lot of people are trying to do curbside and discovering they have to go into the store to do their normal shopping anyway.” 

Kendall Meza, of Clute, Texas, said she used pickup service at her local Kroger and was surprised to find spots booked. When she got a spot, she said she only got two-thirds of her order, which was fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Everything is out online,” Meza said, adding she tried Walmart and Target too. “There’s no use in trying really. It’s all out of stock.”

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May 5, 2020; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Thaniel Gravelle, a BelAir Cantina front of house manager dons a sombrero as he carries orders to go at the BelAir Cantina on North Water Street in Milwaukee on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. Many area restaurant has to adjust their Cinco De Mayo celebrations due to the coronavirus by offering take out food and drink to celebrate the day. Mandatory Credit: Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK ORIG FILE ID: 20200505_jcd_usa_086.JPGApr 3, 2020; Webster, NY, USA; Abby Ferreri hands over an order to customer Paula Colombo at Rhinos Pizzeria and Deli in Webster, N.Y. on April 3, 2020. The restaurant converted a window in its dining room into a pickup window in response to the coronavirus outbreak.Amid COVID-19 concerns, fast food worker Silay Penalosa wears a mask and Easter bunny ears as she carries an order to customer a waiting outside a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Dallas, Tuesday, April 7, 2020.A whimsical display fashioned like giant high-demand toilet paper rolls draws attention to Hub City Smokehouse's curbside service on Main Street in historic downtown Crestview, Fla. on April 7, 2020.Brandy Mitchell serves a customer at a makeshift drive thru at Dwights Restaurant in Lafayette, La. on March 17, 2020.7686ed47 cca4 43cc a6b5 498c41f1495b 24691a40ab4db 9fdd 4b20 abd6 3220bc1bc4e1 24692Kent, Ohio. Mike's Place, restaurant in Kent, Ohio display delivery and take-out options on March 26, 2020.Smoothie King lobby in Lafayette, La. is temporarily closed, drive thru is still open. Local business coping with restrictions to comply with new rules aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana. The restrictions designed to reduce social gatherings by limiting the size of gatherings to fewer than 50 people, closing casinos, bars and movie theaters and limiting restaurants to delivery, take out and drive-through orders only on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.London Lowe, one of two employees working, waits for take-out customer to show up Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at Coffee Makes You Black, 2803 N, Teutonia Ave. in Milwaukee, Wis. In the last week, sales at the coffee shop have plummeted.Chef Guillermo prepares a take out order of spaghetti with mussels at Nanni Ristorante of Rochelle Park, N. J. on March 25, 2020. The restaurant is empty due to the shutdown from the effects of the corona virus outbreak. Business is down 95% says owner Manny Moreira as they can only sell take out.<img data-src="https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2020/03/31/USAT/389f1c34-64b7-4e9c-988f-e06133b4e4f4-24698.jpg?crop=3000,2000,x0,y0&width=520&height=390&fit=bounds&auto=webp" alt="Martia Weaver waits for customers at the walk up window to her Freitas Cuban burgers restaurant as the city government takes steps to fight the coronavirus outbreak on March 25, 2020 in Key West, Fla. Most tourists have left Key West as the city closed hotels or short-term vacation rentals and asked restaurants to only serve take-out. Beaches and parks have been closed and starting Friday non-residents…

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Ben Waldschmidt

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Hello Everyone! My name is Ben. I have been in the online marketing business as well as retail management for over 25 years. Married to the most wonderful woman in the world! 2 beautiful kids who bring joy to my life every day!

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