Consumers will have to change their buying habits after Covid-19 lockdown

Covid-19 has necessitated a change in the way we shop and consumers need to remember this as we come to the last week of the lockdown and look forward to at least partial or gradual lifting of the restrictions.

Since the threat of the dreaded virus is not going to disappear soon, we cannot bring down our defences and need to exercise utmost caution when we go shopping. Of course, as far as possible, it would be advisable to order goods online and have them delivered at home.

And it’s better to pay online, rather than take the option of payment on delivery, so that you minimize your contact with the delivery person. But make sure that you are doing the transaction on a genuine site with proper safeguards.

Do remember to wear a mask when the delivery person arrives, maintain safe distance and ask the person to keep the goods in a corner at the entrance of your home or just outside the door.

Even where such home delivery services are not available, it might be better to give the retailer a list of all you need so that he keeps them packed and ready for you to pick them up. This will reduce the time that you spend at the store and minimize your contacts with various surfaces.

Today, even a road side vegetable or fruit vendor has a cell phone and you can well order what you want on phone. Consumers usually prefer to pick the fruits and vegetables themselves in order to ensure quality, but that’s a habit that has to change.

If the vendor delivers poor quality stuff, return it. Similarly, if you have a weighing machine at home, you can check the weight once in a while to ensure that he is not cheating on quantity. Once he knows that you cross-check the weight and will complain to legal metrology in case of violations, he will be careful. Also, if you are regularly patronizing a particular vendor, he is bound to be honest with you, to prevent you from going to a rival.

In fact, the National Disaster Management Authority’s Covid-19 guidelines for grocery stores says that “as far as possible, a helper should take out the items needed by customers and not allow all customers to pick their own items, so as to avoid multiple contacts” . The guidelines also suggest that the helper frequently sanitize his hands. In large self-help stores, this may be difficult , so order your grocery in advance. Avoid staying too long in the air conditioned ambience.

This is the appropriate time to say goodbye to plastic carry bags -research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that the virus (SARS Covid-2) stays on plastic surfaces for two to three days.. So take your own cloth bag- ask the seller to put the purchases in it. The advantage of cotton is that you can wash it and dry it in the sun.

As far as possible avoid using cash- there is enough evidence to show that they carry pathogens. Use instead, mobile wallets to pay the bill . Maintaining the required distance –either while buying or while paying- at all times is absolutely essential. In fact the NDMA guidelines require shop owners to make arrangements for ensuring that all customers wait outside at a safe distance. Similarly, they must maintain a distance of 1 meter to 1.5 metres from the cash counter and the person receiving payments (cash or card) should preferably sanitise the hand each time, says NDMA.

Wear a mask at all times and if the seller or the shop assistants are not wearing masks, complain. It is meant to ensure your protection as well as theirs. As soon as you come out of the shop, sanitise your hands.

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