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THE NEW NORMAL

Lots of people speculate on what life will be like the remainder of this year and going forward. A second wave of the virus is predicted to hit and will be worse than the first if we're not careful. Here's what I suggest can be the new normal – now, and maybe for years to come.

 

Haven't you ever wondered how stores, especially the smaller ones, can survive when they open and no one comes in? What about restaurants? Staff sitting around with nothing to do. I worked at a tax office this past spring, one that closed up during lockdown and only serviced the taxes by mail, and that's when I got let go. But before that, we had to take care of a couple thousand people who were having their taxes done. Once the preparer was finished, they would come in AT THEIR CONVENIENCE to sign and pay for the service. We never knew when to expect them so sometimes we had nothing to do and sometimes the wait area would be full.

 

CONVENIENCE seems to be the cornerstone of our retail industry. But I suggest that is what needs to change if we are to get business up and running again. Of course the world doesn't run on just retail but a lot of office workers like the new normal of working from home. I'm sure that will gradually change. But so many people are employed in the non-essential businesses, and that's what I'm talking about here. Restaurants, clothing stores, department stores, even liquor stores and state parks and gyms. All can set up a system based on one word.

 

APPOINTMENT.

 

I don't think this is a hard word to understand. You want a fancy dinner out, you make a reservation. Why not do that all the time? You want your hair cut, you make an appointment. Everything you want to purchase can be done either online or by appointment.

 

Recently I went to the carpeting store. I didn't know they were open but took a chance and called. I was willing to make an appointment to go in and see carpeting styles. It's very hard to pick something out online. He didn't have anyone there and allowed me to take samples home. I could easily have made an appointment to do this.

 

Making an appointment for everything takes away the spontaneity, of course. Of course. That's exactly how we need to move forward from this virus.

 

Just how would this work? I suspect that the state would indicate how many customers you can safely have in your store for the square feet of that store. Once that's determined, you block out one hour shopping times for the max number you can have at any one time. The person calls for the time, or books online, and pays $10 for their time. If they buy something that $10 is applied to what they purchase. This will eliminate loitering. You will get dedicated shoppers. If you wanted to, you could give them a gift certificate – if you're out of their size, for instance.

 

You could even say that people have to book a day in advance. That way, if you have a day where no one is coming in, you could be closed – paying your staff half pay for the day off, of course.

 

Now a store like Anthropologie wouldn't be able to accommodate as many as a store like Target, but it seems to me an hour block is reasonable at both places.

 

Except for fast foods, ALL dine-in restaurants would make reservations and allow a certain number per hour, the same way. This would spread out your patrons, so you're not overwhelmed – and you're also not open when no one is there.

 

As long as the virus is out there, every patron MUST wear a mask. I still see people walking around in stores without them. Apparently there is no rule against letting them in.

 

Honestly, I don't see a downside to this idea. If the system works as well as I think it would, it could remain in place long after the virus is gone.

 

What do you think? Do you see any downside to this, other than the lack of convenience and desire just to browse? I can't think of any. People will grumble at first, of course, since societal change can be difficult. But we'd get used to it, and it's a lot better than not going anywhere at all.

 

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