In a matter of days, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought everyday life in the United States to a screeching halt. Live music and sports are postponed, and bars and restaurants have been told to drastically limit their seating. All schools and many businesses are closed indefinitely. People are being asked to not even leave their homes if possible, out of fear of either contracting or spreading the novel virus.
So, yeah, shit’s a little crazy right now. And unfortunately, it’s going to be crazy for the foreseeable future. This is especially true for local small businesses, for whom closures are an existential threat. People will lose their jobs — and possibly their health care — over our government’s inability to manage this crisis, which means we have to rely on each other now more than ever.
With that in mind, here’s some of what you can do to help:
Buy local… and do it online
Major corporations like Walmart and Amazon should be fine. (Workers at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, maybe not so much.) So whenever possible, direct your money toward local businesses and order online whenever possible. Supporting your favorite mom-and-pop shop is important; if you can do it without risking spreading germs, even better. Likewise, many places are probably dealing with product shortages, so buying from home gives employees precious time to restock the shelves.
Buy a teeny little extra, if you can
I’m not saying to buy 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and resell them for profit. But it wouldn’t hurt to ask those in your life — especially the elderly, immunocompromised or others most susceptible to the virus — if they need anything. If you can swing it, this would be a boon not just the business in question but the people who need their products most but might otherwise not be able to get it. Even if the products aren’t essential, a little help goes a long way. At the very least, now I can finally make an excuse to buy that The Boys compendium at Westfield Comics.
Give places money now and reap the benefits later. You can do this online or by phone.
Tip better than usual
Tbh, you already weren’t tipping enough. People in the service industry are the true heroes of the world, dealing with the ever-changing whims of the general public for what are often painfully low wages. These workers are going to be among the hardest hit, make no mistake about it. So whether you order delivery or make a calculated decision to venture out, tip generously. It could be the difference between someone paying rent or not.
Don’t be a dick
Like Kurt Vonnegut said: “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” We are living in extraordinary times, and the employees and management at these places are dealing with situations they’ve never dreamed of. The very least you can do is to be empathetic and understanding. You are not always going to get your way, because sometimes getting your way is impossible. And that goes doubly so in the face of an international crisis. It sucks, but that’s the way it is. Screaming at the cashier isn’t going to get anything done. It just makes you look like an asshole.
Take care of yourselves, folks. Don’t shake hands! And remember to wash them.