Over the past three months, grocery shopping has gone from a mundane errand to something that requires a bit more preparation, strategy, and nerve. Safety measures for essential grocery stores have been adopted pretty much across the board, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every socially distant shopping experience is created equal.
Now, thanks to data from global market research firm Ipsos, we have a better idea about how different grocery chains measured up across various health and safety metrics. Based on what Grocery Dive cites as 5,700 in-store visits by mystery shoppers, Whole Foods outpaces Trader Joes and Costco to top the list.
So what earned Whole Foods its high marks? The mystery shoppers found that 98% of the company’s associates wore face coverings in-store, with a further 91% of them respecting six-foot social distance boundaries in their interactions with customers. This regard for safety extended to the checkout process as well. A full 95% of observed checkout lanes used plexiglass barriers, while 87% of stores offered options for contactless payment.
Beyond precautions at points of interaction between customers and staff, Whole Foods also seems to have taken other common-sense precautions. Its self-service food bars were shut off, while customers were reminded with displays and decals to maintain six feet of social distance. In at least six cases, whole stores were converted into delivery-only retailers that strictly handled shopping online.
Runner-up Costco posted similarly high rates of compliance with mask wearing. 83% of its employees wore masks outside, while 95% working indoors properly covered their faces. It’s unclear when the data for the study was collected, and if the visits to Costco occurred before or after they introduced a (mildly controversial) mandatory mask policy for customers.
Despite the good news: re safety, it’s important to draw a distinction between “safety” as experienced by customers and the working conditions at these grocery chains. Whole Foods workers organized a May Day strike in protest of working conditions, and crowdsourced data compiled by employees alleges that four Whole Foods workers have died from Covid-19. The hazard pay extended to employees earlier on in the pandemic as a gesture of goodwill expired on June 1st.
Still, if slight differences in safety compliance are what drive your decision over where to shop, then this information might be useful. The more you know ...