Quarantine Day 34: We Make a Sam’s Club Run

Sam's Club is out of paper prroducts
Paper towels, toilet paper and disinfecting wipes are sold out at Sam's Club.

I got to the Sam’s Club about 20 minutes after it opened.  People walking out had Lysol antiseptic wipes in their carts, but by the time I got inside, they were already sold out.  They had no paper towels and toilet paper, although there were plenty of industrial paper towels for the dispensers you see in public bathrooms.  In fact, anything intended for businesses, like Styrofoam coffee cups and lids, was plentiful.

On the list of in-stock items for the panic-stricken, there was plenty of bottled water, ramen, beer and the snack aisle was packed. There was beef jerky, chips, candy, cookies and crackers.  I caved in and bought another box of crackers, but I held off and avoided all chocolate.

 If you’ve shopped at Sam’s Club before, however, you can see signs of the supply chain disruption throughout the store.  Many items that were in stock were present in smaller quantities than usual. 


In addition to the previously mentioned wipes and paper product, items that appeared to be in somewhat short supply included: Seafood, bacon, lunch meats, and eggs, all of which appeared to be at less than 25 percent of their normal stocking levels.  With the exception of a few boxes of frozen shrimp, the entire seafood freezer was empty.  There was also only a fraction of the usual amount of bacon and lunch meats present, and there were only 2 or 3 SKUs of eggs.  It would not surprise me if some of these items sell out by the end of the day. They certainly won’t make it through the weekend without being re-stocked.

There was still fresh meat, but the refrigerated display cases were not packed as full or as deep as you would normally see, and there were fewer varieties and cuts of meat.  I picked up more sausage, ground beef, a chicken, and a 4-pound roast.  I saw a family that probably had 25 pounds of chicken parts in their cart, but there wasn’t much sign of people stockpiling at this late date.

Apparently the focus on fewer cuts of meat is not unique to Sam’s Club.  We wrote about problems with the food supply chain yesterday and nothing I saw today would contradict that article’s conclusions.

Plenty of Staple Items

There were plenty of prepper staples like rice and beans, oatmeal, vegetable oil, pasta, peanut butter, flour, and other baking ingredients.  There were some canned items, including canned chicken, chili, baked beans, and beanie-weenie.  I didn’t see any spam or many soups.  More plentiful were less desirable canned goods like black olives.

There was also plenty of cheese, both in volume and in variety.  There was a decent amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.  There were pallets of rice, with another pallet higher up to re-stock.  There were beans, both canned and dried.  There were bags of navel oranges, boxes of bananas, and bags of potatoes and onions. 

a pallet of rice
Sam’s Club had plenty of rice and beans on hand.

There is no apparent food shortage, but there are apparent shortages of specific food items. You won’t starve, but you may not be able to get exactly what you want.

After I got home and unloaded the truck, my wife divided and repacked some things for freezing.  Our refrigerator is fuller than I’ve seen it since Thanksgiving.  It’s a good feeling.

When she saw the volume of green vegetables I purchased, my wife gulped and said, “Well, I guess I have no excuse not to eat healthy.”  For example, we are now the proud owners of three times the normal amount of celery we own because, well, Sam’s Club.

If you are worried that things might yet take a turn for the worse with the food situation, or if you want to get a head start prepping for the next disaster, I would estimate that the Sam’s Club I visited today had 80 percent of the items we recommend on our one-stop shopping list for a 30-day food supply.  (your local store might differ, of course.) This free report is available now to anyone who wants to take the first few steps on the journey towards preparedness.

PPE and Sanitizing at Sam’s Club

This was the first time I had been out in public – out of my car, that is – and around strangers.  It was weird for the first few minutes.

When I walked inside the big double doors, I was surprised to see that no one was wiping down the shopping carts at Sam’s Club, and they were not making wipes available for us to do it ourselves.  There were no hand sanitizer stations, and no signs about social distancing. I saw no attempt to reduce density in the store. I really felt like they didn’t give a damn.

The only cleaning activity observed was a guy driving a miniature Zombini to clean the floors.  Seeing as I wasn’t planning to get down on my hands and knees, I was not impressed. Maybe the scrub the whole place down at night, but I saw no signage to that affect or other evidence of it.

The majority of people – both employees and other shoppers – were wearing masks, but it was a slim majority and many of them appeared to be construction masks meant to help you avoid breathing dust when sanding drywall.  I would say a third of the customers were not wearing any PPE at all, and some were proudly striding about with an “I’m too tough to get COVID-19” attitude.  I was glad I had my mask on, even though I didn’t see anyone who coughed or sneezed.

Statistically, something like 60 percent of reported COVID-19 cases are in males.  I can’t help but wonder if it’s because some portion of the men think are too macho to wash their hands of wear PPE. 

In the aisles, there was the normal level of courtesy, but no extra attention seemed to be paid by shoppers to social distancing.  The masks, however, do minimize your ability to smile and nod to each other. 

Fewer people were wearing gloves.  I had considered wearing gloves but decided it would be impractical since I was going to be using my phone for both my shopping list and to do the in-store self-checkout using the Sam’s Club app, it would be impractical.  Instead, I took a travel size hand-sanitizer with me.

Why Now?

I had originally planned to go shopping next week, thinking that the COVID-19 peak would be behind us.  However, our state department of health says we have not yet reached the peak.  We studied the data and determined that many recent cases had been in institutions, especially jails, prisons, nursing, and rehabilitation centers, people that were unlikely to be a Sam’s Club.  Also affecting our decision to shop now was the huge number of stimulus checks hitting back accounts in the first few days of this week.  I expect that will cause of surge of food purchases, so we wanted to beat the rush.  Timing is everything.

Want to catch up on prior editions of the Pickled Prepper’s Quarantine Diary? They’re here in chronological order.