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News >  Spokane

Shoppers wait in long lines for ‘eerie’ experience of stocking up inside almost empty Valley Costco

UPDATED: Fri., April 10, 2020

Customers wait in line Thursday to enter the Costco on Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley. The wholesale store implemented a policy of limiting the number of customers in the store at any given time in order to enforce social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Customers wait in line Thursday to enter the Costco on Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley. The wholesale store implemented a policy of limiting the number of customers in the store at any given time in order to enforce social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Shopping carts formed a zigzag barricade for people waiting to go inside the Spokane Valley Costco on Friday just after 11 a.m., as the line stretched across the front of the building and started to go around the front row of parking.

Employees communicated over radio about capacity inside the store – they said the goal was to hover around 50% – and sprayed returned carts with disinfectant. Staff stopped letting people inside when more than three shoppers were in each checkout line to ensure 6 feet of distance could be maintained between them.

One employee commented that the operation was like Disneyland – except faster.

Most shoppers – who were limited to two people per Costco card – made it inside within 15 to 20 minutes. Multiple signs informed them the store was out of toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex tissues, and Lysol and Clorox cleaners, in addition to canned corn.

“Mainly, I’m looking for coffee,” Sheila Durkoop, of Spokane, said after she grabbed her cart from the stack near the end of the line.

Friday was Durkoop’s day off from working at a local physical therapy office, and she hadn’t been shopping in close to two weeks. She donned her cloth mask from work and a pair of plastic gloves before entering the Costco line.

“I try to be very careful,” Durkoop said.

Since Durkoop and her husband are the only people in their household, they haven’t gone through food and other supplies as quickly as large families, she said.

And a Costco run means “it lasts a long time if you’re stocking up or not,” Durkoop said.

Heather Aldred, who lives in Spokane, arrived at Costco hoping to take advantage of the best deal on toilet paper, which has been scarce at many stores since mid-March.

“We’ll just have to find it somewhere else,” she said.

Aldred said she has tried to limit supply trips to once a week.

“We try to get as much stuff as we can, so we don’t have to leave,” she said.

Even though she’s young and not in an at-risk group for COVID-19, Aldred said she doesn’t want to carry and spread the disease to others.

Inside the store, shopping was “eerie,” said Andy Van Inwegen, of Spokane, noting how fewer people inside made him feel unrushed to get what he needed and leave.

The environment was vastly different than the last time he went to Costco about six weeks ago, he said. There was no line and inside shopping was chaotic.

He said he was shopping at Costco on Friday because his household of four was out of some supplies. Otherwise, his family has grocery shopped weekly.

“We’re just trying to limit how much we go out,” said Van Inwegen, who arrived at the store early wearing a homemade bandana face mask and waited about 45 minutes to go in.

“I figure I’ll take as many precautions as I can,” he said.

Van Inwegen said the lack of toilet paper was disappointing, though he also chose to shop at Costco to stock up on large quantities of frozen goods and items with long shelf lives.

Lee Meheula, of Cheney, said he was shopping for food to cook his wife and son an Easter Sunday meal. The group of three will be a far cry from his normal gathering of 15 to 20 family members, including grandkids frantically searching for Easter eggs, he said.

The staples for the meal will still include ham, deviled eggs and celery sticks with crushed pineapple and cream cheese, Meheula said. He wants the meal to feel as familiar as possible.

He was “trying to pretty much get to normal for their sake,” he said. “We’ve got to do the best we can.”

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