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Charlotte grocery store update: Customers must wear masks, express deliver, bonuses

Whole Foods says free, disposable masks will be available at the door within the next week.
Whole Foods says free, disposable masks will be available at the door within the next week.(Source: Whole Foods)
Published: May. 4, 2020 at 8:36 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Catherine Muccigrosso/Charlotte Observer) - As non-essential retailers prepare to reopen next week in North Carolina amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, grocers in the Charlotte area are continuing to make safety changes.

Neither North Carolina nor Mecklenburg County have orders requiring people to wear face coverings. However, the list of grocery stores requiring workers, and customers, to wear masks is growing.

Starting Monday, Costco is requiring all shoppers to wear face coverings, according to the company website.

Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods Market said Thursday it will be giving free masks to customers and requesting that they wear them inside their stores. The company already requires its workers, Prime Now Shoppers and third-party workers to wear masks.

“To help protect the safety and health of our team members and communities, we will be requesting customers wear masks in Whole Foods Market stores,” Amazon said in a statement to McClatchy, adding that “within a week” it will start giving free disposable masks to shoppers as they walk in.

Other companies requiring employees at stores and distribution centers to wear face coverings include BJ’s Wholesale Club, Target, Walmart, Harris Teeter and Publix. Some stores are providing other personal protection equipment like gloves. BJ’s is also offering safety glasses to workers.

The Fresh Market, based in Greensboro, was the first to require staff and customers to wear face coverings.

Publix also started selling its own brand of masks and gaiter neck scarfs. However, they are already sold out. The company said on its website it hopes to have more options by June 1.

Other stores, such as Salisbury-based Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Lidl, allow employees to wear coverings and provide non-medical grade face masks for their use.

EXPRESS DELIVERY

Walmart announced this week it is expanding Express Delivery. The pilot program launched in mid-April with 100 stores, including some in Charlotte, delivering groceries to customers’ homes within two hours, the company said.

The service, which was accelerated because of the COVID-19 crisis, allows customers to order items such as groceries, essentials, toys and electronics. It comes with a $10 delivery fee.

PAY BONUSES AND HIRES

Walmart also announced it was providing $180 million in hourly employee bonuses nationwide, which includes $5.8 million in North Carolina and $3.4 million in South Carolina.

The company gave out $365 million in bonuses in March.

The retail giant also said it has reached its hiring goal, adding 200,000 associates nationwide in six weeks, which included more than 7,000 in North Carolina and 5,100 in South Carolina.

BJ’s Wholesale Club announced Friday that for the second time in the past months, it is giving managers and key personnel at clubs and distribution centers bonuses from $1,000 to $3,000.

SPECIAL HOURS AND LIMITS

Also starting Monday, BJ’s will open 9 -10 a.m. weekdays for club members ages 60 and older, and for people with disabilities. Costco is temporarily allowing priority access to club members who are health care workers and first responders.

The club also is limiting fresh meat purchases to three items per member for beef, pork and poultry.

COMMUNITY DONATIONS

Harris Teeter announced this week it is donating more than 640,000 pounds of protein and produce with vendor partners to community food banks, which included Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina Charlotte.

Nearly 20 truckloads carrying more than 534,000 meals were distributed to local food banks, according to a company press release.

“Many restaurants are closed which means suppliers have a surplus of food service items available. Together, we’re able to divert this product from our landfills and place it in the homes of hungry families,” said company spokeswoman Danna Robinson.

Those suppliers include Sanderson Farms, Tyson, Sol Melons, Ayco Farms, NY Apple, Washington Fruit & Produce Co., Seald Sweet International, Pacific Trellis Fruit and California Giant Berry Farms.

Harris Teeter’s COVID-19 Relief Round Up campaign started Wednesday. Shoppers can round up their transactions at checkout with donations going to local food banks.