While most people were asleep in the early hours of the day, hundreds of local Santa Barbara natives were lined up outside the Costco near the Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta since 7 a.m., three hours ahead of the stores normal opening.
One Costco worker said as many as 700 people were outside waiting for the store to open.
“It has been pretty chaotic ever since,” the anonymous worker said.
The news of the rapid spread of coronavirus, COVID-19, has led local people to try to stock up on items such as toilet paper and bottled water.
As such, Costco has run out of both very early in the day.
Across the street, Goleta’s Target is dealing with the same scenario, with more than a dozen people lined up in front of the store at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Target store manager Kelli Nassif says the store is attempting to keep the shelves stocked, but they are dealing with limitations on supply.
“Companies are currently limiting the supplies to our distribution centers, and to maintain instocks with our guests we are limiting each guest on specific quantities of key items,” Ms. Nassif said.
At Costco, signs were posted outside the store stating that they had run out of toilet paper and water but the worker said people continued to ask when they would re-stock.
While the scene was hectic, especially in the morning, the worker said it was nothing too out of the ordinary, comparing it to a normal Christmas shopping craze.
“It’s been pretty cool. In other stores, they have gotten a lot worse,” the worker said as he was picking up misplaced items to try to restock them in their normal place.
Despite people constantly flowing in and out consistently throughout the day until close, many shoppers did say they were able to find what they were looking for.
Leslie Hogan, who was shopping with her daughter, said she was in the store just trying to restock on the normal items she buys.
“The shelves are a lot emptier than they usually are, but we are finding most of what we need. I am just re-stocking on the things we use all the time,” Ms. Hogan said.
Ms. Hogan said the one thing, aside from toilet paper and water, that she was unable to find was rice.
“But, I’ve been fine. It’s really busy and so you have to kind of just move slowly and be patient but overall it’s been fine,” Ms. Hogan said.
Shauna Marquez, a 31-year-old mother, had a similar experience saying it was “a little bit” tough to find what she needed, but overall, “it was fine.”
“This past week you can tell that it’s been a lot busier. Last week it was definitely not like this. It’s a lot busier and the stock is low on certain things but I’m not in a panic right now,” Ms. Marquez said.
Ms. Marquez also added that while there were a lot of people, there were no issues at all aside from the long lines.
In order to help with the growing demand, Costco visibly employed more staff on Friday, much the same as Goleta’s Target.
Ms. Nassif indicated that they are staffing up not only to help guests, but also make sure that the facility is clean.
“We are adding payroll hours to support more rigorous cleaning routines, including insuring guest-facing surfaces like checklanes and touchscreens are cleaned at least every 30 minutes,” Ms. Nassif explained. “Additionally, we’ve stopped food sampling in our stores out of an abundance of caution.”
Teresa Castro arrived at Costco at around 4 p.m. and at that time said there was “no line, but there were more people around waiting to get in.”
Ms. Castro said she tried to buy more canned, non-perishable food, but said “there was hardly any left.”
“But, it’s not too bad. I understand that people are in panic mode,” Ms. Castro said.
Kevin and Jo, a couple shopping at Costco, both noted the crowd size at Costco, as well as the empty shelves.
“It’s pretty crowded but people seem to get by pretty easily,” Kevin said.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that everything’s just shuffled around on the shelves. I noticed a lot of things missing so there’s definitely a lot more people buying things,” Jo said.
Kevin said that the two had already stocked up on necessities before, so luckily, they were just shopping for normal items that were in stock.
“It’s just been pretty intriguing to see this and see people are freaking out over things that aren’t really going to help them … but if they feel comfortable doing it and it helps they’re like state of mind, then go for it,” he said.
Trent Marlowe, a local shopper at Costco, said he “heard one of the employees talking and he said they had 1,500 people running through here per hour.”
“It’s just been chaotic,” Mr. Marlowe said.
He was shopping alongside his friend, Brianna Tellez.
Mr. Marlowe added that he felt the whole situation is “being exploited for national or worldwide pandemic when it’s really not,” but Ms. Tellez chimed in adding, “It’s good to be cautious and stay indoors because some people aren’t as healthy as other people and you don’t want to give those people that sickness so it’s just a polite thing to do.”
Nick Masuda contributed to this report.