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Research & Thoughts

The New Normal (updated)

When I first wrote this, back in March, I noted that people were speculating on what life would be like the remainder of this year, and into next year. Well, here it is, October 2020 and Wisconsin is harder hit with the virus than anywhere else. Why? Because no one can come up with an agreement of how to wear masks and yet keep the economy moving. I wrote the gist of this back in March. I think it's still worth considering now and into the future, if we want life to return to normal - a NEW normal.

Here's what I suggest can be the new normal – now, and maybe for years to come.

Haven't you ever wondered how stores, especially the smaller ones, can survive when they open and no one comes in? What about restaurants? Staff sitting around with nothing to do. I worked at a tax office last winter and they had to let me go when it was determined they could only do takes by mail and email. Before that, we took care of a couple thousand people who were having their taxes done and wanted to meet in person, as is preferable for something like this. Once the preparer was finished, they would come in AT THEIR CONVENIENCE to sign and pay for the service. Bt once the tax season was extended to July, they went to a barebones staff and I was out of work.

CONVENIENCE seems to be the cornerstone of our retail industry, too. But that is what needs to change if we are to get business up and running again, and defeat the virus until a vaccine is produced and deemed effective for ALL of us. So many people are out of work and need jobs and there's no good reason for this, if we learn a new normal. Restaurants, clothing stores, department stores, even liquor stores, bars, state parks and gyms. All can set up a system based on one word.


I don't think this is a hard word to understand. You want a fancy dinner out, you make a reservation. Why not do that for every place you want to go? You want your hair cut, you make an appointment. Everything you want to purchase can be done either online or by appointment. All set up at least a day in advance. You carry your phone everywhere anyway, with texting, calendaring, that kind of thing. You can program phone numbers in of the places most often frequented, call, tell them when you'll be there, calendar it in.

Recently I went to the carpeting store. I didn't know they were open but took a chance and called. He said they were open and to come on in anytime. I was willing to make an appointment to go in and see carpeting styles. It's very hard to pick something like that out online. He didn't have anyone there and allowed me to take samples home. I could easily have made an appointment to do this.

Making an appointment for everything takes away the spontaneity, of course. Of course. That's exactly how we need to move forward from this virus. You want to work? You want to be of service, too?

And wearing masks has to be part of this, but if you're at work, and no one has an appointment, you can take it off for a breather.

Just how would this work? I suspect that the state would indicate how many customers you can safely have in your store determined by its square feet. I've seen that done throughout the year, having numbers of people limited in the store at one time. I saw very few people, though, actually keeping track. But once that's determined, you block out one hour shopping times for the max number you can have at any one time. The person calls for the time, or books online, and pays $10 for that appointment. If they buy something, that $10 is applied to what they purchase. This will eliminate loitering. You will get dedicated shoppers. If you wanted to, you could give them a gift certificate for that appointment amount, if you're out of their size, for instance. The reason for the appointment charge? In case you change your mind, of course. Don't make frivolous appointments. Sure, you can still mall walk. And if you see a store that's open but has an open appointment, you can ask if you can walk in. But don't expect that to be the norm.

If people have to book a day in advance, a small business has the option of being closed when no one is expected in. Have you ever worried that the store would be closed when you get there? Or that they reached their max and you'd have to wait in line? That happened to me at Trader Joe's once, and I didn't have the time to stand in line. With advance appointments, a small business could save money by being closed on days when no one is coming in. And you could pay your staff (if you like them) half pay for the day off.

A restaurant like Mod Pizza wouldn't be able to accommodate as many as a store like Target, but it seems to me an hour block is reasonable at both places. For Target you might have to reserve a week ahead of time. Or maybe stores that can accommodate 400 wouldn't need reservations. Perhaps grocery stores, too, can be an exception.

Except for fast food drive-throughs, ALL dine-in restaurants should have reservations only and allow a certain number per hour, the same way. This would spread out your patrons, so you're not overwhelmed – and you're also not open when no one is there. Bars have been the most difficult to deal with here in Wisconsin, but why can't they eliminate sitting at the bar and have tables spread out, like at restaurants? People at tables need to be those that come in together. You miss the dating scene? Flirt at the grocery store, or the library, but stay safe.

As long as the virus is out there, every patron MUST wear a mask. I still see people walking around in stores without them. Apparently there is no rule against letting them in or staff are afraid to challenge them. Here in Wisconsin, that's because the Republican congress sides with Trump, creating the mess we're in now. And now they're trying to recall Governor Evers? Honestly, the bad state of Wisconsin right now shows that the Republican Congress is the one that we should be recalling.

As of this writing, Wisconsin has been the worst state for COVID outbreaks since at least September 17th, according to MSN.com. This appeared in USA Today on October 7th:

In Wisconsin, which set a seven-day record for fatalities, indoor bars and restaurants were capped at 25% of capacity starting Thursday. The state is struggling with some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, and Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, ordered the limits despite repeated legal challenges from Republicans to such measures.

Honestly, I don't see a downside to the appointment idea. If the system works as well as I think it would, it could remain in place long after the virus is gone. It could take a little getting used to, of course, and it could remain in place, or disappear once we all feel safe.

What do you think? Do you see any downside to this, other than the lack of convenience and desire just to browse? I can't think of any. People will grumble at first, of course, since societal change can be difficult. But we'd get used to it, and it's a lot better than not going anywhere at all.

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