Shoppers Flock To H-E-B As Stores Shorten Hours | Texas Public Radio

Shoppers Flock To H-E-B As Stores Shorten Hours

Mar 14, 2020

Grocers are struggling to keep up with demand as fears of coronavirus drive panicked buying across San Antonio.

A line outside the Deco District H-E-B started forming at 6:30 a.m. An hour later, the line stretched across the front of the building as it started to rain.

The store didn’t open until 8 a.m. – an hour later than normal prompted by the mass buying in the days before which emptied shelves.

Cecil Brown watched the line from the parking lot. Fear about Coronavirus are driving people here he said, just like yesterday. 

"We're looking at panic, and the illusion of safety," Brown said. 

At the end of the line Ronald Cooper waited to get in. He said he isn't worried about getting COVID-19 and is outraged by people hoarding supplies. His son is a stocker at Walmart, which is also seeing the surge.

Leticia Ramos said she is frustrated by the line and by people buying more than they need

"I think it's ridiculous, especially the people who are hoarding, getting things they don't need to get," she said. "Two weeks, that's all you need to get. Considering I'm just getting stuff because I have my grandkids an extra week of spring break."

Ramos expected to be there about two or three hours because the store wasn't letting everyone in at the same time. 

An H-E-B employee lets shoppers into the store as others leave.
Credit David Martin Davies | Texas Public Radio

It isn't clear if limiting hours has limited the panic people seem to be feeling.

Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted yesterday there is no need for people to be stockpiling.

Starting Sunday, March 15, all stores will open at 8 a.m. and then close 12 hours later, until further notice.

They are adapting store hours to give employees time to better stock store shelves.

"While we restock our shelves around the clock, much of our restocking and replenishment happens overnight when our stores are closed," a statement issued Saturday explained. "This temporary change in store hours will give our partners extra time to work diligently overnight to better stock our shelves, allowing us to better serve our customers."

The statement added that customers may "see reduced service at delis, bakeries and floral departments."

Find out more information about how stores are responding here.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive.