In an attempt to help its customers during the coronavirus crisis, Costco announced that a special shopping hour for senior citizens has been implemented nationwide.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Costco members ages 60 and older can shop from 8 to 9 a.m., before the general population is permitted to come inside the store.
Many seniors are taking advantage of this temporary offer, and they are grateful.
However, on the first day of the new policy on March 24, concerns were raised after an extremely long line formed at the Costco at 16505 Sierra Lakes Parkway in Fontana.
The senior line stretched from the store entrance to the south, behind several other businesses, all the way down the street to Sierra Avenue, raising significant health-related questions.
Many of the seniors were standing outside in the cold weather for hours, and the vast majority of them were not following social distancing guidelines by keeping a safe distance (six feet) between each other.
On social media, some commenters expressed their displeasure with the situation.
"I just can’t believe all the people going shopping! This has been going on for almost three weeks at Costco! How do all these people have the money and storage?" asked Teri Hardy Cox on the "You know you're from FONTANA when …" Facebook page.
Karl Hotyek Jr. replied: "Until the insanity with bulk supply stores ends, I think people, especially the elderly, are better off at smaller local supermarkets. Less exposure and frustration."
Indeed, the Ralphs store down the street from Costco at 16225 Sierra Lakes Parkway (which also lets seniors in early) had a relatively short line early in the morning, and the customers there were faithfully practicing social distancing.
Christian Alvarez said on the Facebook page that he thought too many Costco customers were hoarding supplies.
"People still haven’t had their fill yet? That’s just selfishness and greed!" Alvarez said. "If the world is going to end it doesn’t matter how much food you hoard. Sooner or later you’re gonna run out and you’ll have to come out to whatever awaits outside."
San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman said in a video message earlier this month that he understood residents' anxiety about COVID-19 and he is thankful that "virtually everyone" waiting in the lines has been courteous and respectful of others. Nevertheless, he added that hoarding is not necessary.
"Retailers have assured us all that they have plenty of supplies, and all levels of government concur that there is no reason to hoard," Hagman said.
At Costco, shortly after 8 a.m., the line for normal operating hours had about 200 people, in contrast to the several hundred in the senior line. Costco employees were checking the IDs of the seniors before letting them in the store.
Lourdes Bedolla was one of the happy senior customers. Bedolla said on Facebook that the Costco employees were very organized and the line went fast.
"I came at 6 a.m. and I just got out with everything I need. Thank you Costco!!!!" Bedolla posted.