Walmart may be known for everyday low prices, but during the coronavirus pandemic, the chain is trying to make sure it’s also known as a safe place for customers to shop.
All Walmart and Sam's Club stores now require that shoppers wear face coverings — even if their local governments don't. In a press release, the company explained that about 65% of its stores are located in places that do require face coverings and this rule allows for greater consistency. In-store associates were already required to wear masks.
For seniors and other shoppers at the highest risk of COVID-19, Walmart stores are opening their doors an hour early every Tuesday (6 a.m. to 7 a.m. at most locations). Walmart also has a designated pickup window for online orders, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., for customers over the age of 60, those considered high risk, customers with disabilities, and first responders. Prescriptions can be refilled via drive-thru (if your store has a drive-thru pharmacy), curbside pickup, or mail delivery.
Walmart's grocery pickup service, a limited option several months ago, has been extended to more Walmart stores. To meet increased demand, the chain added thousands of new slots for grocery pickup, and the Walmart app allows customers to reserve a no-contact pickup or delivery time. Express delivery, if you are close enough to a Walmart store, promises that your purchase of $35 or more will be on your doorstep in two hours or less.
On Sept. 15, Walmart is debuting Walmart Plus, an attempt to go head-to-head with Amazon Prime's fast delivery features. For $98 a year or $12.95 a month (slightly less than Amazon Prime's fee of $119 or $12.99 per month), members can get unlimited free deliveries of up to 160,000 items Walmart carries and as much as 5 cents off each gallon of gas purchased at Walmart, Murphy USA, or Murphy Express. They can also use a "scan & go" feature in the Walmart app that lets them scan items as they shop, then check out quickly using Walmart Pay.
Walmart is also taking measures to make sure all in-store shoppers are keeping a safe distance from one another. Stores are allowing only five customers per 1,000 square feet to enter at a time (roughly 20% of capacity). A number of stores have instituted one-way movement throughout, with floor markers and instruction from staffers guiding shoppers where to go. Stores also have signage to remind customers to maintain social distancing, and sneeze guards are being installed in pharmacy and register lanes.
Walmart is offering drive-thru coronavirus testing, as well. As of Aug. 14, the chain had tested more than 208,000 people. Appointments are required.