Waves of panicked shopping

Waves of panicked shopping
Several shoppers get into a brief, but tense, confrontation with a security personnel after accusing the store of cherry-picking from the extended line that stretched into the parking lot.

Extended lockdown prompts rush to food stores, gas stations

Chaotic scenes around New Providence as tensions rise

Shoppers cont. to trickle out of stores after 10pm

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Waves of shoppers swarmed food stores throughout New Providence yesterday, enduring hours-long lines in high temperatures in hopes of stocking up ahead of the five-day nationwide lockdown.

The morning was for elderly shopping, according to the shopping schedule, but stores accommodated all-comers as droves of residents sought to shop. 

Toilet paper and bottled water remained well-sought after items.

Purported footage outside some stores, showed dozens of people crammed together outside of storefronts, nudging each other in order to get a few places ahead.  

Outside Super Value on Wulff Road, several irritated shoppers accused the store’s personnel of cherry-picking from the line.

At one point a security worker and two women, who claimed to have waited in the line for several hours after scouring the island for a less packed food store, got into a brief, but tense confrontation. 

However, a worker assured them the store was following a fair process.

A woman, who gave her name as Rolle, said she had been waiting for two hours when people behind her were selected to go into the store.

“They letting in people who they wan’ let in,” she said. “They ain’ letting in people in the right order and they haven’t even asked for identification.”

A security guard, who did not give his name, explained that all of the cash registers were backed up and the store wanted to clear some of the lines inside before allowing more customers in.

“I am coming out to explain to you what is the scenario in there because you can’t see it,” he said. “But what we are now doing is a lot of people are leaving now, so within about 10 minutes, all, if not most of you, will be able to come in.”

Another woman, who identified herself as Mrs Tinker, a mother of two girls, also expressed frustration about the situation.

“I done been on this line too long and the security standing by this door, he is doing a bunch of [expletive],” said Tinker, who works for a security firm.

“He letting in people from that side who he know ain’ been on this line for two hours. I been on the line for two hours sir, and I have my children waiting on me.”

When asked how she was coping, Tinker, 36, said she does not have enough to shop for long periods all at once, and will need the government’s assistance.

“I ga’ need more money,” she said. “It ain enough. Whatever I come to pick up, I hope that will be enough to last until next week Tuesday because if it ain’ enough, I got to come right back inside here and do the same thing all over again.”

However, there were those who despite extensive lines, were more understanding.

Rudolph Cooper, and his mother, Cynthia, 70, waited for over three hours to access Super Value on Wulff Road.

He said he shopped to last his family for another two weeks.

His bill was over $500.

The self-employed carpenter said he understood the need for the lockdown and shopping schedule, despite its challenges. 

He said: “The biggest challenge is the line because once you get in there, you can get [groceries]. People were sort of keeping their distance, but when moving past people it was kind of tight. Some people were two feet away, but some people were closed up because they were just trying to get in a get out.”

An alphabetical shopping schedule was released Monday.

Super Value, West Bay Street around 1 pm

Joining the line at Super Value on West Bay Street, which stretched from the stores western entrance to the street; and its eastern entrance to Wendy’s, a woman, who identified herself as Mrs. Sands, said she was concerned about the days to come.

“I am trying to at least push it for two weeks, so I can limit the amount of days I have to come out and shop,” she said, noting she was shopping for her immediate family, mother, 75, and sister.

“I don’t think I can do this on a weekly, regular basis…the intended purpose is to mitigate the spread of this disease. It’s a necessary evil and it’s something we have to do, if only just for this season.”

Reginald Johnson, a Bahamasair engineer, said he was running out of food at home and had not managed to shop since last Friday due to the crowds.

But he said he was prepared to wait for however long it took.

“I was here from seven o’clock, but I left because the line was on the main road,” he said around 1 pm before Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the extended hours and timetable for food stores.

“It’s getting a bit shorter now, but I thought it would have been shorter at this time.

 “I’m looking at about two or three hours, but I don’t have a choice because I have already been to about three different food stores. They’re all the same. The schedule and how they did it on Monday; I think they should have give us another two days more to prepare because now everybody, everybody, is in the food stores.” 

Acknowledging the long lines of frustrated shoppers on the island, the prime minister announced around 2 pm the opening hours for food stores will be extended last night and today to 10pm.

He also announced food stores will also be open on Thursday for essential workers, a move the prime minister said he hoped would ease the crowds he observed for much of yesterday.

Eyewitness News had visited three stores before that announcement.  

Shoppers continued to trickle out of the store after 10 pm

Minutes before 10pm, Monique Smith, of the Red Cross, emerged from Super Value, Westridge, with a shopping cart filled with groceries.

She queued up around 8.45pm when the line stretched from the entrance to Sakura restaurant on the opposite end of the parking complex.

“This is to carry over the five-day lockdown and into next week, Smith said.

“I think we should be alright.”

Despite the rush of shoppers from early yesterday morning, several stores, namely Super Values, appeared to remain stocked. 

Store workers continued restocking well into the night.