How to safely engage with businesses in-person
As the world slowly returns to the “new normal,” governments have been lifting restrictions and businesses have begun opening brick and mortar locations.
At the beginning of COVID-19, before global lockdowns became mandatory, 52% of consumers said they were already avoiding crowds and 32% said they were leaving their homes less frequently. Now that much of the initial outbreak has subsided, many consumers naturally have hesitation around how to safely visit the local businesses they love.
At Trustpilot, we know consumers want to support small and local businesses but doing so safely is critical to make sure we continue to flatten the curve. Below we’ve outlined practical advice for engaging with businesses in-person to keep our communities open and healthy.
Evaluate different options when visiting a business
As much as we’re all eager to get back into stores and resume running errands regularly, social distancing is still important to make sure we keep the spread to a minimum. While there may be no avoiding visiting a business location in-person, some practical questions you can ask yourself to fully consider the experience are:
- Does the store have a drive-through, delivery, take-out, and road-side pick up option? If these options are available, consider whether it makes sense to use an alternative to an in-store visit.
- If visiting a restaurant or social setting, is there an outdoor seating option? While not a fool-proof prevention method, evidence suggests that the spread of coronavirus is significantly reduced when outdoors. Try and choose restaurants and bars with outdoor seating options.
- Who needs to make this trip? Generally speaking, as few people in a store as possible, the better to minimize the risk of spread. While many childcare facilities are still closed, it’s understandable that parents may need to bring children along, but avoid bringing anyone who can reasonably be left behind.
Prepare for your visit
If you’ve determined that visiting a business in-person is the best solution for your needs, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your visit. Preparation will keep your interaction with those outside your household to a minimum and will expedite trips, thereby reducing your risk of exposure to illness. Below are list of actions you can take to prepare for your visit:
- Pack a mask and sanitizing agents. Where the virus is present in the community, we should all be wearing masks anytime we leave the house. Doing so protects you and everyone you come in contact with. Similarly, having hand sanitizer available means you can protect yourself anytime you touch communal items or shared surfaces.
- Check business hours. Many businesses are operating with limited hours, or have hours designated to senior citizens. Make sure the business is open to avoid leaving your home unnecessarily.
- Make a list or review menus ahead of time. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection is to spend as little time as possiblein the presence of others. To the extent possible, make a list of the items you need and avoid browsing inside of stores. When visiting a restaurant, having an idea of what you’d like to order in advance means you can avoid touching communal menus and expedite the ordering process.
- Offer to pick up extra items. Chances are, if there is a critical business that has just opened, your grandparents or next door neighbor may need something from the same business. Consider asking if you can pick up extra goods for family and friends to save them a trip and keep in-person numbers low.
Shop safely and follow business safety protocol
Once you’ve made the decision to visit a business in-person and have fully prepared, continue to exercise caution once inside the store or restaurant. While preparedness will help you anticipate and mitigate any risks that you may encounter once inside a business, staying diligent in your expectations. When inside a business, you can do the following to ensure the safety of everyone you encounter:
- Keep a safe distance from everyone. As tempting as it may be to walk up to a friendly face, or ask a business employee for assistance after months of quarantine, avoid close proximity to people who are not part of your group. If you need to have a conversation with someone, speak up or offer a friendly wave to get their attention and speak at a safe distance.
- Respect business rules. Businesses are taking unusual precautions to keep consumers and their employees safe. This may mean one-way shopping lanes, limited occupancy, temperature checks, or mandatory hand sanitizer. While these measures may cause inefficiencies or even annoyance, remember that they are intended to keep you safe and should be followed as specified.
- Don’t assume the business is clean. While most businesses are making extra efforts to clean regularly, don’t assume that a clean business means you’re completely safe from germs. You may still cross paths with someone who is sick or enter a space of the business that hasn’t been cleaned thoroughly. Avoid touching your face and sanitize your hands immediately once leaving the store.
- Avoid using communal items. While it may be difficult to go to a store and not use a shopping basket, or a restaurant and not use a cup or mug, it’s worth asking the business if you can use disposable items or bring your own items rather than what is provided whenever possible.
- If the business is not following local safety measures or seems careless, leave. Most businesses are eager to follow protocols in order to remain open, however there have been cases of businesses failing to follow safety rules. If you enter a business that seems unsafe or is clearly violating health and safety rules, leave immediately.
Read reviews before visiting and give businesses feedback about your in-person experience
If you’re unsure how a business is handling reopening, you can look at a businesses reviews on Trustpilot to see what experiences other consumers have had with a business since they reopened. Reviews can offer you reassuring social proof so you know the risks before entering a business in-person.
If you’ve had an in-person experience with a business that has recently reopened, let others know what they should look out for and why they should be reassured. You can also let businesses know how they might improve safety operations in order to make consumers feel more secure when engaging with them in person. There are endless aspects of a business experience that you can mention in a review but a few specific things to considering with respect to reopening include:
- Which individual branch or location did you visit?
- How clean was the location?
- What safety measures did the business have in place?
- Were employees following and enforcing the safety measures?
- Have normal businesses operations or hours changed since reopening?
Addressing these points in your review on Trustpilot can help consumers make informed decisions about safely engaging with businesses in-person, and can provide businesses with critical feedback that will help them improve their operation.