WASHINGTON STATE — QFC and Fred Meyer grocery stores rolled out new changes on Tuesday to help increase social distancing and keep shoppers apart.
Both stores, owned by Kroger, is now using infrared sensors called “QueVision technology” to keep track of how many people are in the store, making sure stores are at no more than 50 percent capacity.
Plus, at QFC stores across the Pacific Northwest, you’ll notice new stickers on the ground that say “one way isle.”
And if you're not walking the right way, stickers tell you to "stop."
“This is to protect our customers as well as our associates. So there's less interaction and people crossing paths,” said Tiffany Sanders, a QFC spokesperson.
As for the infrared sensors, it’s technology that’s been in place for years to let the store know when more cashiers are needed up front. But now it’s being used to monitor how crowded the store is.
“Normal capacity is one person for every 60 square feet. With the 50 percent capacity it's one person per every 120 square feet,” Sanders said.
When the store gets too crowded, TV monitors tell employees to stop letting people inside, and customers will line up at the door until others leave.
Plus, employees also are provided gloves and masks, and there are plexiglass shields separating them from customers.
Shoppers say it all makes sense.
“I think it's amazing,” said Kristen Grindley, who was shopping at a Redmond QFC on Tuesday.
Sanders said the policies could roll out to Kroger locations across U.S.
“We’re really kind of ground zero here, where it all started. So grocery stores across the country are watching us to see how we're adapting and what we're doing and how it's working,” Sanders said.
Along with those changes, you'll also notice a difference with what's in stock.
Water and toilet paper are all available now.
But with food staples like flour – the shelves are stripped bare.
“This is the first time out of three trips here I’ve picked up flour. It’s sold out,” said Jim Manis, who lives in Redmond. He managed to find a couple of small two-pound bags of all purpose flour.
Sanders said they’ve felt the impact of increased demand from people staying at home, and cooking at home.
“People are grabbing the flour and yeast - yeast is really hard to come by right now as people are doing that at-home baking,” Sanders said.
But customers say they appreciate the efforts to keep everyone safe.
“We all have to act right, do our part, help each other - we're going to get through it,” said Michael Toni of Platinum Event Catering, who was shopping at QFC Tuesday.
Kroger is asking customers to pay attention to new signs advising of any changes, and to be patient if something is out of stock.
Plus Sanders says when customers take a moment to thank employees, it makes a big difference.
“When grocery store employees signed up, who knew they’d be working on the front lines of a pandemic. And boy, they are rising to the occasion and they’re doing such a good job - we could not be more proud of them,” Sanders said.
Kroger is also expanding temperature checks on store associates and has waived delivery fees for prescription drugs.
Last week, Kroger said it will give employees a $2 an hour hazard pay raise.
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