Walmart has adopted a new policy stopping customers from buying "non-essential items" during the coronavirus pandemic, but many are taking issue with the definition. A customer in Michigan went viral with a Facebook post about how she was unable to purchase a car seat, which she argued was essential. Walmart has now clarified that particular issue, but it is still getting blowback from a lot of customers.
A Walmart representative told reporters from Business Insider that "Michigan customers are able to purchase baby car seats, baby furniture and other infant products at their local Walmart." The case of Kerri Dennis in Big Rapids, Michigan, which went viral on Facebook, was an anomaly, but in general the company still intends the products they truly need during this crisis. Still, on social media, many are wondering where they will draw the line.
"Since when is a car seat non-essential?" Dennis wrote in her post. "They always say it's illegal and unsafe if you don't have your child in a car seat, but deem them non-essential when you can still buy lottery and cigarettes?"
Dennis' encounter followed an address by Michigan Vo. Gretcher Whitmer on Thursday, mandating that big box stores like Walmart, Target and Costco only sell "essential" products during this crisis. The idea is that stores that are allowed to sell electronics, toys or other "nonessential" items may draw bored people out of their self-isolation and risk spreading the virus more.
Still, finding the line between essential and nonessential has been a struggle already. Whitmer's order did not specifically ban car seats and baby gear, according to Business Insider, but it was left up to the store employees. Walmart said that it is now trying to better define "essential" with its managers.
Clearly it will take a while for the specifics to be ironed out. In the meantime, here is what social media is saying about stories like Dennis'.
A bunch of stupid politicians in my district have decided what is essential to buy and non essential at Target and Walmart.
Make-up is deemed essential but kids toys and electronics are not essential and roped off.
This has gone way too far with these restrictions!— Dawn Michael, PhD💗 (@SexCounseling) April 7, 2020
Many people have lashed out in the last two weeks saying that the restrictions on "nonessential" items have gone too far. The policy is enacted in several states now, and people feel that their leaders should not have this much say in their day-to-day lives.
Employees Weigh In
You think they have time for that between the added jobs of disinfecting and keeping essential goods (food) in stock? I know y'all want to play Animal Crossing but don't take it out on the people still going to work through a pandemic.— Sara DiNatale (@sara_dinatale) April 7, 2020
Whatever the customers think, the employees in many cases appreciate the restrictions if it eases the burden on them and reduces their human contact. Tampa Bay Times reporter Sara DiNatale said that essential workers had asked her to ask the public to stop calling about video games when everything else is stressful enough.
'Government is Nonessential'
Some Walmart, Costco, Target stores barred from selling nonessential items What a bunch of crap. I have to work at home and i need my printer and computer. DAAAHHH!! I need ink and paper. Let ban government from working they are non essential to the public— Ruben Perez (@perezru7) April 8, 2020
Many people joked that the lawmakers deciding on what is essential and what is not are the real "nonessential workers." They were frustrated by the process of advocating for their purchases to be called "essential."
@Walmart CEO Doug McMillon In Douglas, Georgia things are getting ridiculous. Why can't they check peoples temperatures as they enter the store and let them shop? And why are aisles blocked saying "these are not essential items"? Why can't you buy what you want?— Ann (@fitzgirl_61) April 14, 2020
Many users pointed out other precautions that could be taken at stores like Walmart, such as taking customers' temperatures, disinfecting more often and reducing the maximum occupancy of stores, rather than limiting what people are allowed to buy.
Essential for Sanity
Maybe I'm late to hearing the news about non essential commerce but why in the holy fuck are people ok with being told what they can and can't buy? If I want to go to walmart and buy a flat of silly string to keep myself entertained, that's essential... to me...and my sanity.— Oh.musical.me (@MusicalOh) April 14, 2020
Some argued that just about anything could be called "essential" during this crisis if it helped maintain their sanity during self-isolation.
Yesterday I went to the local gun store then went to the drive through at the local ice cream shop. At Walmart's I was turn away trying to buy seeds for my garden. How can the governor decide that guns and ice cream are more essential than planting a garden to feed my family?— Brian Wild (@BrianWild5) April 12, 2020
When complaining about the items Walmart is no longer selling, many people pointed out the comparatively nonessential items they had bought elsewhere, such as guns, ammo and ice cream. In some cases, this just drew more criticism on those people for not practicing social distancing.
no offense walmart but uh gluten free chicken fingers and toilet cleaners are essential lol— 再見螢火蟲 (@weiyuanleeif) April 11, 2020
Finally, the "nonessential items" policies cut right to the heart of the issue for many people when it included their favorite snacks. Many took to social media half-jokingly to say that their particular favorite food is essential, as far as they are concerned. For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.