Gearing Up During the Coronavirus Pandemic

You’re probably finding yourself at home a lot more than you’re used to. Perhaps, like us, you’re working from a home office. For general advice, see Glenn Fleishman’s free Take Control of Working from Home Temporarily, which Adam Engst wrote about in ‘Get “Take Control of Working from Home Temporarily” for Free‘ (16 March 2020).

But I want to address a topic that isn’t covered in the book—actually getting the hardware and furniture you need. Having to set up a home office suddenly would be a challenge in the best of times, but with stay-at-home orders in place around the world, strained supply lines, and numerous brick-and-mortar stores being closed, it’s more complicated than ever before. Here are some tips and information to help you gear up in these uncertain times.

Beware Your Packages

When you’re stuck at home, shopping online is pretty much your only choice for buying things, but you want to make sure that your packages don’t bring a viral guest with them. Two things to know:

As such, I would suggest that you need to view any package or delivery with a certain level of suspicion. At a minimum, I recommend these precautions:

  • Don’t interact with the delivery person in person, or just wave from a distance or through a window. They don’t want to come into contact with you either.
  • If you don’t need what’s in the package right away, just let it sit for 24 hours before opening. Perhaps wait 3–5 days before interacting with the package contents.
  • Regardless of how soon you open the package, be sure to wash your hands carefully after opening the box, extracting its contents from their wrappings, and disposing of the cardboard and plastic.

For more details and advice on disinfecting packages, check this guide I wrote for The Prepared.

Amazon Is Struggling to Keep Up

Many of us turn first to Amazon when shopping online, but the company is overwhelmed right now. It may not have the items you want, and its delivery times are much longer than usual. Amazon is now focused on essential items and is no longer accepting non-essential items from third-party sellers for storage in its warehouses. In Italy and France, Amazon is shipping only essential items regardless of stock, and as the pandemic accelerates in the United States, the company will likely implement such a policy here as well.

Amazon has problems of its own, with warehouse workers testing positive for COVID-19. The company is bringing on 100,000 new employees and offering raises to cope with the strain, but the challenges it faces in building and keeping a healthy workforce are staggering.

That said, I’ve had pretty good luck buying things from Amazon, though a few items have been canceled, and others have long delays. Even with Amazon Prime, the fastest I can get an item is about four days, but to Amazon’s credit, packages are arriving about a day faster than the initial estimates.

A nearly month-long Amazon shipping delay for printer toner

When shopping, then, don’t limit yourself to Amazon. I’ve had good luck on eBay buying things that Amazon didn’t have, usually at reasonable prices. There are plenty of other online retailers too, and it’s worth shopping around. Wirecutter has published a list of recommended alternatives to Amazon. That led me to Staples, which gave me free two-day shipping on the toner cartridge pictured above, and its iOS appsupports Apple Pay to boot!

Best Buy Steps Up

Lots of people rely on a local Best Buy store for tech gear and other essential products. To accommodate the current conditions, Best Buy has closed the inside of its stores and instituted a contactless purchasing system. Of course, you can still buy online and have products shipped to your door, but the company is now also offering curbside pickup. Order your items on the Best Buy Web site, drive to the store, notify the employees that you’re there, pop your trunk or hatch, and they’ll load your purchases. If you try the service, let us know how it goes.

In an email to customers, Best Buy said that if you did not place the order in advance, an employee outside the store will take your order and let you pay from your car. The company has also extended the return window on products.

An email from Best Buy announcing curbside service.