PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – As the majority of non-life-sustaining businesses will soon enter the fourth week of closures, people flocked to home improvement stores like Lowe’s on Saturday across the Pittsburgh area.
Our cameras captured packed parking lots, people not adhering to social distancing guidelines, and people not wearing masks.
KDKA talked to an employee at one local Lowe’s store, who did not want to be identified out of fear of losing her job, but said she believes the company is putting profit ahead of her safety.
“This is an epidemic where you need to stay home, not come out and go shopping. You don’t need to plant your tulips right now! You can wait!”
She said that Lowe’s Spring Black Friday sale is concerning to both her and her fellow co-workers.
The front page of Lowe’s advertisement promotes 2-day only deals and says “shop in-store on Saturday April 4 and Sunday April 5.”
The website’s “spring project savings” includes the usual patio furniture, grills and outdoor tools.
“We’re like, promoting it. They’re sending out emails saying get your home projects finished. They’re sending out emails saying do this do that and here’s our weekly ad and here’s our flyers for spring Black Friday, but that’s not essential.”
She added, “I get it that it’s going to keep you busy, but that’s not going to keep you alive.”
The employee tells KDKA that customers are not successfully practicing social distancing in the store, and said she’s even heard some customers have been spotted drinking their morning coffee while sitting on the store’s patio furniture.
She said that she fears for her safety and the safety of her fellow co-workers.
“The morale is painfully low. There is no morale. Everybody is angry, everybody is upset. It’s not a happy place – it’s the complete opposite of happy.”
KDKA asked her what most people are buying during this pandemic, and she said it’s “definitely not essential items.”
“Gallons and gallons of paint. They’re buying mulch. They’re buying flowers. They’re buying blinds, home decor items and they’re not coming in for essentials.”
She said one fellow employee sold 200 gallons of paint in 3 hours. She said before the COVID-19 outbreak, that same employee would sell 20 to 50 gallons during an entire 9-hour shift.
Her employer, Lowe’s, published this information on its corporate website Thursday:
The company has announced a “temporary $2 an hour wage increase for full time, part-time and seasonal hourly associates at Lowe’s stores, contact centers and supply chain facilities for the month of April”
On March 31, “all hourly associates received a special payment to recognize their tireless efforts. Full time employees received $300 and part-time associates received $150”
The company “continues to offer associates 14-days of emergency paid leave for all associates who need it”
Last week, Lowe’s “announced extended paid leave up to a total of four weeks for those at a high risk for severe illness.
The employee tells KDKA many of her coworkers have quit, some are taking advantage of the paid leave, but most are scared and wish the store would better limit the number of customers and close down the non-essential parts of the store, such as the garden center.
“They needed 3 cashiers in the garden center today, that’s how busy it was. The line wrapped around the paint center,” said said.
In terms of safety precautions, this employee said she hopes the company can muster up more hand sanitizer for cashiers and masks since she said her store is currently out of those materials.
When asked what she would say to the company’s leadership during this time:
“We understand that we’re essential – we’re not denying that, but what we are saying is that CDC and the government are putting all these precautions in place and we’re not listening to them at all. And they’re doing it for the safety of everybody – and for you to just blatantly ignore it and move around it in every way possible- I think that its crazy.”
Lowe’s published the following information Thursday regarding protecting its employees:
“We are making masks and gloves available to all associates in the workplace who want them, and as previously shared, all N95 masks were placed on a stop-sale and being donated to hospitals to protect frontline healthcare workers.”
The store also highlighted it has added “dedicated social distancing ambassadors” who will be responsible for “monitoring customer flow in our garden centers and front-end areas and enforce customer limits to allow proper social distancing.”
The company adds that it has made changes to the stores’ layouts, saying “We opened aisles and removed displays to further support the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing.”