Safeway manager urges “calm” in the face of panic buying over coronavirus fears

Safeway is struggling to keep up with the demands of coronavirus panic buying. Mike Murray, manager of Kodiak Safeway said shelves are regularly running low — not because there aren’t enough food or supplies coming in, but because people are buying at a significantly higher rate.

“It was right down to the paper aisle, to the sanitation wipes, to the rice section, to the meat case … most of those items I did not have and what I had was a fraction of what I needed,” he said.

In 20 years managing the store, Murray said what he’s seen in the last week is unprecedented.

Panic buying is to blame for limited supplies of flour and other products at Kodiak Safeway on Sat. March 14, 2020. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

Kodiak’s Safeway is at the end of the grocery’s supply chain — orders for food and supplies go to warehouses in Anchorage, on up to a major hub in Auburn, Wash. Murray says those warehouses are likely experiencing the same shortages that the store here is seeing.

Some Safeway products, like rice and beans, have been limited to just a few packages per person. Murray says right now, the most important thing people can do to make sure the store stays stocked is to remain calm.

“Just be compassionate with each other and our time and remain calm. Everything’s gonna be okay. I do believe, in a shorter than what seems realistic right now period of time, that normalcy will return,” he said. “Because I’ve got enough food.”

Murray said Safeway is continuing to take precautions to keep the store clean, including providing disinfecting wipes and sanitizing check out surfaces regularly. The store is still short-staffed, however, and Murray says the increased workload, along with panic buying has been a strain on workers.

“I’m worried that should any of my key people, should they get ill, and I’m not talking coronavirus ill. I’m just talking fatigue safety issues, workplace safety issues because we’re all trying to accomplish so much. And that’s going to further strain the workforce that we have, at a time when so much more needs to get done.”

Safeway is still hiring for new store employees, Murray says.

Murray was a guest on Tuesday’s edition of The Lowdown, KMXT’s daily coronavirus update show. You can listen in at 9 a.m. every weekday, and submit questions for our guests by calling (907) 486-3181 or emailing Wednesday’s guests are city manager Mike Tvenge, borough manager Michael Powers and fire chief Jim Mullican.

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