COVID-19 reshaping how we do business (Voices)

After my Zoom doctor’s appointment recently, I needed to go to the pharmacy. I now use grocery delivery, so I have the personal shoppers at Instacart to thank for not substituting broccoli for asparagus, but this time I needed to go to the store myself.

I went into the CVS store on Winnie Lane and noticed that not only were there no customers in the store, but no clerks were at the registers. The only staff working were in the pharmacy, safely enclosed behind plexiglass with a row of cars stretching around the store waiting to use the drive-up window.

With only self-checkout available, I had to navigate the transaction myself. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like self-checkout. Something always requires a personal override so I used to wonder if this technology might never fully catch on. That was before COVID-19 decided it would take up residence in a human host.

I use a lot of technical analysis when looking for entry and exit points on stocks, but I started remembering the “Warren Buffett” way of fundamental investing while in the store, so I took note of who made the self-check station. Then I started wondering who made all that plexiglass, along with what companies make the drive-up equipment and who does it best.

Upon leaving the store, I surveyed the Frontier Plaza parking lot. It was a Monday, but the lot looked like a weekend. Several small businesses were closed while Amazon boxes piled up at my doorstep. I know the UPS and Fedex delivery guys by sight, but do not know the faces behind all those closed businesses. I felt sad. I also felt old. My first office space was in that shopping center.

I went home and looked around at what was now part of my day. Devices were everywhere: Ring doorbell and security systems, Apple tablets, Amazon e-readers. I still take the Nevada Appeal in paper form but read the content digitally and use the paper to start a fire in my fireplace.

In the kitchen I have a Rival Instapot, what a great invention that is. In the bathroom I have a Braun electronic toothbrush, so I always get good feedback from the dental hygienist even though Braun is doing all the work.

I’m typing this article in Microsoft Windows while looking at an HP monitor. A Samsung phone pings to let me know if I’m getting a text or email. Once in a while I will actually call someone just to hear their voice. They often seem startled and ask if I’m OK.

The changes in how we live our lives were evolving before the pandemic; we incorporated these changes into our lives without really noticing. Humans are highly adaptive creatures.

But the acceleration of changes forced upon us from COVID-19 has allowed large businesses to flourish as they have the resources and ability to adapt, while smaller businesses do not. I may not enjoy a Zoom meeting, but I have become accustomed to them, and I have even gotten proficient at the use of the self-checkout stations at stores (I still don’t like them).

As the pandemic continues to displace the workforce, I go back to a Joe Rogan podcast I listened to in February 2019 with a guest I had not heard of, Andrew Yang. He had announced his candidacy for the presidency, so I listened to him discuss how changes coming through advances in AI and robotics were going to put a lot of the U.S. workforce out of a job, and what would happen to those workers whose skillsets no longer matched jobs available.

Little did anyone know how soon some of these changes, many of which will remain permanent, would happen or why.

I thought the idea of universal basic income was unrealistic until I received a $1,200 check for doing nothing this year. Now I am researching the new mRNA vaccines soon to be available. Using messenger RNA instead of a virus to make a vaccine, who would have thought? Pfizer and Moderna did, and it is paying off nicely for their shareholders.

If necessity is truly the mother of invention, we may be starting a radical shift in how we handle our everyday needs, so start looking around and see if what you use every day may be worth investing in.

Or, become an Instacart shopper.

Carol Perry is a retired financial adviser and has been a Northern Nevada resident since 1983, and a Carson City resident since 1990. This Voices column first published Dec. 6 in the Nevada Appeal, a sister publication of the NNBW.

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