Lisa Lee Freeman
Stock up on coronavirus supplies without getting ripped off
Updated: May 2, 2020
With the pandemic still in full swing, shopping for all of your essentials is no longer as easy as popping into a Target or one-clicking on Amazon. And forget about saving money. Most of us consider ourselves lucky just to be able to buy a roll of toilet paper or a box of rubber gloves. During a trip to Home Depot yesterday I came upon a pallet rack of paper towels—I didn’t check the price; I just grabbed! We’re all scrambling to find coronavirus supplies. So how can you find what you need and get the most for your money? Here are some tips I hope will be helpful:
1. Shop outside the box. The websites of big-box stores like Target and Walmart and your local supermarket are worth checking daily—shipments come in and sell out quickly. But there are lots of places you might not think to shop for supplies that could have exactly what you're looking for, including rubber gloves, masks, TP, and disinfectants. So get creative and shop around! Here are some examples:
Gloves: I’ve spotted disposable rubber gloves at Staples, Sallybeauty, RestaurantSupply.com, Home Depot, and Groupon Goods.
Paper towels: As I mentioned, Home Depot had a pile of them in the store. Also check warehouse stores like Costco and Boxed.com.
Wipes: These are tough to find but I did spot some on BuyBuyBaby.com, which are now sold out. Sorry folks!
Hand sanitizers: I found a large box of these that you can split with neighbors at RestaurantSupply.com.
TP: Check warehouse stores and Boxed.com.
In addition, check local businesses like baby and toy stores, clothing boutiques, hardware stores, beauty supply stores, convenience stores, delis, international markets, and even gas stations.
2. Act fast. While it's getting a little easier to find supplies, you have to snap them up quickly when you see them. Don't get lulled into thinking that because the item is in stock one week, it will be there the next. TP, paper towels, disinfecting sprays and other items are trickling into stores and onto retailer websites and can be out of stock in minutes. I made that mistake when I went to the supermarket and found tissues a few weeks ago only to discover that they were gone the next week. I also missed out on some rubber gloves because I waited too long to check out at Staples.
3. Check seller ratings. If you're buying from Amazon or eBay, you're going to find a lot of supplies sold by small, independent and overseas sellers. Before you click 'BUY' check a seller's ratings (on eBay they should be 98% or higher) as well as return policies and shipping costs and times, which could be weeks. I always use Fakespot to double-check ratings of sellers and products.
4. Get cash back. Ok, sales and coupons are getting harder to come by but you can still save by using a cash-back credit card or signing up for cash-back programs like Rakuten and Retailmenot. It may be your only way to cut the cost of essentials since sales on these items are nonexistent.
5. Make friends at grocery stores. A few weeks ago, I mentioned to a clerk who works the self-checkout area at my local Stop & Shop that I was becoming panicky about my toilet-paper supply. Every week, the TP racks were wiped clean before I could get to the store. So I asked if she wouldn't mind setting some aside for me when the next shipment came in. She not only set some aside, she bought me a 12-pack and refused to take money for it! She just said, "Pay it forward." It literally brought me to tears. I never thought I'd cry over a gift of TP. Thank you Paula at Stop & Shop in North White Plains!
5. Avoid rip-offs. There are a ton of coronavirus scams out there, according to the Better Business Bureau, which has loads of great tips on how to avoid them. No. 1: Stick with sellers you know and trust and use a credit card. There are lots of sites selling face masks that never show up; if you use a credit card you can dispute charges. Also, make sure the websites you click on are legit. Look for contact info on the site and make sure you’ve spelled the retailer's URL correctly in your browser. Don't use links from unsolicited emails, texts, and social media ads to buy supplies. They could lead you to a scam site even if they look like they're from a major retailer. To keep up on the latest scams, check BBB.org.