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Am I an Asshole for Shopping Online During the Coronavirus?

Gotta do what you’ve gotta do to properly social distance

There’s a whole lotta talk about “social distancing” right now, but I’m not sure if that means “don’t make out with strangers at clubs” or “don’t even glance at another human walking across the street from your third-floor apartment window.” Like, okay, maybe no hand shakes right now, but can I leave my house at all?

This week, we’ll be exploring the different scenarios why you might want or need to enter the public during the coronavirus pandemic, and determining an essential aspect for your consideration: Will doing this make me an asshole? 

In today’s segment: whether ordering shit online right now makes you an asshole. 

We’re at least a week into this whole not-going-outside thing. My snack supply was depleted on Day Two. By Day Five, I’d cooked (and eaten) all the meals I planned on making last two weeks. Day Seven, I’m eating salsa out of the jar with a spoon. 

I’ve gotta get some groceries. But to be honest? I’ve kind of grown to like not leaving my apartment, and I’m pretty sure I should avoid doing so, anyway. When I didn’t want to go out in the past, I could just order anything delivered right to my door. With everything going on, though, it seems kind of fucked to make someone else go out amidst the pandemic to fetch me some Nature Valley granola bars. But am I just being paranoid? 

Well, yes and no. The problem is, everything is kind of fucked right now. Yet the more people who self-quarantine, the less fucked things will be. Having everything delivered is ultimately a lesser evil than if everyone were to be out and about purchasing things themselves. 

Right now, social distancing is the only real tool we have in mitigating the spread of the virus. If having our basic necessities delivered to us means we can fully social distance, so be it. You’re not an asshole for needing to eat or wanting to brush your teeth. If Amazon two-day delivery helps you do that, fine. 

It’s a little more complicated when it comes to procuring our “wants” rather than our “needs,” though. I might think I’m going to spontaneously combust if I don’t get some pad thai in my stomach in the next hour, but I’m probably okay without it. Regardless, is it ethical for me to have some takeout delivered? 

Your local restaurants could probably use your money right now, so ordering from them is actually a good thing. But a lot of delivery drivers find themselves in a not-so-great situation right now, having to choose between financial hardship, contracting the coronavirus or possibly both. According to a New York Times report, couriers and messengers score relatively high in terms of their exposure to disease compared to other professions. UberEats and other major food delivery platforms have been slow to release any sort of comprehensive paid sick leave plan for drivers, meaning many feel pressured to work until they’re forced not to. That said, you can still use these platforms and not feel like a massive dick — just request a no-contact delivery so you’re not risking the driver’s health, and leave a fat tip. Of course, same goes for the people who deliver your necessities, too. 

But beyond the person who brings the products to you, there are other people to be thinking about. Currently, grocery stores and Amazon warehouses across the country are hiring en masse to deal with the increased demand for goods. The need for workers is so significant that Amazon will be paying an additional $2 per hour on top of their $15 per hour nationwide. Again, it’s a nightmare to think that people who don’t want to be working for the sake of their health might be required to, but you can take some comfort in knowing that service workers and other industries with layoffs from the virus at least have some option (not a great option, but an option) for temporary income. 

If it’s any further consolation, stock clerks, cashiers, truck drivers, food manufacturers, mail sorters and postal service workers all rank low in terms of their risk of contracting communicable disease. These jobs are considered relatively safe right now. Of note, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that there’s no evidence to support the idea that the virus can be transmitted through mail. So yes, getting packages is safe during coronavirus. 

Basically, this whole situation is a fucking horrorshow, but it’s not your fault. You didn’t invent capitalism. The only thing that’s truly in our power right now is our ability to stay home. That’s how we can do our part. If that means getting hot Cheetos and puzzles shipped to your house, that’s just how it’s gotta be.