Green Tape Everywhere: It Will Take Time to Get Used to Post-Pandemic Shopping

green tape

Canadians are going to have to change their shopping habits to adapt to life under COVID-19. Photo: Minerva Studio / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Here’s a hot investing tip — buy stock in companies that make or sell green masking tape.

Because over the next few months as stores start to reopen and people emerge from their lockdown seclusion, our shopping lives are going to be completely guided by lines, arrows, boxes and X’s — all marked on floors and sidewalks with that ubiquitous green tape. (While you will see red, blue or yellow tape as well, green seems to be the colour of choice for most retailers.)

Until recently, these adhesive rolls — known either as painter’s tape or frog tape (after one of the better known brand names) — have served a practical but quiet role, standing by in basement toolboxes and kitchen drawers around the country, ready for use when we undertook some home renovation project.

But now, because stores have been required to enforce COVID-19 public distancing measures, green tape is having a moment.

Anyone who has ventured out for the first time in months for some post-pandemic shopping will know what I mean. The shop floors are now a complex of marking and directions. A bit like a treasure map or one of those child’s maze puzzles, you must follow the arrows telling you which direction you can proceed, adhere to the lines ensuring social distancing and never stray onto a dreaded X, marking forbidden zones.

 

It’s almost as if we have developed a supernatural belief in the magical properties of green tape. If you stay on this side of the tape, you won’t get COVID-19. But if you happen to cross over the line, step out of the box or tread on the X, heaven help you.

And the markings are creating comical scenes in many stores. Aisles are filled with quizzical shoppers wandering about uncertainly, their eyes glued to the floors as they try to decode and abide the often impenetrable goal behind these directions.

Should you happen to veer off course — or, worse, dare flaunt the instructions — be prepared for a stern lecture from an in-store assistant. As well, there’s usually a security guard on-site who is always ready to hector you or threaten dire consequences if you don’t learn and follow the green tape instructions.

The New Normal is Confusing

 

This new world ruled where green tape is king is going to take some getting used to. My shopping habits (built up over a lifetime) never follow a linear pattern.

If, as is often the case, I forget to pick up the peanut butter in Aisle 3, my normal course of action would be to cut back that way before I hit the checkout and grab a jar of Skippy. But in the post-pandemic world, the green tape arrows won’t allow me to reverse directions. I will get a severe scolding — or thrown out — for such deviant behaviour.

I recently ventured out to a local garden centre. Green tape markings on the floor directed me everywhere but where I wanted to go. The instruction board I was expected to read and retain was long and poorly written.

After I asked an assistant what this was all in aid of, she gave me a withering look of exasperation, unable to hide her glare behind her transparent face shield. As I wasn’t prepared to wait 45 minutes in the blazing sun just to get this kind of attitude, I beat a hasty retreat, as did several others behind me. The grass seed will have to wait another year.

Green Tape Commissioner

 

I do understand the goal behind this green frenzy, and the need to wash hands, wear a mask and maintain public distance. But surely a little common sense must prevail. And in some stores it does. We go to retail shops to purchase things we need, not to follow some obscure markings. And customer service, which once reigned supreme, has been completely sacrificed in the rush to follow public health measures.

If this continues, it’s not unlikely that many people will abandon bricks and mortar stores altogether and just order everything online. It’s more convenient and no one yells at you. But if this happens, thousands of stores, both small and large, will not survive. And the jobs that are so desperately needed to kickstart the economy (not to mention reduce the government payroll programs) will be lost forever.

That’s why I’m proposing the federal government  immediately launch a Green Tape Commission, inspired by former Ontario Premier Mike Harris’ much-vaunted Red Tape Commission, which was created in the mid ’90s to cut down on unnecessary bureaucracy. The Green Tape Commissioner’s task will be to regulate and standardize floor markings in stores across Canada. If we’re going to live in a world that’s ruled by green tape, then these three rules must apply:

  • All floor tape directions must be unambiguous and coherent, tailored for impatient shoppers or absent-minded dummies like me.
  • The directions must have a real social distancing purpose behind them. I’m fully prepared to follow rules that will limit the spread of the disease. But many I’ve seen so far have seemed either random or pointless and don’t seem to offer any benefit.
  • Store assistants and security guards must treat shoppers with a level of understanding and respect. Don’t yell at us if we fail to grasp the intricacies of the green tape directions. Remember, this is all new to us too.

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