If You See This in a Store on Black Friday, Don't Go Inside

Experts are warning shoppers to avoid these clear coronavirus safety risks.

The year's biggest shopping event is just days away, but things are a little bit different in 2020 thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. And while some stores have tried to lessen the Black Friday crowds this year by offering deals early and online, it's still expected to be a major event. According to Statista, 36 percent of U.S. consumers still plan to do most of their holiday shopping on Black Friday this year. But with the pandemic in full-force, experts are warning shoppers to avoid Black Friday stores that have serious coronavirus safety risks. To help you know which stores to avoid this Black Friday, read on for some warning signs, and for more shopping adjustments you should make, This Is the One Thing You'll Regret Buying on Black Friday, Study Says.

They don't have a place for sanitized carts or baskets.

Woman with shopping cart in the supermarket parking lot during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020

To maintain a healthy environment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning and disinfecting "frequently touched surfaces between uses as much as possible." And in any store, baskets and carts are some of the most frequently touched items.

Jolene Caufield, the senior advisor for Healthy Howard MD, says carts and baskets should be clearly marked as sanitized, so you know they've been cleaned and disinfected before using. A sign that indicates they have been sanitized "signifies that the store takes public safety seriously by making sure baskets and carts are sanitized after every use," she says. And if you are planning to head out this Black Friday, make sure you know the 15 Things the CDC Says You Need to Do Every Time You Leave Your Home.

Their safety precautions aren't clearly advertised.

Man working in a coffee shop wearing a mask

Stores that are "meeting and exceeding state guidelines" for coronavirus safety precautions are usually taking every opportunity to make that clear, says Kevin Godfrey, a cleaning expert with 15 years of experience and the founder of Trusted Safe. So if the store you're entering doesn't have clear signs marking the additional safety precautions they're taking or have added this year, they probably haven't done anything.

"For the safest shopping experience this Black Friday, I would only visit smaller 'mom-and-pop' stores. These are the stores taking additional precautions because their livelihoods are directly tied to how safe their store is," Godfrey explains. "You can ask a manager what has been done, you can talk to the employees, and they'll be proud of the steps they have taken and go into great detail on the products and protocols they have implemented on their staff and customers' behalf." And if you're concerned about the spread of COVID, This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

There is a full parking lot but no line outside.

Parking at London airport on a busy day

Julie Ramhold, a retail expert and consumer analyst with DealNews, says a full parking lot with no sign of a line outside for customers waiting to get in is a huge red flag. After all, this probably means that "the store is packed on the inside and the workers aren't concerned with limiting the number of shoppers allowed at one time." So chances are, you'll be walking into a crowded store where it will be hard to maintain any kind of distance from other shoppers. And for more shopping changes, Walmart Is Now Doing This as Soon as You Go in the Store.

They don't have someone watching customers enter the store.

Waitress in apron and medical mask making welcoming gesture when inviting pretty young woman

If a store doesn't have an employee stationed at the front door, they're probably not limiting their store capacity, says Lina Velikova, MD, a medical advisor with Supplements101. But that's not the only issue. If no one is manning the entrance, they're also probably not taking into account whether or not people are entering the store with face masks on. Employees may be busy with other tasks and by the time they ask someone to put a mask on, it might be too late. And for recent mask requirements, This Popular Store Just Instituted a Strict New Mask Rule.

Their staff isn't wearing necessary personal protective equipment.

Man working in a grocery store

A store's staff is a reflection of their policies. If you enter a store and you see staff without masks, gloves, and other protective gear, that may be a clear sign they are not enforcing these precautions with their customers. It also may mean they are just "not equipped to ensure every customer inside their premises complies with the public safety protocols," Caufield says. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

They opened their doors early on Black Friday.

Cropped shot of a man in apron putting nameplate on the entrance door at his own shop

While most retailers are still opening their doors on Black Friday, they are trying to lessen risks by keeping normal hours and not extending them as they usually would for the holiday, Ramhold explains. For instance, stores like Walmart and Target are actually closed on Thanksgiving this year and don't open on Black Friday until normal times—5 a.m. and 7 a.m., respectively—unlike their extended hours in years past. So if your store did open early, you should be worried.

"If you see stores that are opening at midnight and touting that they'll be open for 24 hours or something to that effect, it's best to leave them alone," she explains. "Stores that will be open that continuously are less likely to have time to sanitize, so if you visit later in the day, you could find yourself dealing with items that have been touched by dozens of people all day long." And for more shopping safety tips, Don't Spend More Than This Long in the Grocery Store, Doctor Warns.

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