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Why are supermarket shelves empty?

The pandemic, production, and transportation problems result in empty shelves like this one at a Stamford supermarket. Photo by Nelissa Rosario

By Nelissa Rosario and Victoria Rosenblum

Since the pandemic began many have been fighting over groceries and essentials.

It's been two years since all the toilet paper in every store was sold out and all the groceries were stocked in houses. There were moments when it was impossible to find certain products like canned and frozen food. It seems not much has changed and there is a reason for the empty shelves.

The pandemic did lots of damage to companies and stores around the country. A big percentage of employees stopped working and never went back. You are probably asking yourself… How is this relevant to empty shelves? The main reason is that the manufacturers do not have enough staff to make their operations effective.

Production and transportation problems also contribute to the low stock. According to the grocery manager Juan at ShopRite of Commerce Park, most of the time, the grocery store orders three pallets of an item, and they receive one of the three. He does not get any response from the corporation about the issue, he said. In turn, it makes the shelves look worse every day and causes unhappy customers.

Customers ask, “Are we expecting any items coming back in stock anytime soon?” and the answer is “We do not know.” Unfortunately, as Juan said, “We wish we could give our customers their best experience in the market but it is becoming a challenge to accomplish.”

As a result of empty shelves, many customers complain about not finding the items they need. A customer reached out to Ashley, a customer service clerk, and screamed at her because they did not have her cookies in stock for a long time. Another customer said, “I bought $200 dollars in canned food because sooner or later we will not have anything to eat," the employee related.

This makes the public wonder if we will not have anything because of the customers buying extra food and stocking the food in their houses or because of the corporations' inability to supply the stores and meet customer demands. Empty shelves are not a choice, but an issue that consumers will have to face for a long time.

Nelissa is a reporter for The Voice.

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