(Image Credit: Michael Loccisano/Staff/Getty Images)
People are afraid to enter stores and restaurants right now. I’m one of those people! Here’s a small piece of hardware that completely removed that fear for me.
About 3 weeks ago, my wife – stuck in the house with me for weeks, and looking for a sense of normalcy – looked at me and said: “lets get takeout”.
I literally didn’t think it was a safe idea, and I’m not alone.
Let’s rewind back to March 1st when the novel coronavirus, aka Covid-19, was beginning to enter the mainstream.
I remember it like it was yesterday: the news cycle was eerily similar to the beginning of a world-ending disaster movie. By mid-March the lockdowns began, and for me, a bombardment of emails from my commercial clients – in NYC and Boston – letting me know that all offices we work in, and work on, would be shutting down for a week or two.
That was 6 weeks ago, and since then no one knows if, and when they’ll reopen. In the past 6 weeks, work has been ground to a halt for almost all of us.
I had to tell my guys the one thing that no business owner wants to say: we’re shuttered, and I don’t know when we’ll be back to work.
Fast forward to the beginning of April and after weeks of lockdown, and one at-home haircut later – my wife, staring at me, longing for a sense of normalcy says “lets get takeout”
My Personal Experience
Full Disclosure: How was I – someone I thought was a fairly tough guy with a background in commercial demolition, construction, and humanitarian disaster relief in some of the toughest cities in the US – staring back at my wife thinking that picking up takeout wasn’t safe?
We opted out and cooked another meal at home.
Days later we caved in and placed a Chinese food takeout order. It was a Saturday night and we both needed “normal”.
I got to the typically busy strip mall around the corner at 7pm.
There’s usually a few hundred cars parked here consisting of customers taking advantage of about 30 businesses that the strip mall houses. But the entire parking lot was dark, and completely empty, with the exception of one SUV parked next to small neon sign over blacked out windows that flickered “OPEN” like a barely visible lighthouse on the horizon. I drove across the empty parking lot toward it, like a moth to a light, and parked my car. The Chinese food joint was the only place open here.
I couldn’t wait for some greasy chicken fingers and duck sauce...But I hesitated to go in. Instead I sat in my car for 10 minutes building up the courage to pick up takeout for my family.
After staring at the front door for what felt like forever, a man walked out with his takeout order – no gloves, no mask – got into the SUV parked next to the “OPEN” sign, and left.
I’m the only one in this massive empty parking lot at this point.
I had gloves and a mask so I put them on and headed for the front door wondering: “what if that guy who just left has Coronavirus?” “if I get sick will I survive? I have a 1 year old, what if he gets sick? “Does touching this door mark the end of my life?” “Am I killing my family?”. Yeah, all those thoughts crossed my mind.
I’m Probably Overreacting
So I shook the invasive thoughts off, and went inside. I paid online so I didn’t have to punch buttons on a credit card machine, reducing the odds of coming in contact with the virus. I picked up my food, thanked the gentleman through my mask and walked out with my order. Then got back in my car, put the key in the ignition, turned it on and stopped, horrified. I’m still wearing the same pair of gloves I opened the front door with.
Once again, my mind started racing: “If the guy who just left the restaurant ahead of me had the virus, it was now all over my phone, my keys, my takeout bag, the car door handle, the steering wheel, and my clothing”. “Great” I thought. “Gloves were pointless”.
Luckily, I had rubbing alcohol in the car and I wiped everything down before I left.
Two hours later and my wife was absolutely right. We’re watching a movie together and things actually felt normal – even though walking into a restaurant felt anything but, and I didn’t want to feel that fear again.
Giving Restaurants a Second Chance
The following week we decided to get takeout again, this time from Five Guys. I ordered online, chose curbside delivery and pulled in right out front. I watched people go in and out, without gloves or masks on, and even watched an employee run out, hand a takeout order to a customer, turn around and grab that same door handle, that a half dozen different people just used, before walking back inside.
Curbside Coronavirus, straight to my car!
“Nah”. I instantly changed my order to a pick up in-store order, and went in for my food instead. Here I was again, nervous about entering a restaurant. (Disclosure: That Five Guys employee was changing his gloves like clockwork, I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t gone inside, also the burgers were freakin’ delicious).
What I Realized
The next day I realized I had two fears whenever I went to gas stations, grocery stores, hardware stores – and restaurants. Those fears were of touching any door handle (particularly a front entry or bathroom door) that, and touching the keypads when making a debit card purchase. Other than that, if I’m wearing a mask and practicing safe distancing, the virus can’t touch me when I’m out and about.
The Solution To My Greater Fear
As soon as I got home I began scouring the internet for a very inexpensive way to resolve the problem. “Commercial spaces are what we do, I can solve this” I thought. That’s when I stumbled across the Step n’ Pull. An inconspicuous door handle that you open with your foot that is made right here in the US. (See video below)
Why wasn’t this already installed on the door at the Chinese Restaurant? Or Five Guys? Imagine if they were installed along with a big sign letting me know that I had nothing to be afraid of. Order online and use my foot, to do the rest. Why aren’t these being installed everywhere? They should be found at gas stations, on grocery store door coolers, on bathroom doors, on the front door of every restaurant. Because honestly, I don’t want to touch any handle outside of the ones inside my own home.
And I’m not the only one feeling this way.
What We’re Doing About It
Starting May 1st, I’m mobilizing the Massachusetts division of my company to get these on the doors of any establishment east of Worcester that want them, and in NYC we’ll be starting on May 15th. You can book an installation here and we’ll be there within 24-48 hours. It’s a 10 minute installation on both sides of the door. They come in black, or a natural metal finish, and can be installed on any latch-less commercial wood or metal door. They also come with a vinyl decal (see below). The decal helps alert people coming in and out to the fact they don’t have to touch the door. It’s an inexpensive win-win and signals to consumers that the store is not only open, but open in a responsible that helps reduce the spread of Coronavirus.
Every business in the commercial sector should install these immediately. Installing glove or finger cot dispensers near cash registers for folks who don’t want to touch keypads would also be a game changer. We’re getting ready as a whole to reopen society for the summer.
I don’t know about you but I’m ready to begin the journey back to normal. I think this is a step in the right direction.
Owner of The Works Companies – firstname.lastname@example.org