What have iSchoolers been shopping for during quarantine?


Harrison Reinisch, Junior Editor in Chief

At the beginning of 2020, Amazon was worth approximately $945 billion. By the end of the year, that number had skyrocketed to about $1.63 trillion – more than the GDP of all but 12 countries. Normally, a company worth this much almost doubling its valuation in a single year would be a story in and of itself. In these times, however, Amazon’s rapid increase in business is anything but surprising.

With the pandemic raging, many have had to stay at home, including students at the iSchool. While there are many activities that people have been doing at home – like streaming, gaming, or checking the news every five minutes – one of the most popular is undoubtedly shopping.

“Shopping is honestly one of the main ways I pass the time at this point,” iSchool junior Adriano Grassi says. “Probably a lot of other people as well.”

In order to best determine what iSchoolers have been shopping for during the pandemic, a survey was created asking students this question. 

Fifty-one students responded to the survey, representing 10.4% of the student body. Out of the students who took this survey, every one of them has bought something since the pandemic began.

Since people have spent much of the time in the comfort of their own homes, it’s easy to assume that most students would solely shop online because of the health risk COVID-19 poses to in-person shopping. However, the results say otherwise. According to the survey, the vast majority have gone both online shopping and shopping in stores, and only a small percentage of respondents said they shopped solely online or solely in person.

The survey results made clear that students were unified in that they were shopping during the pandemic, and for the most part were buying both online and in person. However, while students may have shopped through similar mediums, they were highly varied in what it was that they purchased.

Food and drink was the most common item that students bought, with a vast majority of students purchasing at least one item of food or drink. Interestingly, supplies used to prevent COVID-19 such as masks and hand sanitizers were only the third most common item bought by students, behind food/drink and clothing.

For instance, Grassi said the following on his purchases during the pandemic:

“I bought a bunch of clothes, a VR headset, and a bunch of other stuff that I probably shouldn’t have bought… I [also] bought a lot of food.”

While Adriano has been buying a lot of food, he has clearly still been careful to follow CDC guidelines and recommendations.

“I went to my first restaurant in like a couple months this past Sunday,” Grassi said in mid-November. “Because I’ve just been ordering food instead of going places.”

With all of the ways that COVID has changed people’s everyday lives, one question has remained: What changes will COVID bring, and will they be permanent? Many iSchoolers have surprising thoughts on this, including Elly Tuffey, a junior.

“A big change that I think we will see in the future is how few personal businesses will be left. This pandemic has really been a struggle for small business owners and many are closing their doors for the last time,” Tuffey said. “The biggest thing we can do to help them survive is to continue giving them business in any way we can. I personally will continue to support the businesses around me in the hopes that they will stay open, and I urge you all to do the same.”

Many have heard about the crisis facing small businesses, but not as many realize just how truly dire the situation is. According to Yelp, a total of 163,735 small businesses closed between the beginning of the pandemic to August 31, and 60% of those closures are expected to be permanent.

On the subject of how COVID changed shopping patterns, Grassi gave his opinion on how he thought it affected the general populace.

“I think [the pandemic] just made everyone so bored that they wanted new stuff to do. Everyone became like a little kid in a toy store, where they get a toy and then they immediately forget about it – it gets thrown to the bottom of a big toy box. It’s just kind of like that… People do use it for five seconds, but then they want something else.”

While this may be true in some cases, one person who has not been shopping out of boredom is iSchool teacher Ms. Perez.

“I definitely am shopping more for practicality and not for fun,” she said. “I wish [I was shopping for fun more often], you know, I miss that. It’s something else that was kind of taken away from us in a sense.”

iSchool senior Hervin Reyes shopped much more for fun than out of practicality, shopping for items like clothing and makeup. “I bought more of these types of things just because it was fun to do during quarantine when you can’t hang out with friends and things like that.” 

Overall, shopping is something that everyone engages in at some point or another, and shopping intelligently can bring immense satisfaction and happiness. It will be interesting to see how iSchoolers continue to shop after the pandemic, and how iSchoolers feel they like to spend (or not spend) their money.