The recent coronavirus crisis has certainly impacted everyone in many different ways. Of course, some people and industries are harder hit than others. With most states issuing voluntary or mandatory shelter-in-place orders, restaurants, bars, gyms, salons and other establishments that rely on in-person interaction have seen a drastic drop in their traffic and revenue. Since many of those types of small businesses already operated on very thin margins, many of them are in dire financial shape.
Here are a few ideas on how you might be able to support these local and small businesses during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Use your stimulus check to support small and local businesses
Many people in the US have recently received or will soon receive stimulus checks from the government. The amounts of these stimulus checks vary based on your household income and the number of kids you have. Across the US, many people are in different financial situations and are impacted by the current coronavirus pandemic in different ways.
In some cases, your household’s financial situation may have been drastically impacted, such as with the loss of employment by one or more household members. In that case, you’ll want to take care of yourself and use any stimulus money you receive to make sure your own financial situation is taken care of.
In other cases, you may still be doing all right. Staying at home and/or quarantined but with the ability to still work from home. In those cases, where your financial situation is still stable, consider using a portion of your stimulus check to support small and local businesses in one of the ways described below.
Order pickup or delivery
With most restaurants, bars and other establishments that have dining rooms closed due to the shelter-in-place orders, most of these businesses have turned to takeout and delivery as their main source of income. So while you might not be able to go and have a burger and fries AT your favorite watering hole, you can still support the business by ordering takeout.
Buy gift cards
Some businesses like movie theaters may not have a pickup or delivery option available. In those cases, one way to support those types of businesses is to buy a gift card. Buying a gift card gives the business a source of much-needed cash and defers using the gift card until later on when things have returned back to at least semi-normal
In other cases, you may have a business that you frequent that is completely closed down without an option to buy gift cards. In that case, if you want to support the business, you can consider making a donation. Of course, be mindful of your own financial situation, but if you have the ability to do so, now would be a great time to donate to these small businesses.
Ask if you should pay with cash or credit
If you are paying for something in person, ask the business whether they prefer cash or credit. Paying with cash saves the business the merchant processing fee that comes with accepting credit cards. But paying with credit definitely limits the chance of any virus transmission with the cash and coins. The best you can do is ask and see what the business prefers.
While some industries like restaurants, gyms and other service industries have been hit hard due to the stay-at-home order, other industries like grocery stores have had the opposite problem with overwhelming demand. Another way to support businesses is to be patient with the employees that you interact with. Remember, we’re all doing the best that we can. It is probably not the fault of any of the in-store employees that your grocery store is out of toilet paper or eggs.
Don’t forget to tip (well!)
Opinions vary on when and how much you should tip across different services and industries. But now is the time to make sure and leave a healthy tip. Remember, most of these delivery drivers and other service workers are putting their own health at risk to keep businesses open. A tip is always appreciated, but even more so during the current coronavirus crisis.
Stay home if you’re not feeling well
It should probably go without saying, but if you’re not feeling well, you should stay home. Even if your heart is in the right place, you don’t want to risk other people’s health. Consider ordering something online for delivery, buying gift cards or other ways to support businesses from your home.
Hopefully, these tips will help you as you look for ways to support businesses during our current pandemic. On behalf of small-business owners everywhere, thank you for paying it forward!
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.