There are those … a great many, from the so-called ‘president’ down through the ranks … who advocate for opening everything back up right now. My own friend Scott (sklawlor) has very strong views that to keep businesses shuttered is draconian and is hurting people. Yes, it is hurting people, hurting small businesses, but the alternative may well be 1,000 times worse. So, I’d like to paint a scenario of what I think will happen in those areas that choose to re-open now.
First of all, if every business opened tomorrow, most would find themselves without adequate staffing. Some people will be afraid to return to work, as the U.S. is still seeing more than 1,000 deaths per day. Others will not be able to return to work, for they will have no childcare with daycare centers and schools closed. Still others will not be able to return to work for they, themselves, are ill.
So, here’s Mr. Bob with a dine-in restaurant to open, but only about half his staff, if that, have returned to work. Plus, Mr. Bob is trying his best to order beef, pork and chicken, not to mention fresh vegetables, and finding it’s hit and miss. He can get half his order of ground beef the middle of next week, but no guarantee on the chicken breasts. Also … he is mandated to change the seating arrangement in his restaurant so that he has only about half the tables he usually has, and NO bar seating. Oh, and did I mention that he must also have printed disposable paper menus? The printer will put his order in, but as there’s a backlog and the printer is understaffed for the same reasons Mr. Bob is, it may take a couple of weeks.
So, a couple of weeks pass and finally Mr. Bob has his ducks lined up, he’s ready for his Grand Re-Opening. He has advertised on the ‘net, sent out flyers, and bought a small spot on a local radio program. He opens his doors … and there are about 30 people in total. The first group, a party of five, aren’t wearing masks, which Mr. Bob has been told they must do (though for the life of me, I don’t know how one eats with a bloomin’ mask!). The party of five leave to go elsewhere, and Mr. Bob gives the red carpet treatment to the remaining 25.
The day progresses, people trickle in, but there is no surge of people who have just been chomping at the bit to dine at Mr. Bob’s. At no time throughout the day or evening are all the tables filled, and at the end of the day, the receipts did not even cover the direct costs, let alone the overhead.
Why, you ask, did Mr. Bob, who’s restaurant is normally very popular, get so little business? A number of reasons. Very credible health experts who have dedicated their lives to the study of virology, have warned that there WILL be a resurgence, and most of us, after listening to the experts and thinking, realize it’s true, so we are in NO hurry to venture out on unnecessary business. Second, during the two months of isolation, we have learned a few things. We have learned that we really don’t need to go out for dinner every week, or shopping every weekend. AND … when we did our end-of-month financial accounting, we realized that we had saved hundreds of dollars by staying home the past two months! With times as uncertain as they are … we think for a few minutes and decide that for now, anyway, perhaps it would be best to continue staying home, keeping safe, and saving money, for who knows what tomorrow brings?
Time passes and the regulars start trickling back in to Mr. Bob’s restaurant, but not in any great numbers. Worse yet, three of the servers on Mr. Bob’s staff have called in sick this week … he knows he should have his entire staff tested for coronavirus, but how? At what cost? By the end of the week, two other employees have tested positive for coronavirus and others are calling in saying that they simply cannot risk picking it up and bringing it home to their families. The national daily death toll is now around 2,000 per day, and the total U.S. deaths have passed 120,000.
Saturday, Mr. Bob’s best day … he is down to two servers, one cook, and no hostess, so he will be wearing many hats. By 10:00 p.m., when things are usually just starting to hop, Mr. Bob has one lone customer drowning his sorrows and a couple making google eyes over their steaks & salads. Once they leave, Mr. Bob decides to hang it up and places the ‘Closed’ sign on the door for the last time. He will call his attorney and ask him to file the bankruptcy papers tomorrow morning.
This, my friends, is NOT partisan bullshit, as Scott would likely say it is. This is the scenario as I, an accountant for nearly 40 years and a thinker, a person with the ability to reason for far more years, think it will play out for small businesses across the nation. I didn’t just come up with this scenario last night but have been playing the various possibilities in my head for weeks now. In the above scenario, who gained anything? Not the staff, some of whom were sickened, all of whom are now permanently out of their job. Not the customers, some of whom no doubt picked up the virus at Mr. Bob’s and spent money that they may well need for food and rent in the coming months. And not Mr. Bob, whose entire life just went up in smoke.
And there’s another aspect … earlier today I read that Trump is calling for schools to reopen so that parents can return to their jobs. I was stunned that our children mean so little. Would you be willing to send your children back to school right now? I don’t have school-age kids, but if I did, I would be homeschooling for at least the rest of this year and maybe next year, as well. No, we aren’t sending our children into the lion’s den just so businesses like Mr. Bob’s restaurant can re-open for a while. NO!
In the words of Kwai Chang Caine played by David Carradine, “Patience, Grasshopper”.