Trader Joe’s Line Stretches Two Blocks as West Siders Prep for Possible Outbreak; Pasta’s Gone By Noon

Dipshikha Ghosh

The line is always long on Sundays at the Trader Joe’s on 93rd Street and Columbus, but this Sunday was special. With people nervous about the coronavirus and the potential for quarantines, the crowds reached levels that surprised even the Trader Joe’s staff. The first case of the virus in New York City was confirmed late on Sunday in Manhattan, though it wasn’t clear what neighborhood the person lives in.

Store employees said the wait time just to get inside was about 20 minutes long. Passersby exclaimed that the situation was “ridiculous” and “extraordinary” as shoppers waited in the cold for their turn.

One employee said that shoppers were buying more non-perishable items. “I was shocked to see on Saturday that there was a line outside before the store even opened, and all the pasta was gone before 12 noon.” Usually, the same stock lasts all day, he confirmed. “We are also charging for paper bags today as the plastic bag ban begins today, and we have more bags going out than when they were free.”

One other salesperson said that frozen items including vegetables and meat were flying off the shelves. Extra employees were called in to handle the demand.

Shoppers were excited to purchase ready-made meals, which could be put into a pantry. Sanjeev Shah, who was at the store with his wife said, ‘We bought more chana-masala packets than usual today because someone told us that they had run out yesterday,” he said.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of everything in the neighborhood.

FOOD, NEWS | 56 comments | permalink
    1. EdNY says:

      Unless these people plan to stay locked up in their homes, I fail to see what they’re accomplishing.

    2. Ish Kabibble says:

      Never thought of say this, but I’m embarrassed to be a New Yorker today.

      • Ben says:

        I was at the Studio City CA Monday morning and it was business as usual. If there had been a crowd I would have left

    3. UwsJeff says:

      No regard to what the CDC says. Pretty transparent, hoarding foods thinking that they can resell it at exorbitant prices to their friends and neighbors,

      • West 90th street Jeff says:

        Don’t confuse this writer with me. I see no cause to panic buy, and I don’t think anyone was hoarding to make a profit later on. We’re all buying out of an “abundance of caution” in case we have to be quarantined for a couple of weeks. At any rate, don’t panic shop on Friday afternoons; it’s about the worst time of the week to freak out. Just wait till Monday or Tuesday evening around 9 pm when the store is usually half empty, and most shelves are well stocked. This is the Upper West Side, folks; we’re not going to starve.

      • MA says:

        If things got bad enough for this sort of reselling to become lucrative, I doubt money would hold its value for much longer afterwards. Having survived some very difficult times in my country of origin, I’m now more concerned about physical security than supplies. With so many police officers residing outside of the five boroughs, and with anti-police sentiments running rampant these days, how likely are the cops to hang around while the city tears itself apart?

      • Mary Lyons says:

        Yep..a lot of capitalizing, scams going on.

    4. Chilling out 90th Street JeffS says:

      Any Friday afternoon brings lines outside the store, but this was a perfect storm: The normal line plus the Corona virus panic. I usually shop on Tuesday nights at about 9:30pm. No lines. A few items might be sold out, but most of what I want is there. I’m sure this Tuesday will be the same easy shopping; that’s when I’ll be there, and all the pasta will be back on the shelves.

    5. Kenneth says:

      I walked past Trader Joe’s at 93rd St. at 12:30 Saturday afternoon and there was no line to get in. There was also no line at 1:45p when I passed again going the other way. There was also no line at Whole Foods.

    6. Nanny says:

      New Yorkers don’t have food in their apartments. We eat out. We may have a couple of days and some leftovers. Especially singles and couples. So these people are going out to buy their two weeks of food “just in case” like we were told on the news all last week. That’s all nobody has two weeks of food in the city!!

    7. Pedestrian says:

      Insanity. This is why things can go so wrong. This is no balance.

    8. Anya schiffrin says:

      Speak for yourself about reselling! I bought eight boxes of pasta and pounds of brown rice and lentils so I can feed doormen, neighbors, students and anyone else who needs it. I even got a couple of masks for older friends.
      Of course many of us won’t hoard or resell. Let’s work to help each other. It’s clear that Trump won’t be doing it.. our level of organization is pitiful compared to many countries in Europe and Singapore etc. south African friends visiting us were saying they were shocked to fly into JFK without being asked any questions about recent travel or having their temperature taken. Let’s get through this without being nasty or flinging accusations please. Thanks very much

      • sg says:

        That’s right Anya, it’s all Trumps fault. You were probably one of the complainers when he prohibited flights from China (that’s when he was being racist). That was a good move. Go away and make your lentil soup for the doormen…

        And BTW, the NYC woman who was diagnosed had just returned from Iran…go figure.

      • anthony says:

        Sorry, but you are not doing something good here, pretending to, or actually, buying supposedly for others that all of a sudden can’t buy food. Somehow they’ve managed and will continue to do that if people like you don’t clean out the shelves.

        the worst thing about his is that it’s self fulfilling: the shelves are going to empty because people think they may empty later so they are stocking up now.

        this is a really good example of good intentions that may backfire.

      • Mary Lyons says:

        You just flung one at Trump. If this did get dire, I would not go to a restuarant.they would probably close, but people should not panic..180,000 people died of flu last yr.and there was vaccine available. Didn’t see a panic. This should not be politicised.

    9. ben says:

      There HAS to be better ways to spend a bright sunny Sunday afternoon than lining up outdoors for 20 minutes before fighting the crowd in TJ’s for pasta.

    10. JACK says:

      will someone tell trump that this is NOT A HOAX!

    11. Tammy says:

      Question? Why are people saying buy enough supplies for 2 weeks? Does the virus magically disappear in that time frame?
      People are being just as ridiculous in Colorado. 😕

    12. Myriam Rey says:

      Please open a store near Aventura Fl

    13. Jo says:

      People make everything political. The Trump administration is handling very effectively without creating a panic and he has done more for this country than anyone in the past 16 years.

      Our open border to the south is a major leak into our country.

      Rather than criticize our POTUS consider being part if the solution. Our country as all countries is facing a new challenge. I expand your base of knowledge by seeking news outlets that are not espousing bias, please.

      • Get real says:

        So, Trump “has done more for this country than anyone in the past 16 years”? Yeah, more to tear us apart and make us the laughingstock of the world! Thanks for a good chuckle this morning.

        • UWSHebrew says:

          laughingstock? more like fear and respect. the obama america-sucks apology tour is over.

        • Ruby Twilite says:

          Actually, yes, other countries DO respect us more now. We are not a laughingstock. They know not to mess with us because there is a new sheriff in town. This keeps the extremists in check because they know the US isn’t playing. But the country IS divided because the MSM are the minions of the Dems. I seriously urge you to check out a variety of news outlets besides CNN or MSNBC. Really, just to make sure you are right, check out Fox, One America News and judge for yourself. Don’t listen to just one source. Then go listen to people’s testimonials from the #WalkAwayCampaign. Just listen to what regular people have to say. Keep your views, but just listen to others and then see if that completely matches up with what CNN and MSNBC tell you. I have Dem friends and we all respect each other and discuss issues without hyperbole. The Covid-19 has the potential to be very bad so lets focus on what we can do now to protect ourselves.

          • uwsgrl says:

            When is the last time you left the country, Ruby? Just wondering if you’ve had any conversations with people in other countries lately because every time I do, respect is not what comes across.

          • JSV says:

            I’ve traveled quite a bit to other countries, and spoken with many, many people who do the same. I assure you — our perception in the eyes of the world has drastically declined under the Trump administration. I don’t watch CNN or MSNBC, the quality of the latter of which has certainly declined. For you to cite Fox as a news source tells me quite a bit about your abilities in the critical thinking department. You’re on the wrong side of history, and I do hope that you’re around long enough to see how history will judge you.

    14. Tom ess says:

      As usual the media’s attempt to sensationalize everything has people in a panic
      Yes the virus is a concern however not to the extremes people are taking it to
      WAKE UP PEOPLE– look what’s ” “REALLY
      ” going on

    15. WEN says:

      So many years ago myself and my young child had the flu. I called my neighbor and asked her to do some grocery shopping for me. I slipped an envelope with a list and $$ under her door. She rang my bell when she returned and left the bags at my door
      Come on people

    16. mark aracelis says:


    17. Leon says:

      And meanwhile I’m sure there were no lines and the shelves were fully stocked at the other Brand X stores nearby. Because if you are going to have to lock down in your apartment, it obviously must only be with the most exquisite products…

      I am a lifelong Democrat and have spent most of my life in and around NY, but have spent some time in red America. This is why people in the rest of the country make fun of us and generally don’t like us – we act like we are so much smarter than them and are patronizing about it then we do stupid things like this.

      • lcnyc says:

        What? Trader Joe’s “exquisite”??
        For what it’s worth, we went to Whole Foods last night and it was also wiped out of pasta, frozen foods and bottled water.

      • Lf says:

        No there was insanity at the Hartsdale NY store too yesterday. Illogical uneducated sad

        To the other posters: surprised about the newscaster who returned from IRAN yes Iran and ITALY are ate level 2 for do not travel.
        Information can help combat your misplaced fears people. Smh.

    18. Denton Taylor says:

      This is insane. I happen to be in Moab UT right now, which receives visitors from all over. There is no panic buying of anything. In fact I was in a supermarket yesterday and happened to be in the health and beauty aisle, and there in front of me, was Purell, so what the hell, I bought a bottle. I could have bought more, but why? Meanwhile a friend of mine in CA tells me he spent half the day looking for toilet paper.

    19. Martin Gray says:

      When Trump says it’s a hoax it must be real.

    20. Gar says:

      Older people are also stock loading on large bags of rice in asian communities. And now they are buying up canned foods. People are creating a scare and opportune craze, which is very unhealthy especially at this moment.

    21. Missy says:

      I can’t believe what sheep people are. My friend in California has the coronavirus and it’s not a big deal. It’s the same as the flu. This isn’t ebola going around.

      • Rhonda J Waggoner says:

        Not sure the dead would agree. At any rate, the threat united our little ecosystem. So the like-minded hive huddled TOGETHER outside for twenty minutes in the sun, sharing their concerns. Maybe the highlight of their day. And, ditto, many of those Trader Joe’s shoppers have zilch stored back home in their miniscule domiciles.Two weeks of those nearly single servings can easily fill two big bags. It’s all packaging, anyway. At the very least, the threat exposes where we are most vulnerable.

      • Peter says:

        How old is your friend? Does s/he have any pre-existing conditions?

        Did someone say it was ebola? No. It’s a serious respiratory condition, especially for elderly people with compromised health.

        A few extra boxes of pasta in people’s pantries don’t make them “sheep”. Especially with the very real, if low-probability, chance that we may have to hunker down like people were forced to do in China.

        So maybe you should tone down the judgments.

    22. JSV says:

      Wow – there’s so much ignorance in these comments.
      I’ll address a few points:
      1) Yes, they do plan to stay locked up in their homes, as at-home quarantine is actively being used as a strategy in some countries/cases when there’s no room in hospital quarantine.
      2) There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
      3) Buying food to resell it higher — that claim says more about your cynicism than about the intentions of shoppers at TJ’s.
      4) No one is going to starve, hopefully, but if CV gets bad, restaurants can, will, and should close. Besides the fact that those $11/hour short-order cooks don’t get paid sick days, it’s simple pragmatism in an outbreak to limit your exposure to other people. I know for a fact that people in the restaurant industry work sick *all the time*. Now imagine a worker sick with CV making food for dozens of homes on the UWS, then the delivery person being exposed too, and spreading it around via door knobs, elevator buttons, etc. I’m not gonna go into the logic here. You can figure it out yourself. Supermarkets can close in this scenario as well, and even if they don’t, supply chains have already been hit, so stores simply won’t have as much on their shelves.

    23. Kevin says:

      stocking up and clearing out grocery stores are not only happening in nyc.

    24. Norma says:

      The point of stocking up is for the real possibility we will be made to stay in our homes for–who knows–2 weeks? Many do not keep a 2 weeks supply of food. Stocking up makes sense to me.

    25. Mary Lyons says:

      Rediculous…Some are capitalizing on this. 180,000 people died of the flu last yr..did this happen?? NO! And that is with a flu vaccine available. Wash your hands,use sanitizer, keep them away from your mouth, eyes and nose. Cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze and stay out of tight packed areas

    26. Noemi Jones says:

      It’s unbelievable that the public panicked like this. I blame the so called leaders of this country and the leaders of NYC for not informing us with correct information. Instead we’re relying on the Media. That’s that BS!!! WE ALL NEED TO VOTE AND GET THESE ARROGANT FOOLS OUT OF EVERY OFFICE.

    27. Howard Stern says:

      Literally all of this is driven by the media. During times like this more people tune in & click on dumb stories like his which all turn into more dollars. They will make this thing sound as bad as they can for as long as they can to keep us watching & clicking…and buying. Trader Joe’s, Costco, Walmart, Purell… hell ya Corona Virus! Wash your hands & you’ll be fine. It’s the fukn flu. I had the flu this year… a few bottles of Gatorade & some Advil and I was miraculously cured.

    28. Rhonda says:

      Watch Contagion with Matt Damon.
      You get the idea of what it might be like.

    29. Peter says:

      Looks like a photo from USSR, the socialist country.

    30. Rah says:

      This is getting blown out of proportion to the point of being ridiculous!! The media is reporting on it non stop and people are being irrational. The flu killed almost 200,000 ppl and it wasn’t reported on. This virus has a 1% mortality rate and ppl are acting like its going to be a pandemic like something out of a movie. Relax. And to the person who said the elderly are the most vulnerable, that is obvious. So are children and ppl already sick. PLEASE keep it in perspective!! Take precautions as you would for the flu. And DON’T panic. The media is sensationalizing this but we have the option of using our heads, common sense, and reason.

    31. Ella77 says:

      This is absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary behavior. These people evidently are not following the CDC nor are bothering to educate themselves on this virus. I just do not get it.

      • EtanUW says:

        If you were truly educating yourself on the virus you would look for more information than what the cdc says. I’d elaborate but I’m going to assume any more information would cause you to close yourself off than communicate.

        I’m astounded by the number of close minded freak outs here in response to people simply deciding to hedge against a risk.

    32. SBG says:

      I second Rhoda’s recommendation of Contagion.
      An excellent movie depicting a bad virus attack in the US.