Costco is reducing US store opening hours as the panic-buying mayhem continues and employees complain of ‘exhausting’ working conditions

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Costco stores have been grappling with a surge in demand in recent weeks. Reuters/Duane Tanouye

Costco’s US stores have experienced a surge in shoppers in recent weeks as concern over the spread of coronavirus intensifies.

Because of this, the chain has been forced to implement new restrictions in its stores – limiting the number of people allowed in the store at any one time, placing a cap on purchases of in-demand items, and pulling its much-loved samples among other things.

Now, it is following the lead of some of its competitors, such as Walmart and Target, and reducing opening hours across US stores from Monday, March 30. Under the new schedule, stores will continue to open at 10 a.m. but close two hours earlier between Monday and Friday – at 6.30 p.m rather than 8.30 p.m. Weekend hours will stay the same, however.

A spokesperson for Costco did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. A note on its website indicates that its recently launched exclusive shopping hours for the elderly and disabled will not be impacted by these changes.

The change in Costco’s opening hours comes after Business Insider’s Shoshy Ciment spoke to a group of store workers who said they were facing chaotic and “exhausting” working conditions as they raced to keep up with the surging demand.

These workers said not only did they feel overworked but also under-protected as Costco hasn’t yet announced any additional paid time off during the crisis.

“Our leaders in the company have dropped the ball,” one employee from an East Coast store told Business Insider’s Shoshy Ciment. “We are thanked for maintaining the standards of Costco but are not assured that we will be compensated fairly if we contract the virus.”