Stay-at-home orders and social distancing recommendations can make shopping for essential goods and supplies a difficult task, particularly if stores are out of stock.
The coronavirus outbreak prompted Mark Sussman, co-founder and CEO of OurStreets, to begin developing a new feature — “OurStreets Supplies” — within the D.C.-based app. It is designed to crowdsource a tally of essential items stores have in-stock and on shelves in real-time.
“We got a call last week from the D.C. government, and were asked if we could temporarily pivot the OurStreets app to gather the availability of the most important supplies: hand sanitizer, toilet paper and fresh foods like fruits and vegetables,” said Sussman.
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Where available supplies are at any given point is key, Sussman said, because people tend to roam from store to store if they can’t find what they need, which is inadvisable during the current pandemic.
OurStreets Supplies will have features for users to generate real-time reports, while retailers frequently update their own supplies on shelves, to help customers minimize the number of trips made to stores.
“It’s crowdsourcing to its max,” said Sussman. “Think of it as Waze for toilet paper.”
The feature, set to launch next week, is contained within the existing OurStreets app. It will be free for users, as well as for retailers and municipalities for the first 60 days of operation.
Sussman hopes it will reduce the risk of unnecessary exposure.
“People and retailers have to contribute to this for it to work,” Sussman said. “Everybody needs to start cataloging what the stores have. It will then take off the pressure from store workers, who can then better do their job.”
Union Kitchen on Friday became the first retailer and distribution company to sign on to “OurStreets Supplies.”
“We are thrilled to partner with OurStreets to provide consumers with easy access to find essential items around the city,” said Cullen Gilchrist, Union Kitchen Founder and CEO.
Union Kitchen is a food business accelerator, which has worked with over 500 businesses, including Snacklins, Compass Coffee, EAT Pizza and Caribe Juice.
“Our local supply chain is more important than ever as we see stock outs and long lines in grocery stores. Collectively, with D.C. food manufacturers, we can provide solutions and a degree of normalcy to our community,” said Gilchrist.
In addition, Sussman said “OurStreets Supplies” will benefit the population most vulnerable to long-term exposure in public spaces during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Think about that senior citizen that needs to go to the store to get the items they need, or someone who has a preexisting condition,” said Sussman. “Those folks need to know exactly what store to go to, and whether or not it’s safe for them to shop there.”
D.C. is among the cities being targeted to support OurStreets Supplies upon its launch.
“Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Jose and a number of smaller cities and towns in-between are also in talks to partner with OurStreets,” said Sussman.
In the meantime, Sussman stressed the feature is not to be used for those already well-stocked on essential supplies to use it for their own extended selfish buying.
“Hoarding is the exact antithesis of what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Sussman. “If you already have a sufficient supply of toilet paper, don’t just go and get more toilet paper. Supply to the stores is not a problem. We’re hoping that people will not hoard, they’ll act responsibly, and act as if in the same way that others want to act towards them, like the Golden Rule.”