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Here are some of San Diego’s #pandemicshopping splurges

The Daniels children (from left) Ashlan, 9, Cole, 6, and Grant, 2, of El Cajon, play in the front yard of their Fletcher Hills home on Thursday with new toys purchased since they have had to stay at home because of COVID-19.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

From a $460 bidet toilet seat to a 120-pack of Pop-Tarts, here’s what cooped up locals are buying

When the county’s strict shelter-at-home order went into effect on March 19, it set off a widespread panic-buying spree of toilet paper and food hoarding that was heavily chronicled on social media with the hashtag #pandemicshopping.

But as San Diegans have settled in for at least six weeks of home isolation, #pandemicshopping is giving way to extravagant bursts of #retailtherapy. To keep up with skyrocketing home shopping demand, Amazon last month announced plans to hire 100,000 additional warehouse workers and drivers. We asked local residents to share some of their most satisfying pandemic purchases in recent weeks.

The answers included new pets, junk food, exercise equipment, video games, an inflatable jacuzzi, board games, puzzles, a new kitchen countertop, books, children’s toys, online self-improvement classes, musical instruments and kitchen gadgets.

For Lauren Wilensky of North Park, her splurge was a top-of-the-line Breville Infuser espresso machine to replicate at home her daily barista-made latté.

“It’s nice to have a routine, a simple little pleasure once a day, I can look forward to in these uncertain times,” said Wilensky, an 11th-grade English teacher at Lincoln High School. “It reminds me to stop and breathe, that everything is going to be OK. Plus, it is also something I can control.”

For many local online shoppers, it’s the simple things that sweeten life in quarantine, like Linda Seed’s 120-count box of Pop-Tarts; Leslie Crawford’s 2-pound bag of Peanut M&Ms; Ann MacDonald’s citrus jelly beans from Williams-Sonoma; and Melanie Book’s already-consumed 5-pound tub of gummy bears.

But for others who are suddenly acclimating to working from home with a houseful of children, the credit cards are getting a much harder workout.

Daniels children (from left) Cole, 6, Ashlan, 9, and 2-year-old Grant, back right, near the car, play on Thursday, April 9, in the front yard of their Fletcher Hills home which has been outfitted with new toys that their parents, Arika and Bryan Daniels, have purchased to keep everyone entertained while sheltering at home during the COVID-19 crisis.
Daniels children (from left) Cole, 6, Ashlan, 9, and 2-year-old Grant, back right, near the car, play on Thursday, April 9, in the front yard of their Fletcher Hills home which has been outfitted with new toys that their parents, Arika and Bryan Daniels, have purchased to keep everyone entertained while sheltering at home during the COVID-19 crisis.
(Eduardo Contreras/Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Arika Anderson Daniels has purchased a trampoline, an ice cream maker, a mom-size scooter and a puppy over the past three weeks. Because her husband, Bryan Daniels, works nights in the MRI department at UC San Diego Medical Center and she’s now running her public relations agency from their Fletcher Hills home, Daniels said the spending spree was necessary to entertain their children: Ashlan, 9; Cole, 6; and Grant, 2.

Daniels said she has been rising at 4:45 a.m. daily to get a few hours of exercise and work in before the children’s day begins with breakfast, online distance-learning, lunch, arts and crafts and “recess” periods in the early afternoon and evening. While sheltering at home, she said she’s baking, biking and now scootering more with her kids.

The forced seclusion also led the couple to move up by one year their decision to replace the family’s 15-year-old cocker spaniel, Sadie Mae, who passed away on March 9. Their new cocker spaniel puppy is scheduled to arrive from the breeder in June.

“We have canceled our travel plans for the summer and I’m not sure there will be summer camps, so I needed ways to keep my family happy,” she said. “Amazon is making a lot of money off of us.”

Kristine Shipman shows off her baby leopard tortoise, Paisley, which she purchased to keep her company while sheltering at home.
(Courtesy of Kristine Shipman)

Being in quarantine also led Kristine Shipman of El Cajon to take the leap and buy herself a new pet, a baby leopard tortoise she brought home on Tuesday.

Since the age of 8, Shipman has owned a number of the shelled creatures, but had been turtle-free for the past five years as her ex-husband got custody of their pet tortoise in the divorce.

But now, working from home full-time in her job as a leadership coach for the San Diego County Office of Education, Shipman figured she has the time to devote to her new 4-month-old pet, which she has named Paisley. Just over 2 inches in length, Paisley will grow to 2 feet or 3 feet in size over the next six years.

“She’s the sweetest little thing,” Shipman said. “She’s just like a baby. She sleeps most of the day and is active for just four or five hours.”

To fill the hours since her arts conservatory in Connecticut shut down in March, 20-year-old Annie Buckley of San Diego bought herself a white violin. She has never played the notoriously difficult instrument, but figures she’s got plenty of time to learn.

Caroline MacKenzie had been contemplating a Toto Washlet Bidet toilet seat for years, but the national run on toilet paper last month led her to spend $460 on the product a few weeks ago. She said the high-tech Japanese-made device “washes you front and back and blows you dry.”

She hasn’t made use of the Washlet’s personalized settings or oscillating, heating, drying and deodorizing functions yet, but she figures, at the very least, it should cut down on her household’s toilet paper use.

Jason Stump of La Mesa works on a puzzle to pass the time while sheltering at home.
(Courtesy of Leslie Stump)

Leslie Stump’s pandemic-era splurge has been far more low-tech. Stump and her husband, Jason, have been on a puzzle-buying hunt over the past three weeks. They’ve driven all over San Diego picking up puzzles from 500 to 1,000 pieces with landscape, travel poster and national park themes. The La Mesa couple always has a puzzle under way on their kitchen table.

“It passes the time,” she said. “It’s a good break in our day, something to distract us.”

San Diegans’ pandemic shopping habits mirror closely those of other Americans, according to Amazon’s Movers and Shakers list, which is updated hourly with the items that have gained the most in sales ranks over the previous 24 hours.

Among this week’s movers and shakers were predictable purchases like face masks, antiseptic wipes, cellphone sanitizers, games, coffee filters, party-size bags of Nacho Cheese Doritos, sidewalk chalk, sweat pants, home gym equipment and a wireless karaoke microphone.

But perhaps the most timely Amazon mover-and-shaker item of all is an $18 novelty T-shirt that reads: “My 60th Birthday! The one where I was quarantined: 2020.”

Among the fastest-selling items on Amazon this week was this quarantine-themed novelty T-shirt.
(Courtesy photo)


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