Opening Pandora’s Box

Germans probably don’t realize it, but Pandora’s Box just opened. The COVID-19 pandemic is about to bring permanent, unintended, social change. Am I the only one who sees this?

You know the myth, or at least you should, so I won’t repeat it. Once Pandora opened that box she couldn’t get the lid back on fast enough and the contents were spread around the world. Sounds a bit like coronavirus, doesn’t it?

In Germany the measure to control the spread of COVID-19 have included border and school closures, banning public gatherings, sporting events and closing playgrounds. None of those measures is uncommon, nor is allowing “essential” businesses to remain open.

What is considered essential is a little different from what I would have expected. I understand things like pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations. I’m not as sure about hair dressers, dry cleaners and horticultural suppliers. Does it matter if your hair gets long, your clothes aren’t spotless and you have no mulch for your garden?

At least they closed the brothels. I’d forgotten Germany even had such establishments.

What stood out for me most though was Sunday sales bans should generally be suspended…for these areas until further notice. There goes the lid on Pandora’s Box. I don’t know that, once Germans get a taste of Sunday shopping, they will be willing to go back to the old ways.

It’s been about 30 years since Sunday shopping became widespread in Canada. What was once unthinkable is probably now the busiest shopping day of the week. I can see that happening in Germany.

Maybe it is just the rural area I live in, but there is nothing to do here on Sundays. The stores close by 2 p.m. Saturdays (earlier for some, a little later for others). On Sundays your options are usually to either go for a walk in the Black Forest, or take a hike through the vineyards.

I suppose that might be a bit of an overstatement. The local soccer team plays on Sunday afternoons (when there isn’t a pandemic), which does provide some entertainment. Maybe there are other things happening that as a relative newcomer I just don’t know about.

I do know though that if I decided to host a spontaneous gathering of friends, I couldn’t just run to the store to buy steaks, chips or whatever I needed, because the store is closed. Such things require planning.

It will be interesting to see if retailers do start opening on Sunday during this pandemic. For some smaller places that might be a strain on their resources; they might need to hire additional help.

However, if sales are as brisk as they are in Canada, that extra expense would more than pay for itself in increased revenue. And when the pandemic ends, neither retailers nor customers are going to the way things were. No-one in Canada would seriously suggested closing stores on Sunday.

If it happens as I expect, this will be a huge social change for Germany. Do you think I’m right?

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