In Austin, Texas, it's a very basic sight nowadays having long queues, empty shelves and days of waiting for toilet paper to come back in stock. Be that as it may, as fears around the coronavirus drive essentials off the shelves, two University of Texas students have a plan to help.
InStok.org is a website recently launched by Rithwik Pattikonda and Darshan Bhatta, a sophomore and green bean examining software engineering, it is designed where to check inventories of big stores like Target and CVS and tell users where they can find the items they need.
The idea he got is when he saw his parents having a difficult time finding essentials Pattikonda said.
"Initially, I saw my parents were really struggling to find certain types of grocery items, and when I saw the news, I noticed the panic was a lot more widespread," Pattikonda said.
The site was built from scratch, Pattikonda and Bhatta spent almost a week coding it. The site works by checking inventories of major chain stores including Target, CVS and Walgreens online and accumulating them in one spot. Users can type in their ZIP code, the item they want, and see which stores have it in stock. You can even compare prices and ask the site to send you notifications when the items you choose are available, it is free to use and does not require signing up for an account.
It's helpful in avoiding the trouble of another "out of stock" sign, Pattikonda hopes it prevents people from unnecessary shopping trips at a time when most of the people should be practicing social distancing.
He also said, "Instead of going to seven or eight stores, they can choose one or two stores and get their items."
The site was launched on Tuesday, and it already has had 70,000 visitors. Pattikonda he even used it to find some waffles.
"I think the whole need for this product is really what's carrying it, all we did was post in two subreddits, and from there, it just pretty much organically picked up because of how much people need it," Pattikonda said.
The site can be used anywhere, though it is built out of Texas, as long as you inform it of your location. Reddit and other social media gave thousands of positive comments regarding the site, saying that the site helped them find scarce goods.
Pattinkonda wanted to point out that the website is not perfect but it's definitely helpful. Other stores updated their online inventory automatically, while other stores do it in the mornings and evenings when employees do a physical inventory of the shelves.
He also said that they are just aggregating this information from store websites.
Nielsen's information showed that the sale of many household staples and cleaning supplies have taken off contrasted with this time a year ago. During the first week of March, for instance, Americans bought 470% more hand sanitizer compared with the same week a year ago. Other high-demand things include dry beans, powdered milk items and rubbing alcohol.
Right now, with UT shut down for the semester, Pattikonda and Bhatta have both returned to their parents' homes near Dallas and will resume classes online Monday. They said they hope they can keep the website up and running once their coursework resumes, but until then, want to encourage people to stay calm and not buy more than necessary.
He said, "You should really only buy what you need, especially because these elderly people and other disadvantaged people will have trouble finding things."
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