10 Things the Pandemic Is Making Obsolete

Man scanning a QR code with his smartphone for a restaurant menu
vichie81 / Shutterstock.com

Change is constant, and it may help to remember that as the coronavirus outbreak drags on. Even if a miraculous vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered tomorrow, it’s unlikely the world will ever slip back into all of its old habits and ways.

From plexiglass separators in stores to no-contact food delivery, many of the changes that have come our way are likely to stick around permanently. And other societal shifts mean that certain things to which we’ve become accustomed are likely to join pay phones and parking meters on the slow but sure march to obsolescence.

Here’s a look at some familiar parts of life that the pandemic is slowly pushing to the sidelines.

1. Traditional movie theater experience

Monkey Business Images / Money Talks News

Hollywood’s magical palaces, with their armrest-jostling and sticky floors, now seem like something out of germ-filled horror movies. Will we ever again chomp popcorn while sitting haunch-to-paunch with strangers in a crowded cinema?

In mid-August, AMC Theatres announced plans to reopen about two-thirds of its U.S. locations by September, but with limited seating, social distancing and mandatory masks. In the meantime, moviegoers have flocked to home streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, where the concessions are free and the bathroom breaks unlimited.

The final curtain may not be falling on the movie-theater experience, but a second, more subdued act seems to be waiting in the wings. If you’re interested in exploring affordable alternatives to the silver screen, check out “4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less.”

2. Reusable restaurant menus

Man ordering from a digital restaurant menu
Pond Saksit / Shutterstock.com

Whether they’re plastic laminated one-sheets or those enormous books handed out by fine-dining establishments, reusable restaurant menus may soon be as outmoded as aspic salads.

They’ve never exactly been a clean option: Previous patrons dirty up menus with soda spills, cough and sneeze on them, and even lick their fingers to turn the pages. No wonder the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends disposable or digital menus going forward.

Whatever type of menu you find in your hands the next time you eat out heed “8 Ways Restaurant Menus Trick You Into Overspending.”

3. Crowded elevators

Masked woman alone in an elevator
New Africa / Shutterstock.com

Think of how jammed an office elevator can get during those inevitable work rush hours. The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance for employers, urging businesses to limit how many people can use an elevator at the same time — as well as add floor decals to space passengers out and encourage mask-wearing.

And if you dread that awkward elevator small talk, you’re in luck: The CDC also advises elevator users to minimize chatting. The good news: No more annoying elevator pitches?

4. Print magazines

VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

The print-magazine industry has been slipping for years, with many publications reducing their annual issue count, and others, including Playboy and Time Out, becoming digital-only.

And with fewer magazines to flip through, there are also fewer places to do so. The CDC recommends that dental offices, for example, no longer offer shared magazines for patients to flip through, since they can’t be easily disinfected.

If you’re interested in switching to digital titles, check out “4 Ways to Read Magazines for Free or Cheap.”

5. Snow days

Studio Peace / Shutterstock.com

Kids who grew up in wintery climates — chiming in for Minnesota over here — know only too well the blissful gift of a snow day, when school is canceled due to blizzardy weather or frigid temperatures. Time to pull the covers up over your head, go back to sleep and, later on, indulge in video games, trash TV and snacks.

But now that nearly every school in the nation has had to figure out how to teach classes online, weather cancellations seem unlikely, as schools can just switch to virtual learning for a day and have kids use computers for homework, not games. Those beloved snow days may be melting away for good.

6. Pennies

Woman protecting a piggy bank
Aaron Amat / Shutterstock.com

Penny for your thoughts, and maybe those thoughts are about ditching our lowest-denomination coin. During the pandemic, many shoppers have shifted to credit and debit cards over germy cash and coins, resulting in a national coin shortage.

That’s led to the Federal Reserve forming a task force to make recommendations to cope with the shortage, The New York Times reports, and it may be time to bank the penny for good. There’s precedent — Canada stopped minting pennies in 2012, and this change seems to make cents.

7. Hugs and handshakes

Woman in mask giving peace sign
Denis Andricic / Shutterstock.com

It feels unnatural not to hug a grandparent, or a friend you haven’t seen in months. But the CDC recommends minimizing gestures that promote close contact, skipping handshakes, hugs and even elbow bumps.

Hugs, at least among close family members who share germ circles anyway, will likely never go out of style. But hugs with more distant friends and relatives, and handshakes with almost everyone, can be replaced with waves, verbal greetings, and even peace signs or Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute.

8. Birthday candles

Woman blowing out candles on a birthday cake
Lucky Business / Shutterstock.com

It’s an iconic image of celebration: Kids and adults alike pursing their lips and puffing away at flaming candles atop a birthday cake. But blowing out the candles means blowing spit and aerosolized germs onto a dessert people are about to eat and out into the room around you.

The glow of tiny flames and the magic of a birthday wish are still special, but there are ways to do it spit-free. One enterprising company is selling birthday-candle fans instead.

9. In-person voting

A close-up picture of a mail-in ballot for an election
Svanblar / Shutterstock.com

Some states, including my own home state of Washington, moved to all-mail-in voting years ago and never looked back. Rather than leave work early to stand in line with strangers, often in inclement weather, voting by mail happens on a voter’s own individual schedule.

Voters also have time to research candidates and issues before filling out their ballots and popping them in the mail, later tracking their ballots online to ensure they were received.

According to The New York Times, a record 76% of Americans can vote by mail in 2020, and while some states still require in-person voting, a sea change is happening here.

10. Buffets

Buffet food at a restaurant
suriyachan / Shutterstock.com

Ah, all-you-can-eat buffets, the big eater’s friend. But this method of meal delivery is fraught with issues. Besides the food sitting under heat lamps and on steam tables, quickly getting cold, we now must worry about forking up fried noodles that everyone in the restaurant has sniffed and coughed over.

The CDC advises that event planners and schools replace self-serve options like buffets with pre-packaged food.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Renovations That Can Impact Your Home Insurance
5 Renovations That Can Impact Your Home Insurance

Home improvements can affect your home insurance policy for the better, the worse or both.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

8 Products to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
8 Products to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Current events have you feeling anxious? These Amazon products can take the edge off.

What’s the Difference Between FICO and VantageScore Credit Scores?
What’s the Difference Between FICO and VantageScore Credit Scores?

There are lots of credit scores out there, but if you’re keeping an eye on your credit, here’s the one to watch.

Big-Ticket Things You Should Never Buy
Big-Ticket Things You Should Never Buy

In this week’s podcast: Are you wasting big money on these common purchases?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.