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Old-School Services That Have Returned During the Pandemic

Jewelsy / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jewelsy / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Some things go out of style and become a permanent part of the past, while others reemerge years later. And this year, the novel coronavirus has a hand in rebooting some of the services of days gone by.

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When the pandemic reared its ugly head in early 2020, service providers had to scramble to find ways to keep their businesses alive and keep risk and exposure to a minimum. To do so, many looked to the past — at tried-and-true service models that once enjoyed popularity and success but had fallen out of favor for one reason or another.

From dining or watching a movie from the safety of your car to having a licensed doctor come into your home for a visit, here are those and other old-school services that made their mark for a return during the pandemic.

Last updated: Mar. 9, 2021
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Milk Delivery

The traditional milkman began to fall out of favor in the 1940s, with the rise of grocery stores. But the dairy-delivery service, along with full-grown grocery delivery service, has made a comeback due to the pandemic.

Back in March, Instacart, the leader in online grocery delivery, announced its plans to add 300,000 new employees — more than doubling its grocery-shopper fleet.

And in May, dairies began reporting that the demand for milk delivery services — along with cheese, eggs and yogurt — was booming.

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Drive-In Theaters

While viewing the latest flick at an indoor movie theater was once an option for enjoying a date night or a family outing, it’s largely fallen out of favor. Coronavirus restrictions have caused movie theaters across the nation to severely limit capacity or completely close.

Instead, people who still want a movie outing can visit a drive-in theater. Drive-in theaters, which were invented in the 1930s and peaked in the 1950s, are making a comeback during the pandemic.

But beware, you probably won’t get the full experience at a drive-in, which includes concessions and the ability to mingle with other drive-in moviegoers. Instead, you’ll likely have to bring your own snacks and drinks. Plus, if you choose to leave the confines of your vehicle and sit outside under the stars, you’ll be required to stay at least 6 feet away from other patrons.

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Voice Calls

Pandemic restrictions have caused extended families to avoid casual in-person visits or holiday gatherings, which leaves people feeling distant.

To compensate for lack of face-to-face interaction, people began to place voice calls to one another again — a practice that had been waning in recent years.

In the latter part of March, Verizon reported an average of 800 million calls each day, which is nearly twice the amount of voice calls placed on Mother’s Day. Plus, the telecommunication giant reported that call duration was 33% longer than on a typical day.

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House Calls

Even though house calls were popular in the 1940s, by the 1980s they accounted for less than 1% of providers’ medical care, according to Medicine.

But the rise of COVID-19 changed all that. Medical providers became willing to offer their services to certain patients through telemedicine or house calls to limit people’s exposure to the virus.

If your doctor doesn’t do house calls, you still have options. Heal allows people to schedule doctor house calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days per week and so does Remedy.

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Drive-In Diners

Imagine parking your car, ordering from a menu, having your food brought to your car side and then eating it without having to use a drive-thru or enter a restaurant.

Carhop service was popular over a half-century ago but went out of style in the 1960s. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this service is making a comeback.

Sonic drive-ins — which are based on drive-in dining with carhop service — are still in operation, and the chain ranked as the most popular restaurant in 14 states, according to a TOP Data Fast Food Report from June.

Other restaurants that are offering drive-in dining in response to the pandemic are Mel’s Drive-In locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco and Little Anthony’s Diner in Tucson, Arizona.

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Mutual Aid

Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, mutual aid groups took the form of fraternal societies run by the working class and poor that gave people across the country access to healthcare, paid leave and life insurance. And in the 1960s, the Black Panther Party organized a free breakfast program for thousands of underprivileged children.

Due to the pandemic, mutual aid groups have been on the rise — often to help neighbors in need. People have banded together to sew masks; provide food and water; and get and retrieve essentials, such as medication, for more vulnerable members of the population.

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