Written By Jason Voorhees
It's just another day at the local supermarket except it's not.
Yes the buildings are the same. The employees still have the same job functions...namely stocking the shelves, servicing the customers and providing excellent customer service. Yes, the latest edition of elevator music continues to echo on loop over the system sound speakers. And yes, the latest deliveries still arrive on an almost daily basis, carrying it's most precious cargo to fit the latest needs of today's shoppers' wish lists.
Let me repeat, its just another day at the local supermarket except it's not. While many of the above characteristics remain a staple of these employee's every day work lives, the very existence of their true identity has been turned upside down. As COVID-19 Corona Virus continues to wreak havoc across this nation, supermarkets reign among those front line entities along with first responders and health care workers.
While most of the country remains on lockdown due to stay at home restrictions, these true heroes risk their lives daily in order to provide essential services to those in need. So while the essential job functions of these employees remains very much the same, the fact is that their every day work life is really very different.
First of all, most of, if not all of these employees are gripped with fear. Fear of the unknown. Will one of us be the next victim to contract the virus?
Skeptics have been slow to acknowledge the science behind the spread of this novel corona virus.
With that being said, many health experts have now warned that asymptomatic "silent carriers" could be transmitting the virus as data suggests this is indeed occurring. Whether it's someone being asymptomatic or whether it's someone that is pre-symptomatic, the bottom line is that supermarket employees remain in the line of fire. Estimates show that 18-30% of all COVID-19 infections are indeed asymptomatic. In other words, its very possible that many of these employees have already contracted the virus and don't even know it.
Not only do the associates fear getting the virus themselves; but more importantly they are scared that they will contract it and then pass it on to a loved one. Many of the workers have discussed these fears openly; its truly gut wrenching to see their pain and the "unknown" entity only enhances these concerns.
Furthermore; the situation is only exacerbated, by the lack of shopper limits that we are seeing across a wide range of companies throughout the country. Many chains have begun to start enforcing these limits but too many are still ignoring this factor. To be quite honest, this could be a game changer in mitigating the spread.
Buying food remains an essential function but it's certainly not essential for families of five and six people to participate in that shopping trip. It's also asinine for the same shoppers to buy three cart loads of food every other day even while their refrigerators remain above capacity already. This is the problem. People are truly not taking this virus seriously and its sadly at the workers expense. This factor can be measured by the increase in foot traffic that we are seeing on a daily basis. Some supermarkets are up two-three hundred percent in sales on a weekly basis and that's no exaggeration.
Plain and simple, companies must restrict shoppers and must institute strict limits on the amount of shoppers in the store at one time. State and Local governments must step in and enforce these guidelines by whatever means necessary. Local police departments and or military should be called upon to ensure that these limits are being followed. That would be an excellent step in mitigating the spread and would definitely aid in decreasing the anxiety that every supermarket employee is feeling at this moment.
Another key challenge that grocery store associates are facing today is dealing with rude and nasty customers. While the majority of shoppers continue to remain pleasant and thankful for the job that these workers are doing, many of them have had to deal with insensitive and selfish customers who show no regard for human respect and dignity. Grocery store employees are risking their lives the very moment they walk through those four walls so please show a little more courtesy.
Associates are yelled at on a daily basis. They deal with insults and obscenities on the regular. Their private space Is invaded more often than not. The six foot rule continues to be a figment of our imagination. In most cases, social distancing is non existent. The incompetent questions like, "Why don't you have toilet paper?", or "How come you ran out of milk?," or "When will you be getting hand sanitizer in stock?" are all too familiar. We have even saw some customers coughing while not covering their mouth or (inadvertently) spitting in associates faces while talking.
And then there are the patrons who continue to ignore the special time that has been set aside for the elderly and immunocompromised customers as well as the first responders and health care workers. Blatant disrespect folks. Also the uneducated shoppers wearing masks and gloves who continually cross contaminate on a minute by minute basis; which mind you actually enhances risk of exposure or exposing others. Then there are the customers who feel it's necessary to touch seventeen varieties of the same item before putting them all back to then only grab six more.
Next just take a look at the parking lots and sidewalks that remain littered with customers vile, disgusting, germ infested gloves and masks. Yes, grocery store employees have been subjected to some very rude and offensive treatment and the list can go on and on.
Many of these associates have been working around the clock for three weeks and counting. Its like groundhog day. Burnout is today's next recipe. Even when they are tired, these employees still show up every day and give three hundred percent effort. The amount of freight that is coming in is sometimes two-three times as much as a normal day. Shelves are beginning to get back to capacity and then it hits again.
Panic driven shopping round 2. When will it end? No one truly knows. However; one thing remains emphatically clear. Life in the supermarket business has drastically changed. The day in the life of a true hero; because that's exactly what these employees are. They are absolute heroes and should be praised for their strength and courage.
Supermarkets have become the epicenter for essential business and as a result the lives of its employees have become more complicated. As the unknown nature of this pandemic continues, so to does the anxiety that the associates will face on a daily basis. Hopefully the Social Distancing measures that have been put into practice will help to stop the spread of this viscous disease and life can go somewhat back to normal.
In the meantime, keep up the great work brothers and sisters! You are among the most important people in society today along with healthcare workers and first responders. Put on that armor daily and keep grinding. Although your work identity has changed, your character remains the same! And its that character that has allowed you to thrive during one of our countries most darkest hours. And to all those customers that are coming to the supermarkets to shop...please show a little respect.
Remember; only shop individually and not as an entire family. Only buy what is necessary...no hoard shopping.
Please be kind to all fellow customers and associates.
Respect the six foot rule...yes that one. Remember...social distancing?
Only ask legitimate questions while refraining from incompetent no brainers (Ex. Why don't you have toilet paper?). Please respect everyone's personal space...do not come up into employees faces. If your gonna cough please cover your mouth (you should be wearing a mask anyways). When talking...please don't spit in the employees face.
If your going to wear gloves or masks...please educate yourself and become informed about the dangers of cross contamination and the proper use of said protective equipment. Respect the set aside time periods that companies have instituted for our elderly and immunocompromised individuals as well as first responders and health care workers...don't be ignorant.
And finally, please do not litter. Your vile disgusting habits will not be tolerated. Clean up your mess and please throw your gloves and masks in the trash can or dispose in your vehicles...not the supermarket parking lots.
About Jason Voorhees
Jason resides in Norristown, PA and writes about all things sports and heavy metal music.