Words from a Tired Grocer Amidst a Global Pandemic

Panic. Concern. Uncertainty.

All of the mass hysteria around the pandemic has put many people in some tough situations, including grocery store employees. Many are feeling the stress of long hours and impatience of customers who are searching for the hidden rolls of toilet paper and non-perishable goods.

Pam Larsen, a former classmate, works at a grocery store in Davenport, Iowa. Brutally honest she states, “Being a grocery store worker during this pandemic is tough. People are nonstop asking if we have toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wipes, etc.”

Unsure of what their trucks have on them when they arrive and unsure of when they can restock the shelves, people are easily overwhelmed and upset about the lack of answers. Pam adds, “People get mad at us for not knowing, even though it is out of our hands. As soon as the trucks are in, people are lining up - ready to tackle whoever gets in their way to get to what they want.”

For grocers and employees, there is no option of self-quarantine unless they are showing symptoms. As an essential business, employees are required to show up for their shift meaning they are putting their health on the line to make sure the community gets what they need. Some chains, Target for example, have given their employees a temporary raise during the crisis to compensate them for the long hours and conditions. Side-note: Since Pam and I first spoke, her company installed a 10% bonus for employees who are working between March 16 and April 12.

“I could very easily contract this virus from any person that is shopping in my store, which puts the other people in my home at risk as well as my coworkers,” Pam explains. and People are out here fighting over the last package of toilet paper or the last bottle of sanitizer like lions in the wild.

It isn’t all gloom and doom though. There are quite a few shoppers that are exhibiting more patience and gratitude during this trying time. According to Pam, people are opening up thanking her and other workers which is uncommon on a normal day.

To accommodate sanitation of the store and “at-risk” shoppers, Pam’s store, like many chains and small grocers across the nation, have adjusted their hours. “We have designated the first hour of the day to elderly and immunocompromised shoppers, but still other people show up, which defeats the purpose. We have had to change our store hours to better accommodate sanitation and cleaning of the store, which has upset people, but is necessary not only for our safety and well being but the customers as well,” explains Pam.

She and many other public workers are pleading for the community members to calm down. Follow CDC regulations for sanitation and listen to the stores you shop at. Pam adds, “Stores are saying if people would stop panic buying so much then the shelves would restock quicker and would stay stocked.”

Photos by Pam Larsen, it isn't just toilet paper that is flying off shelves. Frozen foods, meats, dairy and eggs, are all additional items that are disappearing faster than staff can restock.

Please think about others when you are heading to the store. Don’t hoard. Grocery shop like every other day, if you stock your cupboards like you would every other day along with everyone else, workers would be able to maintain stocking items as normal.

Please think about others when you are heading to the store. Don’t buy all of the diapers in one size. Save some for the next mom who needs dry diapers for their child. Don’t buy all the baby wipes because they’ve run out of toilet paper.

Please think about others when you are heading to the store. When stores are designating hours for elderly or at-risk shoppers, stay home.

It is simple. Please be kind. Be considerate. Be patient.

Lastly, Pam wants people to know that even with social-distancing it isn’t impossible to help others. As I like to reference, Audrey Hepburn reminds that Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I'm possible.’” Call your neighbor and ask if they need something from the store. If you know someone in the neighborhood who is at risk, buy them some groceries so they are not forced to go out.


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