A Grocery worker and the Covid-19 State of Emergency Consumer

Ok, as we all know, Covid-19 is rendering all sorts of  inconveniences in our daily lives.  So, visiting  locations in and around my area may soon be impossible.  I do have a topic for next week, one that partners with eat street which, considering the climate this pandemic is causing, will be a great resource.

So, as I am a retail worker, and the ripples of tension are evidenced on the grocery side of our store, I figured I’d give you a glance at what my work day is like at this crazy time.  I have to say, some of the purchase trends in our store leave me baffled, truly puzzled.  Like, as anybody who has visited Facebook for the past two weeks knows, the toilet paper craze.

At first, I rationalized that people figured they might be stuck in their house for a couple of weeks, and maybe their household goes through a lot of it.  I’m sure some of that thinking goes into it.  But when I’m stocking over the counter pharmacy and discover that the liquid Pepto-Bismol is completely absent from the shelf, I know some people are horribly misinformed, uninformed or, I don’t know, panicking with out educating themselves on our current national emergency.

Yet, the climate in our store, at the early point of the crisis at least, is something different than what I would expect- when experts throw around words like pandemic.

So on with my work experience the day after President Trump declared a state of emergency….

Today, starts off like any other day.  Well, I’m lagging a bit today and, as I usually give myself a couple of minutes before I have to clock in, I need to punch in immediately to make sure my punch is recorded the right side of 2 pm.  Yes, I work starting at 2, unloading trucks and stocking shelves until 11pm.

Today, I’m not unloading the truck.  Instead, I’m assigned to the salesfloor.  Before I head towards the floor with my ladder cart, we have an unusual meeting.  A meeting is not uncommon, but the instructions for this day are.

On a normal day, if something isn’t on the shelf, we’ll do a little hunting for the customer, which would include investigating the carts that hold today’s truck freight.  However, today is far from normal and we’re told not to do that, as our overstock bins are completely empty.  Instead, to avoid chaos, and quite frankly to allow us to do our job, we’re instructed to tell the customer that we’re in the process of unloading the truck and we’ll get the freight to the floor as fast as we can.

After the meeting, I head to the salesfloor.  It’s busy today, but any Saturday is pretty busy.  It’s probably just a little busier.  I’ve been told by co-workers that there’s nothing on the shelves.  Which, as I’ve been accustomed to associate’s exaggerations, usually means that we’re running lean on grocery goods.  But they’re right, in many aisles, especially the soup and Pasta aisle and the canned goods aisle, there is absolutely nothing on the shelf.  I actually help a lady retrieve the last jar of pasta sauce, which resides on our very top shelf that usually holds overstock.

The reactions from many of our customers are ones of amusement.  I get the same vibe from them as I do from many on black Friday.  Especially when I hear statements like, “Man, this is nuts!”  Other’s  facetiously utter bits like, “It’s the end of the world”  or “The apocalypse is coming.”  However, I don’t come across outrage or true panic.  Basically, they’re marveling at the evidence of a situation, that I sense many feel may truly be an overreaction.  I know some are worried, but most are just amazed that we have little to offer our customers.  It’s something novel.

In the back resides two pallets of toilet paper, and there is none, not one pack, on our shelving.  However, when confronted by a customer who complains that she’s frustrated, “Everybody is stocking up and I need just one pack for my family.  Do you have any in back?”   I regretfully act per our management’s request, and inform her.  “We’re unloading the truck as fast as we can. We’ll get it to the salesfloor as soon as possible.”  I really want to grab a pack for this family.  However, I know if the rest of the customers see me coming from the back with toilet paper, the rest of my day would be spent retrieving it.

As equally frustrating to the customer, if they ask if we have any hand sanitizer, I don’t even check.  I know we don’t have any.  When we do receive it, our supplies are gone within hours.

When I do pull freight to the floor, being a pallet of baking goods, I’m a bit frustrated.  First of all, I have to look closely at the price tags, because the stocking information is on them.  Usually, I can use products on the shelf as a reference.  Even if an Item is  out on the shelf,  it’s surrounded by like items.  That usually makes it easier.  However, today  there is no flour, oil or sugar on any of the side counters. I should mention we do have hand held digital devices that point out the location as well, unfortunately that also takes more time than usual.

Topping off the frustration, before I can begin to stock, people are asking for items before I have a chance to open the cases.  Much of my time is spent digging through the pallet to pull an item off for a customer in need.   Yet, I manage to get through the pallet.

The remainder of Saturday is much of the same.  As the weekend progresses, the mood has dampened and I expect, if the shelves stay empty, it’ll become much worse.  These are unprecedented times in American history, as well as the rest of the world.  People criticize governments for missteps and misspeaks, but really no one is perfect their first go round with an uncharted crisis.  My only hopes are that our leaders learn quickly, and this emergency is over shortly with as few fatalities as possible.

At the end of my blog I usually end with a Safe Travels, but seeing how no travel is really safe today, I’ll end it by simply saying …

Stay Safe!



4 responses to “A Grocery worker and the Covid-19 State of Emergency Consumer”

  1. Yes I agree on the toilet paper craze. Hard to understand. However today when my husband and I attended a local store in your area I think, there was TP. One per customer please. We took a pack just to be safe or if I have to lend some to my 94 yr old Mom. We noticed that flour and yeast were almost entirely gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They must have been freshly stocked! Our toilet paper didn’t last past four today. Flour usually is out before I get to work. We stock it later in the day so morning shoppers can benefit. Thanks for reading!


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