I’ve worked many holidays in customer service. I’ve seen families buy two cart loads of chips and hot dogs for summer, last minute shoppers buying a full frozen turkey on Thanksgiving Day, and even working a 10-hour shift on Christmas Eve that didn’t seem to put a dent in the lines.
But amid the panic that came with COVID-19, we are seeing triple the customers than any of these holidays have brought.
Working at a small-town grocery store can have its unique challenges. Working customer service in general can be mind-numbing. But on March 13, our small grocery store was busier than any other Friday. As panic began to set in, people showed it.
It was mind blowing to me to see so many people in our store at once. Christmas Eve was close, but the amount of food and supplies was unreal to me.
Us employees began to panic too. What was going to happen? Would we be able to feed our families? Would we lose our jobs if customers cleared all the product off our shelves? So much unknown has come with COVID-19 and not just for the general public.
People often ask us when we will be getting more product, but, even more now, we get questions about restocks (especially on toilet paper) and if we are hiding products in the back all while some are upset by the limited quantities of products.
While all these concerns are valid, it is important for customers to think about the repercussions that fall on employees, as well as management. Our job as retail workers is to help the customers the best we can, not lie to them. In all circumstances, our goal is to answer questions and accommodate.
But amid these unusual circumstances, it seems that lots of people have excuses why they should be an exception, and why they should have things over everyone else.
This pandemic is real, and some people are feeling the squeeze more than others. This time is so uncertain for all of us, and NONE of us know what the next day will bring. How can we provide inside information to you when we don’t even have it ourselves?
Almost all of my co-workers have stepped up, working longer hours trying to get product back on the shelves, and some have stayed later to help us through the crowds of people — some working 12-hour shifts.
While this may not sound unusual to some, many of these people are like me going to school, some are still in high school, and some have families to take care of.
To me, these people I work with really are heroes. We don’t have the choice to stay home because our job is so essential to all of you.
I can’t speak for everyone, but this job for me is more than just essential. While we may not love every moment of every day, the task of helping others and serving the community is a call we willingly accept. Our job is something that I hold close to my heart.
The people we see every day are people we know, who are still trying their best to feed their families as well. We hate to tell customers they can’t get something. It hurts to see other suffering, but it also hurts to see others have so much and not give back.
I, in no way, want to point fingers or judge. We are all just trying to do our best, but I think that this situation can be an eye opener for all of us.
The common theme here is that we can learn some valuable lessons. One is that it is possible for all people to work together for the common good. All of us are facing these times of turmoil, and none of us know how long this will last.
Working together with the people in your community right now is ever more important. We just want everyone to have a fair chance. Look for chances to give back, look for the lessons that can be taught by being strong in times like these, and look for ways to show kindness, in a world that really needs it now.
Working in retail, or any other essential job, right now is scary, and we know that you are scared as well. As someone who works in this industry all we are asking of you is to be patient and kind. Take a step back before you speak and think about all the others who are in the same situation.
Each of us have a role to play in helping to slow the pandemic. Our job as grocery store workers has become even more stressful, but I am grateful for the opportunity I have to serve others, but it is not an easy place to put myself in.