REDEFINING THE FRONT LINES: PART 6 – THE GROCERY STORE WORKER
Our Civic Life Team has been working hard on a campaign called “Redefining the Front Lines”. We’ve interviewed people who are employed in and out of the medical field, working hard to ensure we’re safe and our basic needs are met. Their stories are an important part of our city’s efforts in COVID response and relief. We are so grateful to our interviewees for sharing their stories.
What did your role look like prior to COVID-19?
I work as a cashier at Costco. I am in close contact with customers and colleagues at cash checkouts and membership desk. I handle cash, along with debit and membership cards, and receipts from customers who wish to make a return or exchange. We typically have two employees at each cash checkout (one cashier and one packer) and there are typically 4-6 of us behind the membership/return desk at any given time.
How has your role changed after COVID-19?
We are sanitizing our stations a lot more frequently and are being provided with some PPE. We have also set up shields at checkouts as a protective measure. To implement social distancing, we are restricting how many customers are allowed in the store at once, and are directing customers in order to maintain distancing in lineups. Staff breaks are being scheduled differently, in order to limit the amount of employees in the lunchroom at a single time.
Do you feel safe being on the job in the front lines?
I generally feel safe but there is definitely a level of fear and paranoia. Everyday at work brings potential for exposure. We are in constant contact with coworkers, customers and materials mentioned previously (cash, cards, merchandise etc.).
Overall, most people are complying and adapting to social distancing measures pretty well. However, certain measures might take more getting used to. For example, some customers will talk around the plastic shield, instead of at it. and essentially defeat the purpose of it.
How has this impacted your personal life? (Do you live away from your family? Has your routine or contact changed with them?)
When I go home, I am forced to stay away from my family. I am trying to maintain at least 6-8 feet from my husband and children at all times.
What does it feel like to be a front line worker in this crisis?
It is obviously a little nerve-racking, leaving home and going to work during a time when we are being told to stay home as much as possible. At work, you are constantly trying to limit your amount of contact while continuing to deliver effective service. At home, I feel isolated from my family. It is constantly on the news. The constant hand washing and sanitizing has also taken a toll on my skin.
What do you think the nature of your work or your sector will look like once COVID-19 has passed?
It is kind of hard to say. Experts are saying that there will be more outbreaks of infection over the next year or two, so maybe some of these measures will have to stay in place long-term.