As I walked up to the cashier this morning at my local WinCo, she saw the big bulk bag of rice I had loaded on the conveyor belt, shook her head and looked visibly annoyed. She said something about the price of the bag.
I was confused and thought for a moment I had picked up something I wasn’t allowed to buy. I asked her if I needed to go get the price from the aisle and she shook her head.
“The price is on the bottom of the bag. I have to pick that bag up to ring it and it’s too heavy for me,” she said.
I instantly felt pretty horrible for indulging my newfound doomsday prepper sense of dread with a 10 pound bag of rice.
I asked her if things have been hard lately.
“I’ve been working 12 hour days for the past week.”
Like many of you, I thought a lot about the people who are working the types of jobs that require them to be in contact with people all day, every day, during this crisis. Grocery stores, in particular, are getting crushed with long lines of people who might or might not be infected and who are, almost to a person, uneasy about the future. That leads to lots of short tempers and stress for those doing their job.
I asked the woman if I could help her lift the bag up to the scanner and she said yes. We talked for a while and she told me about workers who have been working for two weeks straight without a day off and one coworker who hadn’t really had a break for 48 hours.
I thanked her for her hard work and that we appreciate what she’s doing. She nodded and went on to scan the next customer’s groceries.
While someday we’ll no doubt see lots more automated checkout and other technology that will change the way our grocery stores look and operate, the reality is grocery stores rely on humans who are working hard and, in days like this, potentially sacrificing their own well being.
Many of the workers at this store were young, but not all. No matter the age, everyone I talked to or interacted with were professional and polite. Even my checker, although tired, was professional and worked quickly.
Listen, this is going to be long and working at grocery stores is now a front lines job. We need to be kind to them. We’re in this together and we especially need to show it to those working hard for us while potentially sacrificing their own personal wellbeing.