Working in a Grocery Store During the Pandemic

By Moriah Story (who also works at Weis Markets in Chambersburg)

For years, working at a grocery store has been considered an unremarkable job. It’s mostly thankless, and cashiers are asked to stand for long periods of time with no breaks while scanning groceries as fast as humanly possible. But with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, perspectives have shifted. Grocery store employees have been called “heroes” by some for willingly risking exposure to the virus by showing up to work each day. But how has the job changed since the coronavirus hit the United States?

For employees of Weis Market in Chambersburg, things have changed quite a bit.

A common sight in most grocery stores during the pandemic. Photo by Moriah Story.

Strips of blue tape have been placed on the floor in the check-out lines, to help customers practice the recommended social distance of six feet. Cashiers are no longer permitted to accept customer’s reusable bags, because of possible virus transmission. Weis has also placed quantity restrictions on many items such as eggs, butter, toilet paper, wipes and water in an effort to prevent the hoarding of necessary supplies. Some shelves are bare and patrons are occasionally forced to purchase items from different brands, items in smaller quantities, or items slightly damaged because of a lack of supply.

But the attitude of customers is a difference visible only to cashiers. Evan Hoke, Wilson ‘19, has been employed at Weis Market in Chambersburg since 2015. “My job has changed in the fact that not only are people more cautious about being close to you or touching anything that you touch, they are also either incredibly rude, or incredibly kind. I’m finding that there is no in between nowadays, as the panic has caused people to deal with it in varying ways,” he says.

Hoke takes precautions to keep himself and others safe amidst this time. He, like most other cashiers, sanitizes his hands regularly, keeps his register and belt clean and refrains from close contact with customers or other employees. Because Weis is not currently requiring their workers to wear masks or gloves, many do not. This has caused some contention among customers.

Toilet paper, when available, is limited to two packs per customer. Photo by Moriah Story.

The lack of some items on the shelves has also been frustrating for some as they try to fill their carts with the essentials. This is caused by the increase in demand for some products, in addition to the tendency of some Chambersburg residents to panic buy.

“Essentially, I just think people need to relax. If we all stay calm, we wouldn’t be going through a shortage of items, and we can continue to be nice to the people who are putting themselves at risk every day by working,” says Hoke.

Thankfully, the gigantic wave of customers that flooded the store during the initial news of the coronavirus outbreak has somewhat subsided. Business remains steady, but the over-abundance of people stocking up has decreased. 

As customers browse the store in homemade masks and latex gloves, Weis employees faithfully show up to check them out. As “essential” workers, they are doing their part to keep the community running during this time of fear and uncertainty.

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