DC students who work at grocery stores adapt to COVID-19 despite their fears

Keili Gomez

Since COVID-19 caused a global pandemic in March, many shoppers have taken drastic measures, running to their nearest grocery stores and emptying anything found on the shelves

This has created an issue for local grocery store workers. They now spend their days double-checking with other departments for stock, finding out when the next shipment is coming in, and helping customers cash out their groceries as quickly as they can.

“The interactions with the customers are completely different. They have to stay six feet away rather than just moving up,” said Durham College student Keili Gomez, 18, who works at Allan’s Your Independent Grocer in Pickering.

Most grocery stores, including hers, look drastically different now. In many, there is plexiglass between shoppers and cashiers, as well as arrows to keep people moving through the store with limited contact.

“You can’t line up how we used to, you have to make one big line, wait until the first person leaves until they can come up,” said the Social Service Worker student.

Grocery stores are now also making payment changes due to the high risk of contracting COVID-19.

“We don’t use cash anymore, only at customer service and one other cash,” said Gomez.

When grocery workers were classified as essential workers, they were given a raise. Gomez said they are also getting more respect from customers

“There’s been a few people that come to me and say, ‘Thank you for working, and I really appreciate it’,” she said.

It is an anxious time for essential workers. Many grocery store employees are frustrated with the constant cleaning.

Andrea Johnson
Andrea Johnson

Durham College Environmental Technology student Andrea Johnson, 19, said she and her colleagues are trying to help out all customers.

She works at a Bulk Barn store in Sarnia.

“I know that the employees are personally shopping for you. You tell them what you want, and they use the scoops, and they touch everything,” said Johnson.

She said her colleagues have been working to keep it a clean and safe place.

“Bulk Barn has actually always been a very clean place,” she said. “We have always been really sanitary. I know that there is gloves, masks and hand sanitizer when you walk in the door.”

Johnson said Bulk Barn has been cleaning carts and baskets as well.

Some stores are even short-staffed amid COVID-19.

“We were given the option to work or not,” said Johnson. “I know that there was a few people that quit, due to the virus, because of their own health concerns, and I know that there was a few people feeling a little bit ill, so they’re not working.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that a full pandemic might last up to 18 months to two years.

That is a long time for grocery workers such as Johnson and Gomez. However, Gomez said she’s getting used to the new normal.