A Grocery Clerk on the Frontlines

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La'Maya Matthew

During this worldwide quarantinemany people’s jobs have been put to the side for the next few weeks or even months. But not all. I have a job considered “essential.” And I am a high school student. 

In Georgia, on March 12, 2020 schools began closing and people began to panic. So they headed to the grocery store. I was there that afternoon.

The local Cartersville Kroger Marketplace was packed out, with every single line backed up into the snack aisles. With seven registers open and twelve self-checkout registers available, we workers tried our best to serve everyone quickly. There were only 3 or 4 employees available to bag groceries. Our manager had only scheduled the usual number needed on an average Thursday afternoon. Never would she have thought it would get so crazy.

That day was definitely the hardest I have ever had working there. I was running the self-checkout, so I dealt with  six customers at a time. There were multiple issues throughout my shift. 

 There were many instances where customers believed several of their items were on sale. When they were shown they had either picked up the wrong item, or it had been moved to the wrong spot, they caused a scene and continued to back up our lines. There were a lot of angry people in the store that day, and the hostility has continued to be like that for the last few weeks.

Eventually Kroger had to put limits on our meat, water, toilet essentials, and all cold and flu items, to try to put an end to hoarding.

One day a lady was told she could only get three packages of a specific meat and even though we had five huge posters above the meat section saying exactly that, she proceeded to scream at the manager and demand security be called.

Recently while running self-checkout I had a customer who had ten or maybe fifteen coupons. While I was helping that customer the other registers began beeping, implying other people needed assistance. It took me maybe 2-3 minutes to help my original customer and when I turned around all the other 5 customers needed help. One person was so impatient, he left the store, leaving me to gatherer his groceries and put them away.

Although we do have to deal with those types of customers, the good ones outweigh the bad. It’s nice to know the majority of people don’t go ballistic and lose their minds. Every once in a while, I will receive a “Thank you for working,” or an “I’m glad you are here ” It’s an extremely simple gesture, but it really means a lot to those of us working hard so people can have what they need during this pandemic

And it also means a lot to know Kroger cares for its employees. They’ve been quite generous with us. We have received $25 for groceries for ourselves, $150 added to a week’s check, and for the next three weeks, they’re adding an extra $2 to our hourly pay. I appreciate that Kroger appreciates what we’re doing.

Being a grocery store worker during these times is difficult, but the corporation, the coworkers and the kind customers make it so easy to enjoy being there.