Editor’s Note: As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, grocery store employees are finding themselves on the frontlines of the biggest health crisis in a century. A Florida Publix employee, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, reached out to our sister site Creative Loafing Tampa Bay to offer some perspective on what it's like working for the state's largest grocery chain.
If one more person asks me about toilet paper, I will lose my mind.
As a customer service associate at Publix on the front lines of the worst pandemic we’ve ever seen I must say I’ve seen some things in the past few weeks.
At first, the panic felt very hurricane-esque, people were buying up everything from eggs to water (which makes no sense because it’s not like we are losing power). A woman tried to spit on a cashier because she was enforcing a quantity rule sent down from corporate, regarding the newly sacred paper products.
Then, that same cashier was accosted by another man because of the lack of milk, as if it was her fault.
Needless to say, it wasn’t her week.
Panic has been the universal theme of these past couple of weeks. Once that toilet paper aisle was emptied, these customers stopped being civil. Senior hours are particularly hard. You feel sorry for them because it’s literally only two hours out of the entire week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.) but it’s hard when somebody’s grandmother is giving you the business at 7:03 in the morning, because of the lack of products in the store.
Also, I don’t understand why they show up 20 minutes early as if we will open the doors any earlier, but I digress.
Now that we know as a country that this pandemic isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future, Publix has become somewhat of a hangout destination. There are a few people that I see every day, they buy one or two things and hang around to talk to their neighbors. So much for the social distancing, but at least they are finally letting us wear PPE, after weeks of telling us that we are not allowed to.
Oh, and we get our nifty plexiglass windows on the registers.
As a Publix employee I’m stuck between “hey I need hazard pay for this shit” and “damn, at least I have a job.”
I’ve seen people who were working once a month come back to part-time because their job went under.
We have hired 20 people in the last two weeks to keep up with demand and all the cleaning we have to do throughout the day.
Personally, I was looking for a new job before this pandemic and I am glad it didn’t work out because I would be applying for unemployment like a multitude of my peers.
As this reality becomes the new norm, I think I should leave you with the message Publix leaves it customers with every 30 minutes. “Hey shoppers, as we practice social distancing make sure to shop six feet apart. We are all in this together. Thanks for shopping at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.”
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