First, everyone went there for hand sanitizer, and then, it was toilet paper. Since the start of the pandemic, grocery stores have not seen a decline in business, and it has made workers there some of the most susceptible to COVID-19 exposure.
“Just worried because I know what could happen,” said Bill Easton, a cashier at Safeway who has worked there for the last 28 years. “When [customers] come through the line, [they tell us they have COVID], and a couple times, there have been people that don’t have masks.”
Easton says during the pandemic, protocols at the grocery store have improved to keep them safe. Plastic barriers separate cashiers from customers, masks are required, and pumping hand sanitizer throughout the day becomes a normal activity. However, Easton still handles money that has exchanged who knows how many hands.
“Man, I got the hand wipes on my right [and I’m using them] as fast as I can possibly go,” Easton said, laughing.
The same goes for Pamela Gabbert, who has worked more hours in the last 10 months than she has in her last 15 years at Sam’s Meat Market in Denver.
“At the start of [the pandemic], it was really crazy,” said Gabbert. “We were working 80-hour weeks over the course of five days.”
“When March first came, I thought everybody got their tax money back early,” joked Gabbert’s mother, Debbie Sam, who owns the market. “That’s what I thought, honestly.”
Despite the economy, people still had to get food, and with little to do at home, more people took up cooking and it made life at grocery stores busy.
“Being busy has been a blessing in disguise, to be honest,” said Gabbert. “You know, we never lost our job. We had consistency with our customers, with our hours, and that’s never been a really big concern for us."
If anything, when you ask people how they are doing, the pandemic has made them take a second to reflect and realize that despite the drawbacks, there are reasons to be grateful.