An Open Letter to Shoppers From a Grocery Employee

Dear American Shoppers,

The events happening today are ones many of us have never experienced in our lifetime. I understand the struggles currently experienced at grocery stores trying to shop; I say that not only as a consumer but also as a full time produce associate in New Hampshire. To those that have been thanking us for working, we whole-heartedly appreciate it. It can turn our day around after having customers on the opposite end of the kindness spectrum. The last few weeks have been a daily struggle and unpredictable. I have seen people uniting as a department and store, and communities working as one. I’ve also seen the uglier side of the pandemic through the eyes of a grocery store employee, and it needs addressing.

To those who think that we have a secret stash of product in the back for employees or family of employees, we don’t. What you see on the shelves is what we have, especially in grocery and meat. When a product comes in, we don’t set things aside that we want or need in a secret room. If associates need to buy something, we either must set aside time before or after a shift, or during one of our breaks. Please don’t assume we receive shopping perks just for being an associate.  

To those coming in because you are bored, please stay home, or go for a walk somewhere less crowded. Not only are you putting yourself and anyone else you encounter at risk, but you are putting our health in jeopardy as well. It isn’t that we aren’t happy to be there for customers and help; it’s just realistic during these times.

To those coming is a full family or couples, please stop. Until the quarantines and social distancing end, we are not a store for socializing or a place to escape your house with your loved ones. The only thing you are managing to do is increase the chance of spreading the virus as a symptom-free carrier or contract the virus. I understand if a single parent can either not afford or find a sitter. But when both adults come in with children, you are irresponsible. Have one of you go shopping while the other family members stay home or wait in the car. The same thing applies to friends, roommates, couples, etcetera.

Please respect the six-foot rule while shopping. If we seem to pull away from customers, we probably are. In my store, they make announcements throughout the day, reminding customers and associates alike to maintain a six-foot distance. Please do not take offense to it; we are trying to protect you and everyone else in the store. We also will not be offended if you ask us to have space while picking out a product. We’ve become accustomed to it.

If you are coming in first thing when the store opens, please don’t expect fully stocked shelves. Every store receives their deliveries at different times, and not all stores have people filling shelves 24 hours a day. Pallets of products need to be taken apart and organized. That hole on the shelf may be buried in the middle of hundreds of cases. Sometimes you may need to circle back for that product or wait. We will try our best to allow you to be in and out of the store as quickly as possible, but there are some factors we can’t control.

Yes, we know how to order products. But we don’t know how to predict the future. Every hour can completely change customers’ habits. One new recommendation from the government, a news conference, or a local store changing their hours, or limiting the number of customers allowed at one time can cause a flood of customers to come in. It happened at my store last week when a competitor across the street began limiting customers inside at once. A line formed outside, and people began shopping at our store instead to avoid the wait. Business nearly doubled. If that change happens later in the day, our order for the following day has already completed. We can’t call the warehouse and ask for me. By that time, the trucks have probably already been loaded and preparing to head to their destinations. Combine the unpredictability of shoppers along with already short supplies, ordering enough product can be impossible.

If you choose to wear disposable gloves and a mask, please throw them away in the trash when exiting the store, not in the parking lot on the ground or in your shopping cart. I understand you don’t want to bring them into your car or home, but please don’t expect us to clean up your trash because you don’t want to dispose of them properly.

If you are using self-checkout, please do not use any sprays or liquid sanitizers on the pin pad, or any other electronic devices. Doing so can cause permanent damage to devices. If you would like any devices cleaned in a store while shopping, please ask an associate; we will be happy to assist.

And most importantly, please be as patient as possible. We understand the frustrations that new store hours, limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside at one time, and product limitations can cause. Those frustrations do not give customers the right to yell at associates. We are all human trying to stay healthy, and live one day at a time through this.

Stay healthy, safe, and thank you for your patience and understanding.

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