Grocery Stores During a Global Pandemic

Callie Broaddrick

Looking Six Months Back

This article is part of a series of articles that were written last school year but were never published due to the pandemic. The Norse Code has decided to publish these articles to give insight into how people were feeling at that time.

As covid-19 continues to turn the world upside-down, more and more countries are encouraging people to stay at home as much as possible. However, it is impossible for grocery store workers to follow the stay at home order because their jobs are essential. 


There are few places as busy as a grocery store during a global pandemic. People stock up on everything from frozen food to toilet paper. They prepare like an apocalypse is going to happen. At this point, most people probably wouldn’t be surprised if it did happen. 


While these times are stressful for everyone, grocery store employees are a group that have a very stressful job to perform. I am a grocery store worker myself, and our jobs are very different than they were a month ago. 


A few weeks ago, we were stocking product, interacting with customers, and making samples for customers to taste. Now, we are constantly cleaning, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing. Grocery stores have made lots of changes in order to keep employees and customers safe. 


All grocery stores are different, but at the Trader Joe’s I work at, we have changed a lot of things at our store. For example, only 35 customers are allowed in the store. We sanitize the carts after every use.  Wearing a mask is highly encouraged, and most employees do. Everybody wears gloves. 


We have a few new positions that were created for this time, the first being called a rover, where an employee goes to every other employee and makes sure they are doing okay and helps out when and where they can. They also sanitize the railings in the store, the bathrooms, door handles, and other highly touched surfaces. 


Another new position is line. The job of this person is to direct customers to which register they should go to. A line forms behind the line person, and all customers must be standing on their designated tape that is 6 feet away from other customers in line.


A third and fourth new position is carts and doors. The cart person stands outside and sanitizes every cart that has been used. The door person keeps track on how many people enter and leave the store to make sure we are staying at or under a capacity of 35. They also hand people sanitized carts. 


Trader Joe’s also has a new process for checking out. Instead of choosing a register to go to, customers now need to go to the employee with a sign saying ‘Line Starts Here’, and then they are told which register to go to. There are only four registers open, and there are two employees at each register : a cashier and a bagger/cleaner. The cashier will grab the cart from the customer and then the customer is asked to wait in a box outlined with tape that is over six feet away from the cashier. Then the cashier scans the items, the bagger bags them up (in paper bags because we are not using reusable bags at this time), and then the customer comes up to the register to pay. After that customer is done paying, the bagger will sanitize the entire register area before the next customer is checked out. 


With all these new changes and positions, we do not stock much product throughout the day simply because there is not enough time. Most of the stocking takes place in the morning before noon and at night after we close. A pro of not stocking as much during the day is that it allows us to practice social distancing better. Aisles are not that big, so when we do stock product, it is almost impossible to stay six feet away from customers. 


Most customers have reacted really positively to these changes. Jeff Clark, the boss at Trader Joe’s in Brookfield, says “It was hard for everyone in the beginning . . . [but] most customers are extremely excited . . and appreciative of distancing and cleaning.” Clark also says that we have received a lot of positive feedback from customers, and that some people even said they will only shop at Trader Joe’s during this pandemic. 


How a grocery store handles and adapts to covid-19 can really show how much companies care about their employees and customers. Trader Joe’s is doing a great showing that the safety of their employees and customers is their top priority. Trader Joe’s implemented these changes weeks ago, and now other stores are starting to follow in a similar suit. 


Most stores, such as Target, Walmart, and other big stores have capacity limits. Some stores have plexiglass between cashiers and customers. This is nice because it separates them and the chance of catching germs from one another is greatly minimized. 


In his article “Store Traffic Limits at Walmart and Target are Good, but Kroger’s Pick-Up Only Idea is Better”, Chris Walton describes an experiment Kroger is trying out. Kroger converted one of its stores in Cincinnati to an order-pickup only. He says that while this transition might have not been welcomed a few weeks ago, many people are appreciating it now. Walton encourages more companies to try this out because it keeps customers and employees safer and it could prove to be useful in the long run.  


During this global pandemic, life is crazy for everyone. Some grocery stores were a little late to start, but most now have a lot of procedures in place to keep customers and employees safe. As covid-19 continues to upturn our lives, most grocery stores are doing their part to prevent the spread of this virus.