The Essential Supermarket Employee: COVID-19

Here in New York City where everyone is still under a “shelter in place” order and everything is still closed except for the necessities like supermarkets, I wanted to talk to someone who has been working the front lines albeit in a different way, every single day:  my nephew Jim.

Where do you work? “I work at Stop & Shop.  I’m a produce manager”.

Have you worked since day one of the COVID-19 crisis here in N.Y.C.? “Yes, I have worked since day one, six days a week”

I had done my shopping in advance so I didn’t see how the supermarkets were in the very beginning.  Was it as bad as portrayed on television? “The crowds were definitely that bad.  There was no exaggeration from the media. Most shelves in the store were empty and it will take months to get back to normal”.

What would you say was the vibe from customers?  Fear?  Panic?  Anger? “I feel most shoppers were fearful and that is why they bought so much”.

How about yourself?  Most of us are sitting at home safe, only venturing out to the store occasionally while you were surrounded by customers on a daily basis. Were you afraid of contracting the virus?  “To be honest in the beginning I wasn’t that concerned with getting the virus.  I was quite naive”.

Are you concerned now? Yes.

Has anyone at your store contracted the virus? “Yes, several associates have tested positive.  When you’re dealing with the public all day every day it would almost be hard not to”.

Are you afraid of bringing the virus home to your wife and children?  “Yes, I am afraid of bringing it home to my family.  We have a system in place where I take my clothes off as soon as I enter my home and put them in a plastic bag in hopes of reducing any risk.  I then take a shower before my kids can hug me.  They know the routine now”.

How do you protect yourself at work? “I wear a mask.  I do not touch my face.  I wash my hands all day.  I keep my distance and plenty of hand sanitizer”.

On the whole, are customers social distancing in the store? “Absolutely not.  Ten or more people crowding in an aisle to buy pasta, it’s insane”.

What is with the toilet paper?!? “The whole toilet paper thing is beyond my comprehension!  It sure is making it hard for people who need it to find it”.

What have been the hot items during this time? “Products that have been sold out the most have been baking supplies, Lysol wipes, Clorox, pasta, and of course the toilet paper”.

If you could ask or tell the public to do one thing that would help everyone….you and them…what would you say?  “Please follow social distancing guidelines”.

Did you ever think you would be considered an essential employee and needed just as much as any of the frontline workers during a pandemic? “I never thought there would come a day when a grocery store worker would be considered essential.  It is surreal”.

You sure are.

Thank you Jim, I love you.

Thank you all essential workers!


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