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A day in the pandemic life: How grocery store employees were affected by COVID-19 changes

For communities in uncertain times, being able to reliably get essentials has been invaluable and grocery workers have adapted to keep customers stocked.

OHIO, USA — As the Coronavirus pandemic forced everyone into spending more time at home, it also forced people to go through home supplies at much quicker rates. The expedited use of food, cleaners and toiletries led to an even more important role for grocery stores and their workers.

“I’ve worked at Heinen’s for 42 years,” says Mary Smeltzer.

After 42 years in one business, you’d think you’ve seen everything, but these last few months for Mary and everyone working in the grocery business has been rather peculiar.

“Oh, crazy,” says Smeltzer. “We’ve never had anything like this.”

“We’ve seen a lot, but this is something we’ve never had,” adds Dan Cannon, a GM at Heinen’s.

Like most businesses, grocery stores have been forced to change, but unlike most the demand for in person employees grew. During the early days of uncertainty with unsettled shoppers flooding supermarkets, workers like Mary stepped up to work long hours, six days a week.

Smeltzer says, “We have lines sometimes out here because we have to limit the number, so we have to have someone counting at the door, which we’ve never had.”

“Every time the governor talked, something happened, and everything went off the shelf,” says Cannon. “It was like Christmas everyday with all the customers coming in and not having enough products to take care of the customers.”

Grocery store workers have been called heroes throughout all of this because as rules and regulations have changed, they’ve changed right along with them. From face masks and social distancing to deep cleaning stores and product shortages, they’ve been coming in day in and day out to make sure as many people get what they need as possible.

“It was just amazing how much everybody pulled together,” says Smeltzer. “The head of the kitchen, she came up and wanted to do her part and learn how to ring and the deli manager. It was just, just everybody pulled together.”

Cannon says, “Having associates like Mary and the other associates that work in the store, that’s how we get through COVID-19. It really is.”

For insecure communities in unclear times, being able to get essentials reliably and safely has seemed like a heroic effort. However, to employees manning the store, it’s just another day on the job.

“You know, we’re here to do our job and make sure people are taken care of,” says Cannon.

 “I think we’re doing our job that signed up for,” says Smeltzer. “We just all need to be there for each other.”

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