Being a Walmart Employee Amid the Pandemic

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By Mason Duffey

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The coronavirus has affected everyone here in the United States, and nearly everyone across the globe. Local, state and federal government has enforced changes on how everyday life is to be run. In some places, such as California, a state-wide lockdown was issued. In other places, local governments encouraged citizens to stay at home and only travel outside for what they deem essential. One of these essential activities is grocery shopping, and has caused grocery store workers to be put on the “front line” of the pandemic. As an employee of Walmart, I have been able to see how grocery shopping has changed for individuals, how stores are doing their best to fight the spread and how attitudes towards retail workers have changed.

I can’t speak for other stores, but with each week that passes new policies are put in place by the corporate heads at Walmart. This combined with how the public is acting during this uncertain time has completely changed supermarket shopping for the first time in decades. As the virus began making its way closer to McPherson, and after the initial panic buying, you could see how a majority of shoppers started to social distance to keep themselves and others at a lower risk. To help remind customers, our store put labels in the register lines that were spaced six feet apart. As I observed how people would respond I was pleasantly surprised to see almost everyone following the guidelines. But what became a bigger surprise was seeing how mad customers would get at us employees when we asked them to take a couple steps back. I understand that some people don’t think they are at risk but they acted as if they had no care about others around them or spreading the virus themselves. Eventually I began to notice how many people were wearing mask and/or gloves.

As I said, Walmart began issuing new company policies for customers to follow, but they also have been working towards making each store a safer place by enforcing new rules for employees. They have asked associates to remind customers to social distance to ensure the safety of everyone. Corporate also made a decision not too long ago to have a check point that all employees must go before clocking in. Each week we are asked a series of questions regarding symptoms, our own health and if we’ve travelled out of state. All employees then have their temperature taken are required to wear a mask at all times.

The biggest thing I have noticed as a Walmart employee is how most of the public is looking at grocery workers right now. Before this all started I had never had customers thank me for coming to work, yet now it happens several times a shift. I also see posts on social media about how people should respect grocery workers for still attending work despite the risk being around lots of different people throughout the day. This just seems like such a contrast from the way people saw retail workers in general in the past. Before, they were just another worker at a store, but now shoppers seem to be nicer to employees and other shoppers. I really hope this kindness and gratefulness continues after the pandemic is over. Not just for grocery workers, but all essential employees that still show up every day for their shift to help others out.