Opinion: Be reasonable in the grocery store, thankful for workers


New Moon employees Kyle Reed and Rose McMillen restocking toilet paper. Photo: Elizabeth White

Elizabeth White, Editor

Elizabeth White is an SNU senior.

With storefronts closing all across the nation, the few that remain open are considered “essential” to the public. California is one of the first states to enact a social distancing regiment that includes shutting down non-essential businesses. The policy allowed for just gas stations, pharmacies, laundromats, government agencies, and grocery and convenience stores to stay open, as well as delivery and take out restaurants, according to California Coronavirus Response.

I currently work at a grocery store and am now what people call an “essential” employee.

At the moment, I am thankful to be one of the few people with a job and to work for a company that takes care of its workers and is taking all of the safety precautions that it can to hopefully ensure that we will not contract this potentially fatal virus.

With that being said, many of us are taking a risk every day that we go into work, so it is important to be kind and thankful the next time you walk into a grocery store and stop hoarding. I have been stocking the shelves most every day and night, and there is absolutely enough for everyone. Rightfully so, many people may not want to take the risk of going into the grocery store as often because they don’t want as much exposure. However, there is a difference between buying toilet paper to last you a few weeks and buying toilet paper to last you the next six months. There is no need. I’ve been to many grocery stores within the first week of the shutdown and none of them have had toilet paper. On Wednesday we re-stocked toilet paper and it was gone halfway through the day.

There will be more, we will keep re-stocking, and there is no need to panic.

Yes, there is a much higher demand, but we live in a country that will keep up with it. We just need to give our suppliers a little extra time to catch up on it. Personally, there is a certain amount of calm I’ve experienced from working in a grocery store and doing stocking. I am surrounded by food all day and I know that I don’t need to panic about going without because I see the abundance.

Additionally, many changes have been made to protect store employees and customers. One of the employees who has been directly affected by this is Danie Espinoza, who worked at the juice bar until it was shut down. She was recently moved into a new department as a market helper and has worked very hard to adapt.

“I am truly grateful for the employees of the store that I work at because we have switched our procedures so much,” she said. “Those who are still here have done so much to try to proceed to be here with everything that’s new. But I think the fact that everyone else who is still here stepped up in this shit show shows that we’re all really here for each other and that’s what I’m grateful for. It shows that as our mini-community we really do care, not just for each other but for the community.”

The manager of the New Moon Natural Foods store in Truckee says that it and many other grocery stores are doing everything they can to ensure customer and employee safety. They are using an online resource called INFRA Listserve, an online bulletin board comprising 1,000 members who own and work in independent grocers throughout the country to share ideas via message posts to stay ahead of the curve by implementing safeguards that are working for other members. The new policies that have been put in place at New Moon include myriad procedures, such as limiting the number of customers that can shop in the store at any given time to 15 customers.

Currently, at the store we have placed what we affectionately refer to as a “store bouncer” at the main entrance, who also directs those that enter a hand-washing station where all customers must thoroughly wash their hands before shopping. This person makes sure that there are only 15 customers in the store at a time. New Moon is also requiring all employees to wear disposable gloves which they are asked to change every 20 minutes. They have also shut down the juice bar and make to-go orders from the café.

For the register section, they have placed tape on the floors to signal where customers waiting in line must stand to provide 6 feet of distance between all customers and have placed plexiglass shields between customers and cash registers for their safety. Additionally, they have been sanitizing all of the frequently touched areas around the store throughout the day, such as fridges, bathrooms, and the bulk sections. Baskets and carts are thoroughly sanitized after each use as well. Lastly, New Moon has implemented many work-from-home positions and has given those who cannot work from home the option to opt-out of work without being fired so that they will be able to come back to work once the pandemic is over.

Haley says that during these trying times, he is also thankful for the people he works for.

“For too many years I worked for corporations that only thought of me as a number and their bottom line. Billy and Danika (the store owners) are kind and generous and put our safety and well-being first. I trust them both and I am thankful that they are looking out for me and my family and all of us. I feel like I am not going through this alone, but instead, have an incredible team and work family, and together we will get through this.”