Being a Cashier During a Pandemic

I work at a No Frills in Brantford, Ontario, and in comparison to where I have worked before, it is a smaller store which depends on the regulars in Brantford to keep the business going. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, this small No Frills turned into the chaos ridden grocery store that we are all too familiar with. At first, it was the people who we were not prepared for. It was like a blink of an eye; my first shift of the week the store was its regular peaceful and calm, but come my next shift we had people lined up for hours before we opened at 8am and the lines for checkout so long they wrapped all the way to the back doors.

Our cashiers are told to maintain a scanning rate of 20 items per minute but during the busiest hours of the store, and with all 6 lanes open and our cashiers scanning as fast as possible, it did not seem as if the lines were getting shorter. A place where I was happy to go and work became a place of stress. We began keeping our cash registers open all day, and rather than closing them to give cashiers breaks and lunches, and we had to have an extra cashier or two on hand to relieve them. This is not normal for our store because of how small - on a usual day we can have a lane or two closed, no problem. 

Since the pandemic started, I’ve noticed the heightened stress in people as well. You can see the looks of fear on their faces when someone coughs, sneezes, or reaches for something without gloves on. People are giving each other the six feet of space but that also leads to the impatience when someone in front of them takes too long to load or unload their groceries.

People are not as chatty as well. I, myself, am used to having conversations with my customers while they are checking out. Some of my favourite moments at work are hearing people's stories and giving little kids stickers, but now people do not seem up for conversation, they just want to get in and out as quickly as possible. 

The new procedures we have to follow every day have added to this stress too. We now have to wear gloves for our entire shift whether we are on cash or not. We have cashiers who are now solely responsible for sanitizing doors, grocery carts and debit/credit machines. We also have tape on the floor to show people where to stand when they are social distancing, which I have had to point out to over 50% of the people I cash out during one shift. Our newest addition to the store were large plastic shields which separate  us and our customers for complete protection. 

I have met all different kinds of people during my time working as an essential worker during this pandemic. Some were understanding, calm and thankful that I was still showing up for work everyday. Some were kind to others and came out to buy groceries when their loved ones or neighbors could not. But like every situation, there were people who did not understand. The people who did not wait their turn, and the people who were frustrated by the long weight times and limited stock. 

The biggest thing I noticed working as a cashier during a pandemic is that everyone has to do their part to keep each other safe and for me that may be coming into work and for others it may be just being respectful to the people around them and following the rules groceries stores have in place.