Friendly Advice from a Part-Time Essential Worker

Just over a year ago, Quebec issued a (then) two-week major shutdown of public schools, CEGEPs, universities, and daycares. My part-time job at minimum wage as a cashier at a pharmacy suddenly became an essential position. Overall, it’s just been a really draining experience, but I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when entering a public space. Here’s a short list of four DON’Ts and four DOs when shopping at a pharmacy, or any public shopping place really, based on my experience as an employee.


DON’T: Come to the store if you’re feeling sick

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: please stay home especially if someone in your bubble tested positive. Many stores offer contactless delivery service, which could be a great alternative!


DO: Wear a mask

That includes keeping the mask on while you’re in the store. I’ve witnessed people pull down their mask to talk on the phone, to fill out forms/letters/lottery slips, to lick their envelopes and seal them, to ask questions, and even to cough or sneeze (yes, seriously). Pulling down your mask defeats the purpose of having it on in the first place!

face mask prevention Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

DON’T: Open products

This happens a lot more than you think, especially with cosmetics products. While most of our products are packaged and sealed, some liquidation products in bins aren’t. Technically, they could be opened, but that doesn’t mean they should be, especially now with COVID.


DO: Sanitize your hands when you walk in

If there is a bottle at the entrance, please sanitize your hands! Part of my job to ask that clients do so, and I often receive eyerolls and sometimes snappy responses in return. There are germs on everything you touch and sanitizing your hands can avoid spreading those germs on the products and other store surfaces. If you aren’t comfortable using our sanitizer, you can always bring your own!

Person pumping hand sanitizer into her hand Via Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

DON’T: Let your children walk around without supervision

Kids love to explore, I get that. But a pharmacy isn’t an ideal place for that, with or without COVID. The less products children touch, the less germs get on their hands, and the chances of them catching something also go down.


DO: Keep your distance with others

Especially when waiting in line at the cash. I’ve seen clients get into fights because one of them stood too close to the other. Social distancing prevents the spread of illnesses from one person to another. In closed spaces, distancing yourself from others becomes really difficult; a mask helps in these unavoidable situations! Just try your best to keep a safe distance to protect both yourself and others.

face masks Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

DON’T: Maneuver your way around the plexiglass

Trust me, I hate working with it, but the plexiglass is there to protect both of us. Paying at the cash is one of those unavoidable situations where we are standing less than six feet apart from each other. That’s why the plexiglass is there. If you peak your head to the side where the glass stops, then it becomes useless, and the chances of us spreading potential illnesses increase.


DO: Be respectful

Not only towards workers, but also towards other shoppers. If there’s one thing I noticed in the past year, it’s that COVID has made people more stressed and extremely short-tempered. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to do my job and get through the week one shift at a time. But that becomes increasingly difficult and discouraging when clients don’t return my greeting, aren’t patient enough to help me understand what they’re looking for, or look at me with a sour face when I’m trying to be as helpful and as positive as possible.

Working all throughout this pandemic has not been easy. From the toilet-paper craze to the ban on non-essential products, I think I can safely say that I’ve witnessed more than I thought was ever possible. A little positivity goes a long way, sometimes all it takes is a smile!


Things are finally starting to look up with vaccines becoming more and more available, but we have to remember that we aren’t out of this fight just yet. Keep wearing your mask, keep social distancing, and stay positive! We’ll get there soon.