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I’m an Essential Worker. Please Be a Decent Human to Us.

By Hailey Terracino, News Editor

            As kids, many of us are taught to “treat people the way you want to be treated.”  But as many retail workers know, some adults still fail to grasp that concept. The overwhelming stress of living in the midst of a global pandemic hasn’t helped with overall morale; retail workers, as well as other essential workers, have had to put up with the brunt of it. 


I work at a grocery store. There’s always been rude people at work, even before the pandemic. I think that’s just one of the hazards of having a job that deals with the public. Some people have bad days and something like an expired coupon just sets them off, and we’re the easy target for them.  We understand that and can usually shrug it off. Lately though, more and more people have been acting out at retail workers for simply doing their jobs. 


Everyone is on edge lately. Not only do customers have to deal with item shortages and limits, long lines, social distancing guidelines and masks, but we do too. Believe it or not, if you’re frustrated about something, odds are the worker you’re mad at is just as mad as you. It has all been a huge adjustment for everyone, but some people have had a harder time adjusting to this and will take it out on the first person they see, the retail worker.  


Recently I had a man come up to me with an attitude and threw his groceries on the belt. We had a huge line and I told him that we had a line down aisle 8 and if he would wait there. He looked at me confused and I repeated myself. He then said “But I only have a couple of things.” I told him I couldn’t do that and he got even more mad and yelled at me that this store sucks and other stores don’t still have lines.


During the paper towel shortage, one woman got mad at me because she was buying two sets of towels, but she thought to separate them into two different carts to get away with it. I explained our limit of one per customer, and she said “oh no, these are two orders, one for me and my friend I’m shopping for.”  I explained it to her again and then she demanded the manager. When he came down and explained the same thing to her, she pulled the “We’ll I’ve been shopping here for years.” She left with only one package of paper towels that day. 


The problem is that people don’t understand why we are doing what we’re doing, and even worse, many don’t seem to care. We have to think about safety guidelines and cannot control the shipment of products. Often, lines are long because we’re short staffed, since employees took leave out of fear for their health. But people only care about the fact that they are being mildly inconvenienced, which during a pandemic shouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to you.


There have been a lot of positive things that have come out of these weird times too. Before Covid, people never really considered essential workers as exactly this, essential. At best, we were simply just another errand to run on the way to something more fun. But lately, more people have been considering how important we are for everyone to have a normal everyday life. We need delivery workers to be able to get our important packages. We need grocery store workers so we can get food and other essential items. We especially need healthcare workers to keep us all healthy. This change has been nice and very long awaited. Customers have actually thanked me for everything I do and it feels nice to be appreciated. 


Retail workers and other essentials workers have always been there for the community, on the sidelines of everyday life. We have been asked to put our own lives at risk so that the public can get the essential items that they need. All we ask is to be kind to your cashier, thank your sanitation worker, and send a nice message to a nurse or doctor you know because right now more than ever, they really need it.


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