By Kevin Genthert
The pandemic has brought with it many changes in the daily “normal” everyone knew before March. As the viral infection swept across the country, people were affected in many different ways, including a record high in American unemployment. As people lost their jobs or got laid off, national attention was brought to the unsung “heroes” of it all, the “essential workers.” I myself, was fortunate enough to be someone deemed essential, as a customer service employee for Wegmans, a grocery marketplace. Obviously not on the same level as hospitals, it was still crucial that we stayed open.
The headlines began to tell nightmare stories of stores running out of everything from toilet paper to canned goods, flour, bread, and more. While we did see a shortage of those things, we were able to set up several systems to make running our store during a pandemic easier. We set a limit on people in the store enforced by employees at the entrances, limited numbers of certain items to be purchased at once, set up a “sanitization team” whose purpose was to clean any surface that would be touched by customers, and established a mask mandate for everyone. All of those still stand today aside from the restrictions on items purchased, and the processes have streamlined the store experience and made everyone’s trip to the store safer.
Alongside measures taken to keep the customers safe, Wegmans made it very clear that we were their priority, and did everything in their power to make our lives easier: Extra coupons every week, reduced pricing on certain items, pallets of things like toilet paper and frozen goods set aside for us, and an increased hazard pay-rate. I felt like they made going to work every day during a pandemic as easy and “worth-it” for everyone as possible. The growing pains were real, and adjusting to the new normal is an ongoing process, but being able to serve the community and help ensure that people had a safe place to shop has been worth it for me.