CUBA, NY – I’ve worked at the Giant Food Mart of Cuba as a cashier for about three years, since my junior year of high school.
When I reported for work on Friday at 4 p.m., the normal clamor of rustling paper bags, chattering customers and employees and squeaking grocery carts’ wheels greeted me.
But I would soon face a situation I’d never seen before.
As I put away my belongings and put on my red smock, a head cashier approached me from behind the customer service counter with a box of black latex gloves.
She said, "You can wear these while working. There’s hand sanitizer at the registers as always, and if you want to wash your hands in between customers, call a head cashier so they can cover you while you’re gone."
I put on the gloves and went into the cashiers’ office to get my money drawer, as I’ve done every work day.
Then, I walked out to the registers and put my drawer in the fifth register with cashiers working on both sides.
A manager walked up to me before I got any customers and said Giant started a new policy. Customers needed to stand behind a line of freshly laid, gray duct tape, about six feet away from where the cashier stands.
Customers could only come up to the register to pay, she said. Otherwise, they had to wait behind the line.
Later on in the day, I noticed the cashier to my left at register six retrieved a bottle labeled “bleach bottle” and began to clean her conveyor belt. Management had replaced the soap water that would usually be in the spray bottles at our stations with a bleach solution.
These new additions to my work routine resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis currently sweeping the globe.
In my experience, the cold or the flu could easily take hold of cashiers one by one. I could count on my two hands the amount of times I’ve been asked to cover for someone who caught an illness and couldn’t come in.
So it came as a relief to me that Giant took measures against COVID-19, a disease that spreads in the same way as the common cold and influenza: person-to-person.
COVID-19, like the flu and the cold, spreads when an infected person gets within six feet of another person or when exposed to an infected person’s coughs or sneezes, according to the CDC.
As well as helping to keep customers healthy, I noticed social distancing and staying sanitary made them more comfortable.
One customer I serviced that day said she liked the change. During this time of crisis, she said, she thought it couldn’t hurt, and she felt safer. I agreed.
Needing to stand behind a line proved a small hassle for some customers who didn’t know about the new policy, but no one outright complained about it.
Customers still had the option of person-to-person service or self-service at our self-checkouts, although they needed to stand behind a line or avoid getting too close to the self-checkout clerk. Overall, I found it may take time for customers to become accustomed to the changes at Giant Food Mart, which, most likely, won’t have gigantic impacts on their experiences.
They still had the option to pick out a cart and retrieve their own groceries, albeit encouraged to use the sanitizing wipes dispensed at the entrance to the store.
The same can be said for cashiers. Now we just wear gloves, avoid direct contact with customers and use bleach instead of soap to clean our registers.
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