I Worked as a Vitamin Clerk in a Grocery Store When Coronavirus Hit
i work as vitamin clerk at Sprouts Farmers Market in Las Vegas, NV. I was hired in 2016 to demonstrate their food products in the deli section. It was a job they created for me because they didn’t have such a thing at the time – it was what I did until now.
This is just one of my jobs. I have three others who were affected when all of this happened. I am a group exercise instructor at 24 Hour Fitness, a Pilates coach in a private studio, and a brand ambassador for other independent supplement and vitamin brands. These independent brands were all health and nutrition products that are part of the Vitamins department. It was perfect for me because being in the fitness industry for 25 years has made nutrition a part of my life and my interests. As you know, these last three opportunities are considered non-essential, and the private studio and the gym have been mandated to close indefinitely – and just like that, I lost 3/4 of my income.
On March 11, when I arrived at work, I was told that the demo program at Sprouts I worked in had been suspended and that they needed my help in the vitamin department. The first week of my work as a vitamin clerk during COVID-19 was absolutely crazy, especially in my department. We were inundated with customers who bought our hand sanitizers, immune supplements like vitamin c, elderberry, echinacea and zinc. When these were completely exhausted, we provided them with recipes for making their own disinfectants with natural ingredients like witch hazel, tea tree oils, etc., but they wanted bleach and rubbing alcohol that we don’t carry. Of course, all of our water and toilet paper supplies were depleted. After a few more days, customers emptied our non-perishable food items on our grocery shelves. Then all of our frozen products. The funny thing is that our product department was still intact – but not for long, of course. Onions, garlic, potatoes, ginger, winter squash, citrus fruits – things that people could store in the coolness of their garages – also went quickly. The lines were long, fear on each person’s face. Many spent hundreds of dollars (up to $ 800) on products.
As the global situation began to intensify (more deaths reported, social distancing was introduced and many businesses were closed), the situation worsened for us as an industry. Those first few weeks were overwhelming, but I was on autopilot. Maybe still! The customers came with their masks, gloves and more fear. They even asked us if we could give them or sell our food handling gloves. Some buyers have also tried to leave with our disinfecting department gel and all the wipes used to wipe their carts. Personally, one of the biggest challenges was that initially we didn’t have the chance to go and buy our own groceries. We had to go to 2 or 3 other sprout sites at 7 am when they opened to buy the essentials we needed. As things progressed, some team members were naturally perplexed, exasperated, overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, even angry.
I get exposed every day when I go to work. I’m wearing a mask and gloves. The mask makes breathing difficult. Some employees took time off and others resigned because they did not want to be exposed. We now need to use a connection sheet where we indicate that we have no temperature – and I am grateful to Sprouts for giving those of us who continue to work extra wages and bonuses.
Every day when I go to work, I hope I don’t get sick. When I get home, I tell myself that I WON’T get sick. My daughters reminded me that I am in a vulnerable age group – I know they care about my health. But I am healthy, strong, positive and most of all, I can help our clients, who I think just need our understanding, kindness and empathy. Our team members also do our best to support each other. Our company does everything it can to support us. It makes me cry.
For now, I’m helping in any way I can. There are others (medical / health members, first responders) who do more! Before I even knew that being in the grocery store was essential, I was just grateful and blessed that I had been asked to help in the vitamin department – and now I’m still so thankful for have a job because there are less fortunate people. I want to be able to help my daughters and others if need be, and pay my own bills. It motivates me and motivates me. My mom and aunt kindly sent me money to help pay the April rent.
Believe me, not to say that there are no times when I am so tired that depression sets in, being alone, far from my family. Worry about them and the situation we all find ourselves in. But I believe it will pass and it will bring us all together – making us all more accepting, understanding, kinder and more grateful to each other and all that we have.
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