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19 Things You Absolutely Must Stop Doing To Grocery Store Employees In The Age Of Coronavirus

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As the coronavirus pandemic gets more intense with each passing day, it's time to acknowledge some absolute heroes among us: grocery store workers.

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Grocery stores are busier than ever, and their employees are putting themselves in harm's way every single day to make sure the rest of us stay healthy, safe, and properly fed. They deserve our endless respect and gratitude.

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And given how chaotic the stores are these days, I wanted to know what customers can do to make the lives of grocery workers a little bit easier and safer. So I spoke with an anonymous employee at a major US grocery chain to get some insight from the front lines.

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FYI, this person works as a cashier, bagger, stockperson, and cleaner at their store. Here are some tips they gave me:

1. Don't bring your whole family to the store — come alone if you can.

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It's hard to practice safe social distancing when the stores are jam-packed. If at all possible, leave the kids, spouse, and/or grandparents at home and shop by yourself.

2. Don't get in an employee's personal space.

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Whether it's the cashier at the register or a stockperson refilling shelves, give workers as much distance as possible — even when asking for their help.

3. And don't ignore any markers on the floor that encourage social distancing.

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Many stores have taped signs on the floor that tell customers where to stand while checking out. These markers ensure that customers stay away from each other while standing in line. There might be another marker when you reach the register that encourages you to keep some distance from the cashier. Pay attention to all of these!

4. Don't come to the store if you feel sick.

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You need to stay home if you're experiencing symptoms. Period. Get a delivery service, family member, or friend to do the grocery run for you, and have them leave it outside your door.

5. Don't give employees unsolicited advice on how to protect themselves.

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Even if you mean well, don't do it! Stores already have trainings for this, and your cashier is certainly well aware of the risks they're taking by working. Your "tips" will only stress them out more.

6. Don't come to the store "just to get out of the house."

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We're all cooped up in our homes right now, and cabin fever is natural. But don't hit up the supermarket simply for something to do. Take a walk, visit a park, or go for a drive if you're feeling antsy. Save the grocery trips for essentials.

7. Don't touch stuff you don't intend to buy.

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For your own safety as well as everyone else's, try to only touch the items you intend to purchase. This is not the time to pick up every single orange in the bin to inspect it for imperfections, Karen!

8. Don't tell employees how "lucky" they are to work.

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Working from home can suck, and layoffs are absolutely awful. But grocery store employees are forced to work among huge crowds in the middle of a global pandemic. They may have job security at the moment, but they are not "lucky."

9. Don't complain about items being out of stock.

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The toilet paper shortages are annoying, but they're not your cashier's fault. Don't take it out on them.

10. And don't ask them to "check in the back" for out-of-stock items, either.

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Employees are working hard to get items onto the shelves as soon as shipments come in. There's nothing hiding in that mythical "back room" customers are always asking about.

11. Don't complain to your cashier about having to touch the keypad to complete your transaction.

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No-contact transactions would be great, and let's hope more stores find ways to do them ASAP! But your cashier doesn't make the rules, and they can't legally sign your signature for you. Wear gloves or carry hand sanitizer to use immediately after touching. And, of course, wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you get home.

12. On a similar note: Don't try to sanitize the credit card machine before touching it.

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Yes, our source has really had customers try to do this. They note that their store routinely disinfects these keypads, and that some types of disinfectants customers use could actually break the machines. Again, wear gloves or use hand sanitizer to protect yourself instead.

13. Don't fight with other customers over hard-to-find items.

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The last thing grocery employees need right now is to have to intervene in customer arguments. Be civil, let things go, and walk away.

14. Don't complain about the store's new hours.

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Stores are closing earlier in the day as a matter of safety. It reduces the amount of time employees deal with large crowds, and also gives them more time to do essential sanitizing and restocking. This keeps you safe. Don't give workers a hard time about it.

15. And if your store has set up special shopping hours for elderly, pregnant, or immunocompromised customers, don't violate them.

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Many grocery stores have set aside early shopping hours for people who are most at risk if they get sick with COVID-19. If you don't belong to one of those groups, steer clear of those hours. You'll be creating unnecessary danger for others.

16. Don't whine about store limits on how much toilet paper or hand sanitizer you can buy.

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These limits exist to make sure everyone can get the essentials they need to stay healthy in this time. Stop stockpiling, and just take your fair share.

17. Don't pay with cash if you have the option of using a credit/debit card.

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Not everyone has a credit or debit card, and a cashier should never judge you for paying with cash. That said, card transactions require less touching, and are preferable if you have the option.

18. Don't tell employees that you think all these new precautions are an "overreaction" or "unnecessary."

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They're not an overreaction. And you might feel differently if your job required you to be around so many people right now. Take your bad opinion and go!

19. And finally, just don't be rude!

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Remember that grocery store employees are working in a highly stressful environment right now, putting themselves and their families at risk, and often for little pay. Whatever it is you're mad about, the employee in front of you probably does not control it. Be kind.

TL;DR: Keep your distance, follow the rules, and don't be a jerk. Let's all do our part, please!

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Oh, and P.S.: If you want ANOTHER way to support your local grocery workers, look up what minimum wage is in your state. Is it livable? If not, now's a good time to push your representatives for a better minimum wage. Times like this remind us that the workers we rely on most are often paid the least. Just a lil' food for thought. Goodbye!

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