How to help essential grocery store employees right now

Though government orders have shuttered most businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak, grocery stores are staying open.

Supermarkets are experiencing a massive surge in shoppers, often unprecedented, as people rush to get the supplies they need to stay secluded. Employees are finding themselves on the frontlines of an unexpected battle to keep the country’s residents calm and well-nourished.

Dozens of grocery store employees across the country shared actionable steps shoppers can take to show support and make their lives easier during this difficult time. Here’s what they said:

1. Go to the store early in the morning and on weekdays

Though specific times might vary in your area, doing your part to reduce the post-work and weekend rush eases the pressure on workers who have to staff the busy, crowded stores and increases your chances of finding what you need in stock.

2. Have a plan before you arrive to limit your browsing time

Prepare extensively for your supermarket trips. Meal planning apps like Mealime or Yummly can help you find recipes and create a list of what you need so you can streamline the process as much as possible, reducing crowding. Avoid browsing through the store and keep an open mind about what brands will be available when you shop.

3. Call ahead to check on supplies instead of searching the store's website

With so many customers coming through the doors every day, smaller stores struggle to keep their online stock information up to date. The best way to know what will be available to you is to call and speak to a customer service representative.

4. Order pickup or delivery when you can

Curbside pickup can reduce the number of people you come in contact with, cut down on foot traffic within the store and speed up the entire process by leaving the shopping to employees who are more familiar with the store’s layout. If that isn’t available in your area, Instacart and Shipt are useful third-party services that deliver directly to your home. Be sure to tip well.

5. Use self-checkout when available

Limiting your contact with cashiers by checking yourself out protects both parties. Plus, many stores require employees to sanitize registers after each use, but that can slow down the checkout process and lead to longer lines and increased crowding.

6. Bring your own cleaning supplies

Employees are working around the clock to keep stores safe and clean, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing your own supplies with you when you shop to wipe down the carts and displays you come in contact with. It helps reduce the spread of germs to everyone who walks through the aisles. Don't forget to wash your hands!

7. Avoid complaining about what’s out of stock

Floor workers typically know what’s available and what isn't. With demand so high, they don’t always know when the next shipments will arrive, but food shipments are still going out across the country in spite of the circumstances. Eggs, bread and other basics may be out of stock for extended periods of time, so do your shopping with alternatives in mind.

8. Keep calm and buy supplies in normal quantities

Nearly every employee echoed the same sentiment: Stop panic buying. Grocery shopping is not “business as usual” for anyone involved right now, but purchasing supplies in normal, weekly quantities will ensure food is available for all who need it and reduce stress for both shoppers and employees.

9. Show your appreciation with kind words

Ask your local store manager which employees can accept tips, but know most cannot. The best way to show them you care is by respecting the rules of social distancing, practicing good hygiene and showing your appreciation by saying thank you.

If you enjoyed this story, you might also want to read about 5 charities you can donate a portion of your stimulus check to.

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