From Grocery Workers to You: A Panic Buying Conversation

empty grocery store shelves

Karla Gomez

Empty shelves at local NC stores due to the coronavirus

Karla Gomez, Staff Writer

North Carolinians might already be aware of the many item shortages around the state, such as food and paper items, but there’s more to the shortage than one might think. 

In the most recent news, many work places in Wake County have dealt with the difficult decision of letting their workforce stay home indefinitely or dismiss them from their job. Grocery stores are one of the few businesses that are considered essential throughout this pandemic. 

Grocery stores have either been empty or packed to the maximum at peak times, and even though places like Walmart and Amazon have their own grocery delivery service, many people still prefer to go in person to obtain their daily groceries. 

The pandemic has not only made it harder for people to obtain the things they want because they may be out of stock, but it has also put a lot of strain on grocery workers’ daily work according to some employees. 

Alexandra Vasilko is a front-end grocery store worker who interacts with the customers face-to-face on a daily basis. 

“I am a cashier and self checkout host. The corona virus has caused more people to come in, and it’s making it difficult to keep stock out on the shelves. The store is now closing overnight, normally opened 24 hours,” said Vasilko.

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way she sees shoppers come into the store. 

“My advice to people is to stay calm and to keep in mind that it is going to take some time to completely restock the store, so please be patient and bare with us. I want people to know that it’s not an easy job to begin with, and this situation is only making it harder. We are people, too, and deserve to be treated as such,” Vasilko said. 

As of recently, many grocery stores have implemented a “one-item-only” policy that prevents people from buying large quantities of a certain item, such as eggs, milk and toilet paper. Some stores have even gone so far as to have employees tend certain areas of the store.

Alex Paima is a back-end worker from a store’s meat department and is also dealing with the “panic buy” situation. 

“I work in the meat department. My job mainly consists of making sure the shelves are organized and stocked. The way the virus has affected me personally would be putting a job I took somewhere else on hold, forcing me to continue [to work at the grocery store],” said Paima.

In addition to sharing his own personal experience, Paima shares an insight on how quickly the stock flies off the shelves.

Empty grocery store shelves
Karla Gomez
Toiletry aisle at local NC stores around mid March.

“Due to the virus, I walk into work at 4 in the morning to an empty wall. Everything mostly disappears around 10 in the morning after filling the wall full of chicken, pork and meat. After that, the people I work with and myself get put into different areas to assist,” said Paima. 

What people might not take into consideration, is that the workers also need a chance to buy groceries too.

“To customers coming into the store: please don’t panic and try to take everything for yourselves. You are depriving others a chance to buy what they want, and not everybody can shop at the same time. At least please consider the grocery store workers who don’t get a chance to shop because customers buy everything before the associate can even take their lunch,” said Paima.

There have been several websites popping up that calculate how much of an item will last a family and with times rapidly changing, being aware of what you truly need is very important.