Ottawa·Point of View

I'm a grocery store cashier, and I'm not doing so great right now

A 58-year-old grocery clerk opens up about the fear and frustration of working through a pandemic while others stay safe at home.

A 58-year-old grocery clerk opens up about the fear and frustration of working through a pandemic

A cashier at a grocery store wearing a mask.
A Plexiglas barrier helps protect a grocery store cashier in North Vancouver, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

CBC has agreed to withhold this woman's name because she fears losing her job for going public.

I'm a cashier at a grocery store in your neighbourhood. These have been extremely trying times for me and others.

Every day I come to work, there are new rules in place, like the limits on how much of each food customers can buy, and limits on toilet paper, because others have hoarded so much that there wasn't much left. 

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That makes some customers upset and angry, and somehow we're the ones they take it out on. There have been times I've gone home in tears.

A sign at an Ottawa grocery store explains some of the changes due to COVID-19. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Please let me tell you: I, too, am afraid and upset. My daughter and my two grandchildren, ages two and three, live with me. Every day, the stress of bringing home germs is so scary. I have to keep everyone away until I take yet another shower. 

All day, using hand sanitizer between every customer, my hands have become raw. My muscles ache from all the extra wiping down of our conveyor belts.

Slowly, we had the Plexiglas barrier put up, which gives us a feeling of security. Masks and gloves are available if we want them, but I can't wear the masks because I'm claustrophobic, and the gloves make my hands sweat, which just keeps bacteria in.

Many grocery stores have now placed limits on certain items to avoid empty shelves like these. (Richard Vogel/The Associated Press)

I'm 58 years old. We did have other cashiers who were older, but they all decided it's not safe for them. They said, "Well, hell, I'm not going to risk my life for a couple of shifts."

You get talking with the other cashiers and ask, why are we are doing this? Why are we risking our lives to get crapped on?

Yet the worst thing is knowing that others are safe at home, collecting their $2,000, while we get up, go to work, risk our lives and don't make nearly that much, even with the $2 per hour raise.  I'm supporting my whole household on my lousy 20 hours a week.

Do you have any idea how discouraged and disappointed we feel? 

People who discard used gloves and masks outside grocery stores in Ottawa can now face a fine. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Listen folks, who knows what's going to happen, or for how long this is going to go on? I just want to say, please be kind and patient with us cashiers. We're doing our best to make sure you have food to feed your families.

I would like to personally thank the customers who have given me Tim Hortons and McDonald's gift cards. You can't imagine how happy I felt receiving those generous gifts.

I actually had a lady today say to me, "Wow, you guys realize you're going to be in the history books? You'll be in the history books that when this horrific pandemic came, you were one of those cashiers that went to work and risked your life."

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