Grocery store worker: “I have a lot of anxiety”

Marielle Segarra Mar 24, 2020
A worker stocks groceries at a local supermarket on March 20 in Brooklyn, New York Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Grocery store worker: “I have a lot of anxiety”

Marielle Segarra Mar 24, 2020
A worker stocks groceries at a local supermarket on March 20 in Brooklyn, New York Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Most of us have been told to stay home, to socially distance. But there are many people who can’t do that because their jobs keep the rest of us going. Among them are grocery store clerks, who are currently working under very difficult conditions. 

A Wisconsin Walmart

“People are absolutely panicking,” said Brittney Legowski, who works about 40 hours a week in the grocery pickup department at a Walmart in Menomonie, Wisconsin. “Things are flying off the shelves. We’re extremely low on canned goods, baking supplies, all that sort of stuff.” 

Legowski, 21, is also a local leader with the retail workers advocacy group United for Respect. She said tensions are getting high at her store. One customer berated her coworker because he’d ordered toilet paper and there was none left. “And he refused to leave until a manager talked to him about it and she was screamed at to the point of tears.”

Legowski and her coworkers are panicking too. They’re worried about getting the virus. “I have a lot of anxiety about this, but at the same time, it’s at the point where a lot of us just can’t afford to be scared.”

A Tennessee Publix 

In the midst of a public health crisis, grocery store workers have become essential employees. In fact, several states have just made that status official. 

Ryan Lockwood, 24, works part-time as a cashier at a Publix supermarket in Cleveland, Tennessee. He never imagined he’d be in a situation like this. 

“I knew that retail work gets busy, especially around holidays, but something that I feel like I’m risking my health and the health of people around me to do, that wasn’t even a consideration,” he said. 

His wife, Aubrey has fibromyalgia. “Every time I go to work, I risk bringing the virus back home. And so that weighs on me,” he said. 

Lockwood said he’s trying to be careful. He’s been using hand sanitizer between every customer. But the way some customers are talking worries him; they complain that everyone’s freaking out for no good reason.

“And those customers are kind of disconcerting. Because you know that those customers aren’t doing the necessary washing of hands, social distancing, all of those things that are recommended precautions,” he said.

As afraid as he is, Lockwood has been going to work. He and Aubrey have bills to pay. 

Publix has announced that it will give employees paid sick leave if they get the virus, or symptoms of it, or are quarantined. Walmart will also give paid leave under certain circumstances. 

Walmart has also said it’s giving bonuses to store associates and trying to hire 150,000 workers to keep up with demand.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

Read More


As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.