Observations of a Cashier in the Covid-19 Pandemic

Cashier standing in a grocery aisle with arms folded

I usually share thoughts and information that comes from my creative life, but today, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, I am going to share some thoughts from another part of my life—my job as a cashier at a grocery store. People exhibit a vast range of responses to this time of uncertainty. I’ve made a lot of observations that you may find interesting.

People are scared

Most of the hoarding you’ve heard about stems from this. It’s a real fear. Something is out there that they can’t control. The one thing they can control is how prepared they feel. Having supplies like the infamous toilet paper gives them this sense of control. They aren’t so off track. I scoffed and never stocked up. It’s going to be a bad day in my house when we run out. I thought I’d be smart and ordered two bidets, one for each of my toilets. Amazon was out of stock and canceled the order. Menard’s did the same thing. The best thing is to prepare, reasonably, while not hoarding. The hoarding is what causes people to panic. They see that they may not get what they need and start to horde, themselves. It becomes a vicious cycle.

People are judgmental

Everyone seems to comment on how others shop. They don’t always know the stories behind what they are seeing. A woman came through my line. She had an exceptional circumstance. This tiny woman had three carts of food. Eight of everything; Eight Pizzas, eight shepherd’s pies, etc. We finally got through the order. One by one, she began to take the carts to her car, where she would unload them and then drive them to her destination.

“Someone must be having a party,” a customer sneered.

I don’t typically share information about customers with others, but in this case, I couldn’t help it. “She’s buying for a group home.”

Some customers are making purchases for their homes as well as elderly parents and relatives. Others regularly shop once a week and leave with a full cart because they have several kids. No one ever said anything until Covid-19 and the hoarding response. We need to be gentler with one another. I am diligent about enforcing the limits that our store has placed on in-demand items.  

People are generous

Since becoming a cashier, I’ve regularly witnessed kindness and generosity. I wondered if Covid-19 would change that, but it hasn’t. I will give you a few examples of the way people have shared with fellow shoppers—strangers.

· One woman purchased a gift card and instructed me to use it to help any shoppers who were short of money when paying for their groceries. It happens all the time that shoppers go over budget and must put something(s) back. That day they were able to have their whole order paid for without being embarrassed about having to take items off their order. The woman who provided this gave them groceries and dignity. And she did it anonymously.

· Several people have paid for the groceries of the person behind them.

· I’ve seen people pay for the order of the person ahead of them when the customer’s credit card was declined.

Cashiers are brave and scared of Covid-19

We’ve been told that it is very likely we will be exposed to and get the Covid-19 virus. Some people have quit, for a combination of factors such as lack of childcare and fear of the virus. Most of us come in, cover shifts, and pray we don’t get sick. We care about our fellow employees, our customers, and our company. We are willing to weather the storm. As we do, we hope that customers who feel they may have the virus stay home and that all customers practice good hygiene, such as handwashing and keeping a safe distance to minimize the danger that we all pose to one another right now.

Too many people aren’t taking Covid-19 seriously enough

Some scoff at protective measures, but if you have a loved one at home who is immunocompromised, they are essential. At the beginning of this, I was amazed at what was happening. It was lovely to see the sacrifices that people were willing to make to save the lives of our most vulnerable citizens. It was humbling and inspiring.

By en:Siouxsie Wiles, en:Toby Morris (cartoonist) – https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/14-03-2020/after-flatten-the-curve-we-must-now-stop-the-spread-heres-what-that-means/, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Now, less than two weeks later, I am hearing people say that the economy is more important than the lives of the elderly and the sick in our country. This concerns me. Yes, the economic shutdown can’t go on forever, but pulling out without careful planning would be a mistake. It would negate what we have gone through. Please continue to social distance and wash your hands!

Business owners are amazing

The sacrifices made by businesses are enormous. I grieve for the losses that they are experiencing. They have lost financially and have had to cut employees from their payrolls. There is a ripple effect from this that we will feel throughout all our nation. I have confidence that we will recover, though. But for now, it looks bleak. So please care for one another, care for yourself, and flatten the curve.

By Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris, CC BY-SA 4.0,

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

Have any questions or comments? I would love to hear from you! By commenting, you agree to the terms of my privacy policy.

4 comments on “Observations of a Cashier in the Covid-19 Pandemic

Good post. I enjoyed your reflections on this. It is frightening. To me, mostly because it’s not yet treatable and it’s so infectious. Sigh.

Hi Jacqui, Last night I went down the rabbit hole of reading about the flu of 1918. I am so thankful that we know more now than we did back then. The best thing we can do is lay low and wash our hands–a lot!

Fingers crossed that this will go through. The last five times I’ve tried to comment, I get a spam message…

I sometimes wish I had a blog when I worked retail. The things people do make for great stories. It is scary out there. Take care. I’m glad to hear that people haven’t been terrible to you. We’ve been hearing stories of bad behavior, and you don’t deserve that. Strange times indeed.

Hi Liz, I tracked your comments down in my SPAM folder. I don’t know why they are being sent there. This past week I did have a couple of bad customers. The first time it happened I was driven to tears. The second time I got my manager right away. I don’t know what’s wrong with people.

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