'Totally different atmosphere:' Grocery store employees speak out as virus cases spike

It’s a tough job and grocery store workers are feeling it now more than ever with crowded stores, holiday stress, and coronavirus cases spiking. On top of that, some workers say customers have done a 180 since the pandemic began.

“A totally different atmosphere,” said Jane St. Louis, who works at the Safeway in Damascus.

St. Louis, who has worked for Safeway for 28 years, says at the start of the pandemic she developed anxiety she never had before. But back then, it was the customers who made going to work a little easier.

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“They were very friendly, thanking us for being there helping them out, thanking us for being open,” she said.

She says now that gratitude is rare and people are more careless and impatient as they shop.

“Customers not saying, ‘Excuse me,’ when they're passing you by,” St. Louis said.

She said people often lean over workers restocking to grab items they need of shelves.

“That didn’t happen at all the first, say March through June,” said St. Louis. “I think people have gotten a little more relaxed.”

It’s not something unique to her store, Montgomery County or the D.C. region.

A grocery worker in the Detroit area is possibly even more fed up with what he's experienced lately with people.

“Running up to you and shouting product names. Salt! Salt! My name's not 'salt,'” the man named Eric told FOX2 Detroit. “‘Good morning’ or ‘excuse me’ would be a nice way to approach me. I deserve the same respect that you would want. I could be your brother, your son, your nephew.”

He said he's grateful to have a job, but it's stressful to be around hundreds of people every shift.

“Every day is like a bad game of dice. Do I have COVID now? Do I have it now?” he said. “Every day I go home, am I going to give it to my family?”

For some, like St. Louis, quitting and losing health insurance is not an option. She says simple things like taking the time to say ‘excuse me’ or ‘thank you’ go a long way to make the shopping experience more positivity for everyone.

“I think people are just trying to get in and out and not thinking about what they're doing,” St. Louis said.