Some of the tens of millions of essential workers in the United States risking their lives each day are a couple of students in our community. Fifth Former Trent Davis has been working at Acme in Narberth since the week of April 19, 2020. As a cashier, Davis interacts with many people in close proximity each day he works: five days a week, some weekday nights.
Many workers are unable to work due to compromised health or a need to reside elsewhere. In response, essential businesses such as Acme grocery stores have increased the employment of part-time and newer workers.
“Acme’s doing like a mass hiring, so they’re trying to hire a bunch of people. They are trying to offset the number of people that are going home because of the pandemic because there are people that can’t work because of this. People who are of high-risk don’t come to work and they have to start hiring more people,” Davis said.
The store environment presents another significant change. Davis describes having fewer customers than usual. Shoppers also come at more distinct times.
“There’s a lot of people in the mornings now trying to get like the first shipment of stuff, and you see a lot of people like coming later just to try to like beat the crowds,” Davis said.
Despite the danger of working, Davis is protected by plexiglass surrounding the cashiers’ workspace and gloves, which Acme provides. Additionally, the store provides workers with face masks, but many workers bring their own masks.
I have to get a temperature check… anytime I come into work. Everything has to be wiped down like every hour.Trent Davis ’21
Davis said, “ [Acme] set up like plexiglass to separate us from the customers. We have to handle everything with gloves, and we have to wear face masks at all times. They give you a mask if you need one, but I just bring one from home. That’s what most people do. The meat workers and the people working with the dairy wear a face shield as well.”
Before he starts his shift, Davis is required to take some precautions.
“I have to get a temperature check… anytime I come into work. Everything has to be wiped down like every hour. So it’s definitely a lot more cautious than it usually is, but it’s not awful,” Davis said.
Customers have likewise guarded themselves.
“At Acme, you’re required to come in with the mask,” Davis continued, “Now, we have someone that stands outside of the door and checks that, but a lot of shoppers bring their own gloves to wipe down the carts.”
My parents are concerned, but my parents are doctors too so they’re going into workTrent davis ’21
As for the availability of products, Davis expressed that there has not yet been a break in the restocking cycle. However, some products are bought out moments after they are available.
He said, “We get restocks like every Sunday. Everything has been coming in, but a lot of stuff gets sold on the first day. So the hand sanitizer is usually gone by the first day. We haven’t really run that low on supplies not since like when I first started working there.”
Additionally, the prices of some items have increased.
“I know that there’s a markup on eggs, a markup on toilet paper, and a markup on the few other products, but overall it’s been pretty good,” Davis said.
Considering the circumstances, Acme is paying him two dollars more than he would regularly receive per hour as an appreciation pay. Still, Davis’s parents are worried about him getting coronavirus. His parents’ occupations as essential workers, however, mean that his reasoning for working resonates mutually.
“My parents are concerned, but my parents are doctors too so they’re going into work,” Davis said. “Obviously they are concerned about me going out and interacting with people that may have [the coronavirus] and bringing it home to them. But at the same time, they can just as easily do the same thing to me. So I think it’s an understanding relationship.”
Most rewarding to Davis is helping others and receiving customers’ appreciation.
“It’s really nice to see people come in and then thank you for working,” Davis said. “It’s surprising how much of that actually happens. It’s a lot more than I thought it was going to be. That’s nice.”