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7 things grocery store employees in Toronto wish you knew

Over the past year, a lot of attention has been on grocery store workers who have been dubbed essential employees, frontline workers, and a number of other titles.

While spending time at the grocery store is a weekly activity for most people, there's still plenty of things that the average customer could do better.

Anonymous grocery store workers from Toronto told blogTO the things they wish people knew about their jobs, as well as a few suggestions for how you could make their lives easier.

1. If they didn't check in the back it's because they know it's not in the back

Much like how people will open the fridge over and over expecting to see something else, many customers think having an employee check in the back will magically make an item return to stock. 

In nearly all situations, if an employee tells you that there's nothing in the back without checking, it's because they already checked minutes ago for someone else, and not because they don't care. This situation is especially common during sales.

"If you're wondering why we don't have any more of that product that's on sale for a really good deal, it's because it's on sale for a really good deal," explained one grocery store worker.

2. Please don't just leave stuff you no longer want wherever

This is a common problem for all retail employees, but especially at grocery stores where food that's stored improperly could spoil.

Deciding halfway through your shopping trip that you no longer want that pacakage of chicken or carton of milk and then leaving it in a random aisle isn't only disrespectful, it's also dangerous.

If retracing your steps isn't an option, employees would much rather you hand the product to one of them over just dropping it on a shelf where it may stay unnoticed for some time.

3. Most sections start to clean up half an hour before closing

Everyone understands that sometimes life gets busy and shoppers are left with no choice but to show up at the last minute. However, if that's the case, then try to visit sections like the deli or fish counters first as those areas usually take the longest to clean up.

It can be frustrating when someone who has been shopping for the past 20 minutes waits until after the deli slicer has been cleaned and sanitized to suddenly request 500g of roast beef.

4. Don't mix and match stuff

Even if two fruits or vegetables cost the same price, don't mix and match them together because it messes up inventory. 

While throwing three different types of apples into one bag together may seem like a way of helping out the cashier who now only has to weigh one thing, it's actually causing more work for the produce team who will now have to manually adjust stock levels.

5. Please wash your reusable bags

During COVID, many grocery stores stopped the use of reusable bags altogether which was a relief to many cashiers.

"People go years without washing those things," explained a grocery store cashier. "Not only do they stink but some are even sticky and crusty."

Tossing your reusable bag into the wash, or scrubbing it by hand once a month is one of the easiest ways you can make life easier for a grocery store employee. Too many people leave their bags in their car or stuffed under the sink and then forget about them until it's time to shop again.

6. They'd rather you ask them to move instead of invading their personal space

Too many customers seem to forget that employees at grocery stores are real people. Next time a worker is standing in front of the can you want to grab off the shelf, kindly ask them to step aside instead of reaching into their personal space and brushing against them as if they're a poorly placed support beam.

Most employees don't mind the interruption and would prefer it over the awkward dance that occurs when someone tries to squeeze between them and the shelf.

7. Being called a hero feels condescending

Grocery store employees have not felt heroic during the pandemic, and constantly being told they are has worn thin on many of them.

"We don't want to be called a hero, we just want to be paid more and treated better," said another worker.

Several employees recounted how often people would tell them they're brave for working through a pandemic, and then would blatantly break rules put in place to protect both employees and customers.

If you really want to pay back grocery store workers, support iniatives that will help raise their salary, provide benefits, and offer sick days over just giving them a verbal pat on the back.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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