Essential workers risk lives for our benefit: food service employees (2 of 3)

Senior David Webber works at Trader Joe’s and at Amy’s Ice Cream and Senior Jake Wills works at H-E-B. Customer and food service employees are essential to maintaining some sense of normal life and helping to keep us supplied.

Getting groceries and food has always been an essential part of our lives, now more than ever. Because of this, food service employees continue to go to work to ensure the population gets the food needed. Senior Jake Wills works at H-E-B, and senior David Webber works at Trader Joe’s and Amy’s Ice Creams. Although they do not work directly with COVID-19, they are just as essential in maintaining normal day-to-day operations. 

“I thought as a 17-year-old, I can’t contribute too much,” David said. “But one of the most important things right now are the groceries and the grocery stores that remain open to the public, so I thought that that would be the best way to go about and make money with all the time I have.”

This is a very uncertain time and unique situation, and as a result, people have started panic buying and hoarding, leading to a completely different environment in the stores. 

“It’s just a lot busier than it usually is,” Jake said. “And everyone’s wearing masks and stuff. There’s a bunch of safety precautions that we have to follow. Customers get super confused and annoyed because they don’t really know how to follow the rules, they just don’t really understand it. We just have to stay firm because usually we don’t have to tell any of the customers what to do, they just do their thing and we do ours. But now we have to tell every single customer that they have to stand back. It’s kind of challenging to tell them every single time.”


There are new safety guidelines in place that customers are required to follow to ensure their safety and others’.

“When I’m checking a customer out, they have to stand at the very end of the [conveyor belt],” Jake said. “They can’t step up to pay or anything until everything they’ve got in their cart is bagged, but they have to be six feet away from everything at all times. There’s usually a line outside because you can only have a certain amount of customers in the store. All the workers have to wear masks, a lot of us wear gloves too. We have a glass [boundary] in front of us and then a glass [boundary] all the way past the bagging [area]. So if they’re gonna pay with cash, they have to put their money under the glass, they can’t just hand it to us.”

Along with the new safety precautions the stores have enforced, customers have been trying to protect themselves by hoarding the supplies they deem necessary.

“The biggest thing is that people have been stocking up on things, even though we’re not low on products, so I think that’s like a weird misconception,” David said. “We have the same amount of stock that we did during the regular part of the year.”

In this strange time, some customers have even tried to take advantage of the chaotic situation.

“Some [customers] are super appreciative, but then some of them are kind of rude, I guess since it’s such a crazy time,” Jake said. “Like [during] my last shift, someone tried to steal money from my register, like trick me. Because there’s so many people and everyone’s so stressed, it was a perfect time for him to come and try to do that. He bought one banana, and then he gave me 101 dollars and just said to give him 100 back [in change] because he paid with a bunch of small change. So then I gave him 100 bucks, and he did like a magic trick with the hundred and turned it into a 20 somehow, and he was like, ‘You only gave me 20, I need 80 more.’ So then I had to get the manager. It was super stressful.”


While some customers have made the situation more difficult, others have tried to brighten it.

“We had two people [come] to Trader Joe’s in those blowup dinosaur suits,” David said. “That was kind of a humorous way to stay safe because it’s basically a hazmat suit, but it’s practical and a way to [bring] happiness.”

We are encouraged to follow the social distancing guidelines as much as we can to keep each other safe.

“Do the best you can to avoid catching [COVID-19] or giving it to someone else [by social distancing],” David said. “I might not be the one that will get sick but I have to watch out for those, like the customers and other [people] that I might come in contact with.”

Despite the severity of the current situation, David emphasizes the importance of remaining hopeful and spreading positivity.

“To be honest, the majority of the people I see in [Trader Joe’s and Amy’s] are relatively happy customers, which is awesome, and the employees are always really optimistic about everything,” David said. “It’s nice to be as happy as we can, even though it’s a bizarre time.”