As you may know, (I’ve only mentioned it 4573020875908294 times) I am writing a book! It is titled Diary of a Barmaid and I’m not going to insult your intelligence by explaining what the book is about. As I am not currently working as a barmaid anymore, I thought I’d reshuffle things and give a bit of insight to my new job in a little Convenience Store Diary.
Very quick life update: I was working in a bar up until January, when I left to go travel Australia. I lived my best life for a bit and then came home to a big quarantine mess. I couldn’t get an easy bar job as I’d planned (all the pubs were shut lol), but luckily I managed to find a job to get me through this surreal time at a well known convenience store. It’s a 12 week contract and works out perfect for me as it does for the company. I’ve heard some bad supermarket stories over the past few weeks so thought I would document my own personal experience with things.
It’s 11th April. I have officially worked as a store assistant for 2 weeks, but it feels like longer. Time moves weird during a pandemic. My friends have had supermarket jobs over the past 8 or so years, but here I am getting my first shop job at the age of 24. When we were 16, we’d complain about the supermarket jobs, but now everything is different, and that change is called: The Covid-19 Pandemic.
There are many reasons this job is great during a pandemic, number one being: there aren’t many jobs going round at the moment, and gal’s gotta pay rent. It’s mad that in the past I would have to work 40 hours a week to make enough money to live off, but now 15 hours is getting me through: I have literally nothing to spend my money on other than rent and food. Lots of food. Another reason I am loving my new job is that it is a reason to leave the flat. This is extremely selfish, but I don’t care. At a time where people are allowed out the house only for a short walk, and to buy essentials, it is very nice to be in a different location and just work for 2-3 days a week. My boyfriend’s great, but it’s nice to not be in the same room as him 24/7 (we live in a studio flat, it’s intense).
Another selfish reason I like working in a shop is the praise. Everyone’s banging on about how great the supermarket workers are, endangering their lives working with the public. On average, I have had at least 2 customers per shift really thank me for working during this pandemic. Not just like “oh cheers btw”, but a truly heartfelt look deep in my eyes and say, “thank you for all you’re doing”. It’s really touching. Along with the ‘you’re helping feed the nation’ announcement on the store radio every half hour. It’s nice to feel appreciated.
Having said that, we’ve got the plastic shields, we’ve got gloves, I feel relatively safe on the tills, and in all honestly, the real danger is my dry ass cracking hands, from sheer over-washing and sanitising. I, OF COURSE, feel much safer than the NHS workers lacking in PPE, having covid patients cough in their mask-less faces… Of course our amazing NHS workers are the real heroes here, the ones that need the praise…. and pay increases (right Boris?), so I don’t let the praise and ‘thank you’s go to my head too much.
But let’s not get too political. Instead I’ll tell you that in my 2 weeks of shop work, I have served at least 5 customers in pyjamas. They just do not give a shit. And if I’m honest, I went into Waitrose last week with my PJs on. Now, these PJs in question aren’t a matching set; they don’t have a Christmassy pattern on, but they are not my best clothes by any means. These extremely old, baggy, comfy trackies should not be worn out the house. I have learnt that if you wear them in a Sainsburys local, no one bats an eyelid, but in Waitrose, even mid-pandemic you’ll get a good look up and down. One of those seriously judgemental, ‘what the hell is she wearing’ kind of looks.
So I am not one to judge. However one particular incident did stick out to me when an old lady came in in normal clothes with a bathrobe over the top, as some kind of water absorbent jacket. It was a look, the phrase ‘underwear as outerwear’ sprung to mind: is this the look of Summer 2020? I’m gonna go ahead and say, yeah probably.
It should be mentioned that I am working at one of the calmer stores during this pandemic. After attempting to visit Tesco and seeing the 40 minute queue round the entire car park, I ditched that idea. I then drove to Asda, still had to queue to get in, but not as bad. But then once inside it was absolute chaos. Trolleys everywhere, customers’ extended families patrolling the shop; very little social distancing. And to top it all off, there were no vegetables on the shelves other than peppers (the devil’s vegetable). I chatted with the check out girl, who told me that this was pretty chill, the middle of the day is when the madness really occurs. At that moment I realised how extremely thankful I am for my work place: people are respectful, the shelves are relatively stocked, and only 8-10 people are allowed in at one time (it’s only a small shop). Plus the customers tend to be of an older generation, and do not to cause much grief.
The biggest hoo-ha I’ve faced was finding an (unused) injection needle on the floor… Very random. Oh and one shopper telling me I wasn’t taking the pandemic seriously for not wearing a mask… behind the massive protective screen. I didn’t know how to respond, so was just like “errr yeah….” That didn’t help his annoyance so tried an “errr sorry…?” instead.
I have also been quite surprised by the number of shop lifters. One guy refusing to pay for items in his bag, and then telling my colleague to ‘fuck off’ when he was caught. The crook then stormed out the shop telling everyone in his sight to ‘fuck off’, as if he was offended that someone could possibly ask him to pay for his shopping. There was also the woman who scanned her items through on the self-check out, and then ran out the shop without paying… Not sure what the point of the scanning was, but hey ho.
But the most notable story of my two weeks was the man who came to the till with a pack of condoms, looking me straight in the eye as he handed them to me. It was so uncomfortable, and I really had to try hard not to laugh. You’d at least disguise them, right? Buy a few other bits as well… But he so confidently brought his condoms up, handing them to me as if to say, “that’s right, I’m getting some tonight.” My eyes watered as I tried not to laugh at the situation. Even after he’d gone, I struggled to keep my laughter in, scanning the items of the following customers. Yes, it’s true, I’m very childish.
Be safe, be seen.