The population of retail and service workers is made up mostly of high school to university aged students, and while the COVID-19 pandemic has deemed them as essential workers, the verbal and even physical abuse against them has increased. The novel coronavirus has changed lives all over the world, including those in the service industry, who are doing their best to stay afloat amidst the overwhelming costs of a global pandemic. Not to mention that service workers are getting the brunt of the usual holidays stress. And while Christmas may be over, and a new year beginning, it is important to remember that service workers are simply doing as they are told.
Retail experience should be something on everyone’s resume. Whether it be in a grocery store, a fast food establishment, or a clothing store, the experience of providing a service is a defining position in the workforce. For Memorial University student Isabel Ojeda, “Working in retail taught me how little respect others have for people in blue-collared jobs.” This is certainly the case during the holidays when stressed customers demand for items that have been long sold out or overly popular. And with the pandemic, these demands have only increased. Customers often see younger employees as a safe place to take out their frustrations, regardless of if they can change policies or not. This has always been the case, but with the pandemic and all the policy changes that have come with it, agitated customers have become more aggressive.
“Some are pleasant customers, but others are dismissive and unappreciative, especially considering how most of my co-workers and I have worked through COVID all year long,” Says Jacob Totti, a full-time employee at a local grocery store. Totti has seen, firsthand, the increase in frustrations amongst customers during the pandemic. And despite the mask mandate in the province, it is a common sight to see people argue with retail employees about policies they have no control over. “Some customers just don’t understand that their demands can’t be met,” former waiter, Shawn Leery says. Service workers remember the most challenging parts of their jobs, as well as the essential life lessons that came from those experiences. “The most important thing I learned was the value of other people’s time. As a server, I was responsible for like 6 or 7 tables at once and they all want my attention,” Leery continues.
This is all to remind our readers to be patient with service workers. We are drowning in the same policy changes as you are, and as the holidays come to a close with many returns being made, remember to treat service workers with the same respect that you treat anyone else. We are working hard to accommodate the demands of the public during these incredibly unpredictable times, and the only way that is going to happen is if you are patient with us.
Happy Holidays, and have a wonderful New Year.