“I never thought I’d be considered an essential worker”

A dollar store supervisor on what it’s like in the cleaner aisle.

May 20, 2020 | | Pandemic Journals

Karly Richardson has learned all the new protocols and policies.

Karly Richardson (pictured with boyfriend Noah Woodland) works six days a week in an Orangeville dollar store.

By Karly Richardson

I started my job at Dollarama in Orangeville last year. Since the pandemic was announced I’ve been promoted to full time and made a supervisor. Once the non-essential businesses closed, a lot of my co-workers left. Some of them live with elderly relatives or they needed to be home with their children. I’m happy for the work. My boyfriend Noah and I just bought a house in Orangeville.

I’ve had to learn all the new protocols and policies. At first I worked seven days a week. Now I get one day off a week. I didn’t know if I could handle it, but I think I’m doing pretty well.

We have a store capacity of 18 and we try to have only two people in an aisle at a time. There’s always a lineup. We’re supposed to clean the carts, doors and baskets every 15 minutes. But we clean the doors after every customer. We only have two cashiers open at a time, far apart. They clean the till after every customer. We’re supplied with masks and gloves and it’s our choice whether to wear them. The cashiers use them. If I’m restocking and carrying boxes from the back I prefer not to wear a mask because I find it hard to breathe.

I never thought I’d be considered an essential worker. At first I was shocked we were open. But we do sell cleaners, food and other essentials. The aisle I’m in charge of is the cleaning aisle, so it’s really busy. I keep it full and nice – the products move really fast – it’s crazy. When soap or wipes sell out, we need to move products around to fill the bare shelves. A skid of products is delivered every weekday, but we don’t know ahead of time what’s on it. So when people ask me when we’re getting more of an item, I really can’t tell them.

People are freaking out a bit. Customers will demand that we ask other customers to leave if they see them coughing or touching items – but we can’t do that. It can be hard to manage the lineup outside. Some people who arrive early get angry that we reserve the first hour of shopping for seniors and the disabled. People can get really upset about stuff being sold out. We’re out of some craft supplies and painting canvases. I understand people are getting sick of being at home. It’s stressful, but I want people to know we’re trying. Honestly, I’ve cried. I’ve run to the back and sat there.

But there are amazing people who say, “I’m so thankful you’re open and here.” I had to hop on cash one day and a nice lady bought us each a $10 gift card as a thank you. That’s the biggest gesture we’ve had. It made my day.

On my day off I stay home and isolate. I can’t visit my mom because she lives with my grandmother and we don’t want to take that risk. I can’t visit my sister because she’s pregnant. My boyfriend is a tow-truck driver, but that business has slowed down, so he has picked up pizza delivery too. We don’t have the same day off and we work opposite hours.

Honestly, I’m at the point where I dream of going on holiday.

As told to Tralee Pearce. This interview was condensed and edited.

About the Author More by Karly Richardson

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