Fear and loathing at your local Kroger

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

Never in the past six years of working for Kroger has my faith in humanity ever faltered like it has over the past five months. The carelessness of shoppers since the pandemic hit keeps on showing me how and why the United States will make the recovery period a year — if not several years — long affair.

The first signs of trouble came when stores faced shortages. Meat, hand sanitizer and (for a brief period) milk became scarce. Workers hired to scan bar codes were increasingly demanded to enforce company-mandated rations. 

Granted, enforcing a limit of three cases of uncooked chicken or one mega pack of toilet paper per person is not an unreasonable ask for cashiers and other staff. Every shopper needs these items, and the store needs to ensure every shopper has a fair chance to buy what they need. 

And for the most part, people followed without issue. But not everybody was so civil.

Everyone is forced into the same pandemic and its realities, but a particular segment of people views every ration and mask order and lockdown as a personal attack against them and their unspecified “freedoms.” I have interacted with members of this segment many times, but no encounter has been quite like the time I enforced a ration before Memorial Day.

While every other customer was able to comply with the request to not buy more than three of the same kind of meat, this shopper loaded up their cart with a mountain of ribs. I approached them, told them about the limit and proceeded to get yelled at and grabbed for the audacity to ask someone not to hoard meat in a meat shortage. 

Once management came over, he claimed my supervisor and I were gestapo officers, yelled to the heavens that he would never shop at Kroger again and waddled out of the store without a single item in hand.

I am almost certain I saw him buying corn the following week.

So what? Who is this other than one unruly customer? Who is he other than a lone freak who probably calls the cops if someone parks too close to their truck? To be concise, he is the loud symptom of a national problem. 

A large group of people are confronted with unfamiliar and bizarre orders to adjust their actions and habits to combat an invisible threat. And unless you know someone affected by the disease, there can be some (unreasonable) skepticism as to whether COVID-19 is one big global bit. 

But rather than looking into the question and realizing there is a very real virus killing their neighbors, this segment of the population does whatever they can to justify not wearing a piece of cloth for 30 minutes while they buy eggs. Their responsibility to public health ends at their discomfort, even if being comfortable comes with a $500 fine. 

I have given up all hope of a timely recovery. I was not surprised when cases spiked as lockdowns ended. To the people who could afford to stay home this whole time, I envy the optimism you had for a quick recovery. 

If you were out in public every day, you never would have convinced yourself the pandemic would be over so soon. Since wearing a mask and following simple precautions is too uncomfortable for so many people, we will all suffer COVID’s wrath.