Sanitizing stores, re-stocking shelves, delivering goods big tasks for St. Lawrence County grocery workers
BY CHERYL SHUMWAY
North Country This Week
Grocery stores have been providing an essential need, keeping the flow of food coming to St. Lawrence County during the COVID-19 crisis.
Sanitizing stores and restocking food and supplies, after panicked shoppers emptied shelves, have kept store employees extra busy.“Save A Lot is in great shape right now, and we are 90-95% stocked again,” said owner Jeff Proulx. “Our team has rallied together to support each other and keep customers safe. We have strict sanitation policies.” He operates stores in Ogdensburg, Canton, Potsdam, Gouverneur and five other locations.
Bonnie Jacobs, in a Facebook post, said shopping at Save A Lot “blew me away. I saw three workers sanitizing every railing, door handle to every freezer and fridge. Even the cashier wiping down the conveyor belt, handles to the carts, credit card keypad and railing.”
“Walmart trucks are coming seven days a week to resupply our stores. It’s beginning to level off, and now we are well supplied again,” said Potsdam Walmart manager Jeff Bonno.
“We are hiring temporary workers every day who have been recently laid off in the community. Walmart has sped up the hiring process, so I can hire a person within a couple of hours now,” Bonno said.
Aldi stores in Massena, Ogdensburg and Potsdam are now almost back to normal with food and supplies. Massena’s Aldi was even stocked with 3 different kinds of toilet paper Tuesday.
Curbside pickup, delivery service, or both are offered at many local stores. but increasing demand since the pandemic has created longer wait times.
Price Chopper in Massena, Ogdensburg and Potsdam offer Instacart services for both curbside pickup and delivery. Massena manager Conrad Fassett said, “We have doubled our pickup orders recently.”
Instacart has had problems keeping up with the increased orders. When requesting pickup service recently for area Price Chopper stores, Instacart’s message was, “Sorry! No times are available.” For delivery orders, time slots were available, but not until three or four days.
Massena and Ogdensburg Aldi stores offer Instacart delivery, but not pickup services. Aldi Instacart delivery orders also had a delay of three or four days.
Some Instacart workers went on strike earlier this week, demanding hazard pay, paid sick leave and access to disinfectant, the New York Times reported. More details are at https://nyti.ms/2X4sfmu.
Walmart does not have delivery, but it has pickup services in their Massena and Potsdam stores. Walmart has its own delivery service, not operated by Instacart, but also has problems meeting greater demand. “Walmart has a lot of people now using pick-up. If time slots for pick-up are filled, keep trying. We are opening more slots. Using the Walmart app, you can order up to seven days ahead,” said Bonno.
Many stores are reserving the first hour of each day to seniors and those with health issues, including Price Chopper, Walgreens, Save A Lot, Dollar General, Big Lots, and BJ’s.
Walmart reserves the hour before starting time on Tuesdays as senior (60+) shopping hour, with vision and pharmacy open also. Aldi has senior shopping on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Some stores have a temporary increase in pay for workers. For example, Walmart is giving a bonus of $300 for employees. Save A Lot is giving an increase of $2 per hour to full-time workers and $1 per hour for part-time workers for the next three weeks.
At Save A Lot, Proulx said, “The employee pay increase is “in appreciation for their serving the community and our company.”