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Empty shelves inside a Ralph's in Pasadena. (Evan Symon for California Globe)

Grocery Stores Across California Begin Mass Hirings In Response to Panic Stricken Shoppers

Grocery delivery and pick-up companies also see rise in job openings

By Evan Symon, March 16, 2020 2:24 pm

‘We just didn’t have the manpower to deal with all the jackals here.’


Grocery stores and Supermarket chains have taken the unusual step of mass hiring new employees in response to the greater demand that has been brought on by panic over the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic.

Food store hiring increases across the state

In Southern California, chains such as Ralph’s, Vons, and Costco have been adding more and more job openings since the weekend. Meanwhile, in Northern California, Safeway and Raley’s added a similar number of postings, with Safeway alone adding nearly 2,000 jobs in California alone. While most of the positions of all these new jobs are temporary, they are offering a respite for many directly affected by the panic.

“The two big reasons we’ve seen have been ‘boredom’ and ‘other work not happening during the coronavirus'”, explained Paul, who has been screening candidates at a Ralph’s in Los Angeles. “People want to work one way or another and we desperately need it. The shelves are empty partially because we can’t get things re shelved fast enough. And we have no food supply issues, we just need to meet demand, so truck drivers are also being sought in some places.”

Thanks to the panic buying, food stores also want more help for a more personal reason: to have the elderly and people more at risk better food options.

“A lot of older customers didn’t make it out here in time,” said Courtney, a Safeway worker who didn’t want her location disclosed. “I had a later shift, and I saw many picking over what little we did have left. I did a sweep through and found many boxes of oatmeal or Ensure tucked away by other shoppers not wanting it, and I gathered all of these more ‘popular’ things to the front of the store and they were amazingly grateful.”

“We shouldn’t have to do things like that. We should have what we can bring out out for everyone to buy. But we just didn’t have the manpower to deal with all the jackals here.”

“You know, I saw people taking things out of other people’s carts when they were turned away? It’s not a food riot, but it makes you think a lot less of the human race.”

Food delivery and personal shopping services also add more new job openings

Many chains, such as Raley’s, and online delivery and shopping companies, such as Instacart, are also hiring many more workers to shop for customers and deliver food for them during the pandemic.

“We’ve been slammed,” said Instacart employee Douglas Pugh. “Everyone is afraid and no one seems to want to leave their house. Just in the past couple of days I’ve delivered to families, elderly people, disabled people, and single people. It doesn’t matter their situation, they want to be safe and they don’t want to spread it.”

“It’s weird. All I’ve seen on TV and online is that people are panicking and don’t know what to do, but from what I’ve seen at homes and at stores, people seem to get what the situation is and decided without agreeing to¬† stay home, keep clean, and generally wait out the thing. It’s eerie, but also kinda makes you proud that most people are doing the right thing in this kind of situation.”

“And so many people are doing it, that we’re hiring people to help keep many others safe. I might by hyping it up, but that’s the way I’ve been seeing it.”

Still, even though food supply lines and food production is relatively normal, stores themselves are facing more and more people.

“In the last couple days, we’ve had an average of 1,300 people waiting out when we open,” said Woodland Hills Costco warehouse manager Bob Holden in an interview with NBC, adding that the average is usually 250 to 300 people. “We plan to hire 40 more people here. It’s absolutely necessary for the volume of business we do we need a certain number of employees with the volume we need certain number to take care of it.”

“Our current employees and the new hires are the real heroes,” added Paul from Ralph’s. “They’re risking contraction despite using the highest precautions.”
The number of people staying home is expected to increase with more businesses temporarily shutting down, including Bar, Brew Pub, and Winery workers due to an order from Governor Newsom on Sunday.
3,487 cases of COVID-19 coronavirus have been reported in the United States as of March 16th, with 68 deaths according to the Center for Disease Control.
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Evan Symon
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