By Raquel Friedmann, BeaumontIngram Communications, Inc.
Standing in line for something you really want and make a run for it in the middle of November when the temperature is below freezing, isn’t often a happy adventure, is it? I have to admit the experience of sitting around in the cold to fulfill my grocery list and prepare food for my children while simultaneously wanting nothing more than to take off my coat, and shower, and return to my cozy home and warmth, in the morning doesn’t inspire many of us to consider the task of grocery shopping a fun task.
But is this simple journey into the store with your family something that is just as enjoyable for the employee running the check-out counter?
If you look around the country, you’ll see that too many people forget that we all have a clear responsibility to serve others, and many take this responsibility and attitude to a really high level — day in and day out, including when they are working at a grocery store checkout.
We know these checkout counter workers have hard jobs and long days, but here is what we don’t know: that they are risking their own safety and health because they are going above and beyond just waiting on people and following the rules to get the work done. In some ways, they are the unsung heroes of our society.
Tragically, in the last 20 years, we have seen thousands of grocery store workers get struck, jump over carts that are moving too fast, and knocked down by shoppers who were pulled out of their carts by other shoppers who were trying to run, not walk, to the front of the line. In a recent study conducted by three Yale University researchers, 84 percent of the nation’s 12 million cashiers answered “yes” to the question “Have you ever experienced being dragged by a shopper while getting the cart in line?” Similarly, in a recent study conducted by Yale’s Milton Friedman Institute, 1 in 3 cashiers said that they had been pushed by a shopper in a shopping cart.
The clear evidence is in the statistics: one third of grocery store workers injured themselves or received injuries while on the job. That’s 1 in 3.
This is hardly surprising when you realize that, despite the work they do to help keep our communities safe and healthy, grocery store workers get paid less, earn less than other supermarket employees, and their benefits don’t meet national standards for adequate compensation.
The irony is that, unlike many other industries where there are few restrictions on who can operate the checkout system, our current payment systems, such as cash, debit cards, and credit cards, have restrictions on who can operate the scanning device. When you load a debit card on the credit card reader, the entire payment process is read off a computer card. It’s simply impossible for a cashier to perform the equivalent task.
In order to utilize the same technology the growing number of check-out workers are using to join the boom in e-commerce, a federal law must be passed by Congress to prohibit cash and debit cards from processing payments for groceries unless the cashier or checkout clerk can safely maneuver the checkout machines.
Since cash, debit, and credit card machines clearly can’t be operated by a checkout counter worker without making a great deal of errors, it’s time to pass this legislation and ensure that there is no risk of people being injured because they are failing to use common sense and common decency.
In most industries, the law protects employees from bodily harm while doing their jobs. This is long overdue for a workforce that puts their lives on the line every day to serve you and me.
You’d be hard pressed to find a group of people who are more loyal to their country than America’s grocery store workers. Not everyone may agree with what they do every day for your neighborhood grocery store, but they are there for us. They are there when we are hungry, when we are not, and they are there for our kids too, making sure they have enough to eat every day. No doubt it’s a significant sacrifice. But without a doubt, it is also a sacrifice we can make for ourselves by helping them stand up to the people who want to use them as pawns on the board game game of shopping.
Raquel Friedmann, Founder and CEO of Comfy Place, is a world class dreamer. She is a winner of the 2016 Lifestyle Leadership Award from The Muse and the recipient of a 2017 Sustainable Business Award from McAllister Companies, both recognizing her corporate leadership as well as embracing the concepts of the balance between doing well and doing good. She is also a certified Kaleidoscope Gender Protocol Trainer and Certified Talent Culture Researcher. Raquel is a strong proponent of science and math for career development,