Retail. All of us have either been in a position where working a retail job was the only option we had or chose retail as a fun first or second job. I worked in retail for all of my college career. It was fun, chaotic and very, very stressful. But, personally, I loved working in retail. I loved meeting different customers and doing what I could to make their day bright. Overall, the good outweighed the bad and it was more fun for me than all the downsides that you face with the job—especially because it was a clothing store, and who doesn’t love clothes?

Costco and the Pandemic

When the pandemic hit, I was still employed at my retail job. But with the virus slowly dominating my county, the store I worked at shut down. Due to the way they handled the pandemic and their employees, I turned in my letter of resignation a few months after lockdown. But being someone who was once passionate about working in retail and examining the pros and cons of the job, I wanted to see how stores around my area and my state (California) are handling the pandemic before and after the holidays.

Before the holidays, it seemed as though big retail stores really had their stuff together. Stores like Costco, Walmart, and Target all had sanitization stations, plastic or glass shields were put in place between all of the customers and the cashiers, markers were put on the ground to keep a safe distance away from other people, and everyone was required to wear a face mask. This really set stores up for success in order to stay open during the pandemic. 

Costco was a store that was most impressive. I remember in the very beginning of the pandemic—you know, when there was no toilet paper in sight—Costco was on the news with their long lines that would stretch around the entire building. But the long lines were because Costco was doing what they could to reduce the spread of the virus and to keep their customers, and employees, safe. There was a limit of 200 people allowed in the warehouse at all times. Once someone left, another would go in. And that continued on for the duration of lockdown.

How Walmart Handled 2020

Costco was not the only store that had long lines and a limit to people entering the store. Walmart had a limit of 200 people as well. At the beginning of the pandemic, a fire started, and it seemed like Walmart’s butt was about to roast. So, they made sure to set up cart sanitization stations, hand sanitization stations, and plastic to protect their employees and customers. Alongside that, they had stickers on the grounds directing you through the aisles and keeping you six feet away from other people. But over the course of the pandemic, the fire started to fizzle out. And by fizzle out, I mean die a horrific death. 

The holidays came around faster than anyone could imagine. One second it was March and then Halloween was suddenly a thing. With the holidays, stores like Walmart lost their way in terms of keeping things organized and clean. The store stopped making sure sanitizers were full and ready to use, they didn’t have any stickers on the floor, they even let as many people in the store as they would on a normal holiday without a pandemic. Things really took a turn for the worse.

Below the Surface at Forever 21

Along with Walmart, famous and affordable clothing store Forever 21 took a turn for the worse, but with an entirely new problem according to a friend of mine who had worked with Forever 21 for years. Although they had stations set up and kept up with keeping their store as clean as they could, the employees got the worse end of the stick. All employees were required to do all the basic things they needed to during the pandemic, like wear masks and gloves and make sure everything is sanitized. They even provided customers with masks who came in without one and made sure that everyone wore one at all times.

If a sales associate of Forever 21 ends up getting sick, they can request time off and sick pay. But the store doesn’t treat its managers the same way. If a manager ends up sick with COVID-19, they are still required to come into work. They do not stop coming into work until all of the managers are tested positive. And if they do tell other managers that someone has tested positive, they are told to keep it on the downlow. If they choose not to come in, because hello…having COVID and working is like the opposite of what we should be doing as a country, they don’t get any sick pay or paid leave.

Alongside that mess, the company still sets ridiculously high sales goals for a store that is supposed to be in the middle of a pandemic. For instance, if the stores regular sales goal was to make $4,000 a day and have 10 people sign up for a credit card, the store would still have to make $4,000 and 10 credit card sales despite the pandemic. And if sales goals are not met, the location of the store is threatened to shut down, meaning a large handful of people lose their job.

The biggest issue that these stores are facing is that no one is really jumping out of bed to run into a store that has been COVID compromised. However, that doesn’t stop the company from putting high pressure on these stores despite an increase in online sales even after the holidays. This disregard for their employees, and for the people within the state, puts everyone at risk for an increase in cases for the virus. Despite the location or the state or the country of the store, there still needs to be a sense of humanity within a company. It isn’t all about the money, especially now. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we work better together, as a collective people. The only way we get through it is together and the only way to do that is to stop treating people like they are just a means to an end.

What are your thoughts on how different retail businesses have handled the pandemic? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.