It's not all doom and gloom working in retail during the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: John Cameron

You’ve probably heard the horror stories about working in retail during this ongoing pandemic by now. Stories of abusive customers, empty shelves and people fighting over everyday essentials.

As a key worker, I can say with upmost certainty that all of this is absolutely true. Although retail work isn’t my career – it was supposed to be an easy pay cheque to cover tuition fees and fuel a student’s diet of pasta and two-for-one shots – it’s not all doom and gloom though. Times of great turmoil tend to bring out the best and the worst in people.

It’s important that we celebrate the good as much as we condemn the bad.

The initial weeks of the outbreak – where customers were panic buying toilet paper and stripping the shop of food – were particularly daunting. I couldn’t help but think that it was more than I had bargained for.

But the way the rest of the team noticed my struggle, going above and beyond to keep me from sinking was nothing short of inspiring. The horrible situation brought the team closer together than ever before.

We became a work family who genuinely cared about pulling each other through this ordeal. That is why, when I eventually move on to the glamourous life of a full-time journalist, this period will be the one I look back on with the fondest memories.

The kindness shown by my work family also extended into the community itself. After a heated exchange with a customer over social distancing guidelines, I took an early break and stood outside the store to get some fresh air and cool off. An elderly customer, who I don’t recall ever meeting before, handed me a coffee she had bought from our life-saving Costa machine and said, “The rest of us appreciate all your hard work.”

It isn’t just generosity towards us staff members that has made work bearable, but the way that members of the community supported each other. My store is located in a large area that is home to many elderly residents, the most vulnerable of which were advised not to leave their homes.

In a response to this, there have been countless instances of customers buying necessities such as bread, milk and the occasional bottle of gin to make care packages for their high-risk neighbours. Witnessing this on a daily basis made going the extra mile far easier, because if they can do their bit to help, then why can’t I?

Mostly, though, it’s the little things. The small acts of kindness that make every long shift, every disappointingly small delivery and dealing with every disgruntled customer a little more worthwhile.

This dire situation, While undoubtedly hard, has been incredibly rewarding

If you take anything away from reading this, sure, there’s been a lot of blood, sweat and choice words. But the feeling that you’re contributing to something bigger and helping your community through dark times, is a feeling that you shouldn’t take for granted.