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Friday, March 27, 2020

Trader Joe's Confidential: Employee Worries the Company Isn't Taking Coronavirus Safety Seriously

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 9:19 AM

IK WORLD TRIP/FLICKRCC
  • IK World Trip/FlickrCC
Editor’s Note: As the coronavirus pandemic escalated into a national crisis, grocery stores have become unexpectedly risky places to work. A Texan Trader Joe’s employee, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, reached out our sister paper in San Antonio to offer perspective on what it's like to work during this crisis and voice concerns the company may not be taking adequate measures to protect employees.

Working at Trader Joe’s, long lines and big crowds have always been a reality, and we always handled it with a smile. But now, with a highly contagious — and sometimes deadly — virus spreading worldwide, what was once an everyday occurrence now poses high risk for employees.

Trader Joe’s works hard to project the image of a happy-go-lucky store that supplies its customers with exciting and interesting products. As part of its company culture, it adopted the Japanese concept of “Kaizen,” in which every employee — from a cashier to the CEO — works to continuously improve the company’s functions. In our store, we use it in our day-to-day work to better ourselves, our practices and our customers’ experiences.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the company has little regard for the safety and health of its loyal employees — and its customers too.

Right now, it feels like Kaizen has fallen by the wayside.

Gloves Off

Like many companies, Trader Joe’s put out a statement promising updated cleaning and hygiene practices to help combat the coronavirus. But no detailed updates or rules have been communicated in my store. If any internal statements were sent to management instructing store staff to do anything but clean a little more, we as lower ranking crew members haven't heard or seen them.

At my store, there's a lack of communication regarding procedural cleaning and few social distancing rules, and we have been discouraged from wearing protective gloves. For a while, I was under the impression that these experiences were exclusive to my specific Trader Joe’s, but posts on social media and a recent Buzzfeed News article suggest my experience isn't isolated — it may be occurring at most of our locations across the country.

While many companies have created mandatory cleaning and isolation protocols to help combat coronavirus transmission, to my knowledge no such protocols have been issued by the Trader Joe’s corporate office. We lack a unified voice of direction. Instead, each store is responsible for its own cleaning methods.

My store has increased cleaning, but not by much. During my shifts, I’ve been able to find time to quickly wipe down the register and card reader — and sometimes hit door handles with a sanitizer wipe — but not much else. We have received no extra supplies to accommodate the extra cleaning.

In reality, this is just a slightly bolstered version of our standard day-to-day cleaning, especially with how busy the store has been. Weeks ago, before the pandemic really took off in the U.S., our cleaning protocols were essentially the same as they are now.

From what I've seen in my position, Trader Joe’s has only weakly attempted to implement any social distancing rules. Although the stores are generally much smaller than typical grocery stores, until recently there was no limit to how many customers could come into Trader Joe's at any given time. There is no company-mandated exclusive time set aside for elderly and immunocompromised customers to shop, so they are at the mercy of timing and chance. Additionally, while we have been able to accommodate curbside pickups in small numbers upon request, the service has not been formally implemented at stores.

This weekend, management at my store introduced additional social distancing measures that included a limit to the number of people allowed inside, but a Reddit thread first posted on Friday indicates that the policies at my location weren't universal.

As far as self-protection goes, we have been told multiple times by management that we should not wear gloves, as it could "give customers a bad impression." Aside from employees' constant public interaction, this is especially concerning for us since we still accept and fill personal totes and bags with our customer’s groceries, raising the potential for exposure.

On Saturday, the company sent out a letter to clarify its position on gloves — namely, that there is no specific policy related to wearing them, and that anyone who wants to wear them can.

Yet the letter also states that the "usual approach" Trader Joe’s management follows is "talking with Crew Members about why gloves aren’t beneficial in keeping them safe and what message our use of gloves might send to our customers."

Hazards, But No Pay

While the Buzzfeed article didn’t spare H-E-B from criticism, the beloved Texan grocery chain has successfully implemented several companywide changes during this crisis to protect its employees and customers alike, including giving all hourly employees a temporary $2 raise.

Meanwhile, Trader Joe’s has only made trivial changes to its policies, and it's baiting employees with a bonus that's insufficient compensation for the level of risk we face.

On Sunday, March 15, the Trader Joe’s Union launched a petition for hazard pay for the company’s employees, which has received 19,642 signatures so far. In response, the company instead proposed a one-time bonus for workers that will be based on increased sales during the first month of the pandemic crisis. However, experts say the pandemic is in its early stages, so a one-time payment will not fairly compensate us for the continued risk we face.

Employees are also being misled by management into thinking the petition for hazard pay is a sign-up to join the union, which is simply not the case. Managers are speaking about it in a negative way, and some crew members have opted to not sign out of fear of retaliation.

In the spirit of Kaizen…

A Seattle store has already been shut down due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19, and reports are coming out that an employee has tested positive in New York as well.

We’re told to smile and keep a cheerful attitude while our concerns are ignored, but deep down, we’re scared of the way things are being run. And you should be too.

Trader Joe’s cannot afford to keep reacting to this crisis after each development. Our company’s policies have to change immediately to protect our workers and customers.

In company-wide emails, Trader Joe’s higher ups often write, "in the spirit of Kaizen..."

So, in the spirit of Kaizen, I ask that Trader Joe’s treat and protect its crew members and loyal customers as well as it’s made the public think it would.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ohio Beer Sales Were Up 38% in the Week Before Coronavirus Shutdown

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 1:37 PM

NOBLE BEAST FB
  • Noble Beast FB

The Buckeye State saw the coronavirus pandemic coming and took, for the most part, necessary steps to provide for each other's safety as Ohioans worked to flatten the curve.

We worked from home. We skipped unnecessary social functions. We called our parents and told them to do the same.

We washed our hands

We stocked up on groceries, in a responsible way, not like preppers.

And we bought all the beer. All of it. Or most all of it, anyway.

According to Nielsen, Ohio off-premise beer sales were up 38% for the week ending March 14 over that same period in 2019. Those numbers topped all other states, with only Pennsylvania (33%) and Michigan (36%) coming close.

And those numbers are likely to go up.

“I think we’ll see the biggest jumps for the week ending March 14th and the week after that, and then we will start to see some of those spikes soften a bit,” Nielsen's VP of Beverage Alcohol Practice told Brewbound. “A look into market by market will also be important. As cities and states enter a shelter-in-place phase, I think we can expect to see some spikes in sales for those markets, as consumers stock up and prepare to be at home for an unknown amount of time.”

“To me, this is an indication that beverage alcohol is important to consumers, but other consumer good categories are being prioritized, at least for now,” Kosmal said. “As more and more on premise locations close, I think we will continue to see off premise sales for Beer, Wine, and Spirits grow even more, and closing the gap with other consumer goods.”

It was, of course, not all good news on the beer front. Breweries have been shutdown and limited to takeout or delivery orders, and thousands have been laid off in the industry across the state. Be sure to grab a six pack or crowler, or three, from your favorite local shop this weekend.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

This Shit's No Joke: Waffle House Closes 418 Locations Due to Coronavirus, Including Some in Ohio

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 5:08 PM

FLICKR/RPAVICH
  • FLICKR/RPAVICH
Waffle House, whose penchant for remaining open even in cases of natural disaster is so consistent that FEMA uses its rare closures to determine the severity of such disasters, has announced that they will be temporarily closing 418 of their locations due to coronavirus, including several in the St. Louis area.

As odd as it sounds, the so-called "Waffle House Index" is a tool used by FEMA to measure just how badly a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado has affected the community where the restaurant is located.

Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate explained the line of thinking behind the index in a 2016 NPR interview:

"They are open most of the time. And that was the index. If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad. We call it red. If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow," he said. "If they're green, we're good, keep going. You haven't found the bad stuff yet."

Waffle House's Wednesday morning tweet announcing the closures started with a concerning hashtag, then: #WaffleHouseIndexRed.
In other words, if you absolutely must get your Cheesesteak Melt Hashbrown Bowl fix, you have options. But considering the Waffle House Index is currently flashing red, you might also consider taking caution — and taking this COVID-19 stuff very seriously.

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Ushabu Offering Japanese-Style Fried Chicken Starting Tomorrow

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 1:09 PM

Matt Spinner, like most other chefs in town, is trying just about anything he can to get Ushabu through this rough period, and starting tomorrow that means Japanese-style fried chicken, which is usually something he offers only around the holidays.

The details:

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Condado Tacos Offering $10 'Bud Boxes' for Carry-Out

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 10:12 AM

COURTESY CONDADO
  • Courtesy Condado
Condado Tacos, a casual Mexican chain well-known for its build-your-own tacos and vibrant decor, is now offering a special combo.

The restaurant recently announced its $10 Bud Box, which comes with your choice of two tacos from their taco suggestions menu, and either a half-sized queso blanco or traditional guacamole with chips.

The restaurant is offering express curbside pick-up (with minimal contact) later this week. Order online and call the restaurant once you've arrived. They also have six-packs of Modelo Especial and Corona Extra available for carry-out.

"The Bud Box is a great option for roommates, couples or individuals to enjoy a taco night at home. Get the rest of the buds involved and plan a taco party over video," says a press release from Condado.

In addition to Bud Boxes, Condado is also putting together larger build-your-own taco boxes. Get 30 individually wrapped tacos of your choosing or the ingredients to build 30 of your own tacos at home for $99.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Cleveland Virtual Tip Jar Created to Help Local Service Industry Workers During COVID-19 Shutdown

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 10:56 AM

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The restaurant industry was on the front wave of the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, with cutbacks, closures and layoffs for our friends and family in the service industry coming fast and furious since last week.

One of the many creative ways people have come up with to help is the idea of a virtual tip jar, where you can tip a service industry worker every time you have a takeout meal or drink at home, just like you'd do at the bar or restaurant.

Saucy Brew Works, the local brewery and pizza joint, picked up on the idea and have now created the Cleveland Virtual Tip Jar.

After heading to Clevelandtips.com (do bookmark the site), you'll get randomly paired with a service worker that has put themselves in the database. So far, there are close to 40 individuals across 12 local restaurants who have added their names on to the site for tips. You can either donate to the employee you were randomly paired with or look down the list and choose someone from your favorite bar or restaurant.

The owners of Saucy Brew Works have pledged to match the first $5,000 of tips given to their employees.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Here Are the Cleveland Grocery Stores With Special Hours Set Aside for Seniors to Shop

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 12:39 PM

COURTESY: CRE8IVE WORKS
  • Courtesy: Cre8ive Works

Many retailers and grocery stores are setting aside select windows when they are restricting shoppers to seniors, those people who are among the most vulnerable to serious health issues if they contract COVID-19.

In the Cleveland area, those grocery stores and big box retailers include:

Dollar General: First hour of every day.
Dave's Supermarkets: 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. every day.
Giant Eagle: 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Wednesday.
Heinen's: 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. every day.
Target: The first hour of operation every Wednesday.
Walmart: Generally 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. every Tuesday
Whole Foods: 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. at both the Rocky River and University Heights locations.

The Cleveland Department of Aging is also updating its list on Twitter as more stores announce.
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