BUCKHEAD RIDGE — Brandy Jones helps manage this little Glades County hamlet’s only chain store, the sole Dollar General in the 30-something miles’ distance to Lakeport or the roughly 8 miles to Okeechobee.
The location brings it a steadily even flow of customers coming through the doors. As it’s still a neighborhood mainstay while this coronavirus pandemic “economic shutdown” seems sure to continue at least another month, the convenient short drive for local residents on the southwestern outskirts of Okeechobee and for the folks in the small bedroom community of Buckhead makes it a frequent stopping point for many who still are working outside their homes, or those passing through.
The COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic has brought plenty of the good out in our fellow humans; however, some of the more severely challenged among us have exhibited problems containing their tempers. And it tends to come out in places such as Dollar General. Stresses build upon themselves like snowballs, and some people have a hard time keeping them from melting down publicly.
Full staff worked to capacity
Mrs. Jones has had to hire three new people to replace two who took temporary leaves due to the crisis, and because of a corporate order for all Dollar General stores to hire at least two or three new employees each. “I am now working 30 hours a week, plus, morning and night,” she said.
She said it has been a stressful time.
“This has brought the ugly out in people,” she said.
“I have never met so many mean, disheartening people as right now, because we don’t have toilet paper, or we don’t have Lysol, or we have no alcohol. We’re doing the best we can. We’re getting what the trucks are delivering; I get a truck every week. It’s not our fault we don’t have the product,” she said.
“We do have people that are tipping us. We’re not supposed to take them. But like I explained to some guy, I’m the only person in my household that is working right now. So it does help. And it does make me feel better that we are appreciated compared to being cussed out every time I turn around,” Brandy continued.
“So, yes, some people are nice, but … I mean, we’ve had an old lady try to beat (a coworker) with a cane … over toilet paper!” She didn’t know whether that’d been reported to the sheriff.
Stress snowballs = meltdowns
“I can’t get over the fact that so many elderly people are being so abusive to people that are doing nothing but trying to help them,” she went on. “I have a preemie daughter at home, and if I take anything home to my daughter I could kill her. And people don’t understand that.”
The staff have had corporate directives come down that they are struggling to meet. The two shifts’ duty rosters have switched around; now, stocking’s being done during the day, and “night shift is strictly to clean and reset the store,” plus they’re closing an hour early. They don’t have a requirement for masks or gloves; for one thing, it would be too costly to wear gloves because they’d have to be changed for every new customer, and they can have 40-60 customers an hour sometimes.
“So every three or four customers, I Lysol and wipe down the counter, the credit card machine, a few of the next baskets in line. We’re doing what we can but it’s still not enough,” Mrs. Smith went on.
Everyone’s under stress these days, and more of us need to remember that, obviously.
“I love my job, I love this place, I love my regulars,” said Brandy, “…but the mental abuse is bad right now. And it’s sad. It’s truly sad. Like, we’re all in this together, and people are tending to forget about that.
“I was stocking a shelf the other day and a guy came by and tapped me on the shoulder, and he said, ‘I just want to tell you, “Thank you for being here”.’ And I literally sat on the floor and cried, because it felt good to finally be appreciated after being yelled at constantly,” she said, her voice breaking a little.
“They’re saying it could be six months to a year before things are back to normal. It’s crazy, and it makes me sad.”