Omicron Surge Brings Another Wave of Stress to Retail Workers

The stress levels have gone up a notch for retail workers as they deal with another surge in coronavirus infections

NBC Universal, Inc.

Kamyar Nadiri has witnessed it all during his 30 years at Apadana cleaners, but he says the coronavirus is pushing him to the brink. 

“Business was much slower compared to the last few years,” said Nadiri. “In 2020, we were about 65% to 70% down [in business]. Last year was close to 40% down.”

Nadiri owns the shop. Lately, he’s been working six days a week and nearly 11 hours a day because of staffing shortages.

“In general, we have seven employees but right now we are down to three,” said Nadiri.

He said that’s due in part to people being out sick and not being able to find replacements.

“Basically, we have to work harder to get what we used to [done,] said Nadiri. “And so my employees have to be worked longer hours, I have to work a lot harder to cover them and do my own job too.”

The rapid spread of omicron is putting renewed pressure on employees who are already worn down.

“I had to work double shifts for almost three days in a row,” said Victor, a local valet driver. “It’s stressful.”

“It's more hours and more days [I have to work],” said a Walmart employee who chose to remain anonymous.

The latest surge has caused many workers to get sick while others have been forced to call out because their children are sick. Some employees also stay home because they are fearful of catching the virus.

Adding fuel to the fire, many retail employees say they're dealing with angry and rude customers.

“People are getting a little more, I don't want to use the word rude, but they're not as nice as what they used to be,” said Nadiri. “They're not friendly.”

And while most of the challenges retail workers face aren’t new, they’re exhausted. After working nearly two years on the front lines they're pleading with the community for a little compassion.

“We are like everybody else, just trying to survive,” said Nadiri. “We need their business, obviously, but we understand that also they have to stay safe and they stay away from other people. Just be safe and once it's over, bring your business back to us and be nicer."

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