An April 7 2020 Facebook post — purportedly a message from an overworked grocery store manager — racked up over half a million shares in just a few days.
The post, accompanied by an image of (what looked to be pre-COVID-19 pandemic) supermarket shelves, was an apparent chain letter posted by user Roy Allen Stagg. It read:
From a grocery store manager:
I manage a grocery store.
Here’s some things everyone should know:
1. I don’t have toilet paper
2. I don’t have sanitizer
3. I run out of milk, eggs and meat daily
4. I promise if it’s out on the shelf … it’s not in a hidden corner of our back room
Those are the predictable ones, now for the real stuff
5. I have been doing this for 25 years I did not forget how to order product
6. I did not cause the warehouse to be out of product
7. I schedule as much help as I have, including many TMs working TONS of overtime to help YOU
8. I am sorry there are lines at the check out lanes
Now for the really important stuff
9. My team puts themselves in harm’s way everyday so you can buy groceries
10. My team works tirelessly to get product on the floor for you to buy
11. My team is exhausted
12. My team is scared of getting sick
13. My team is human and do not possess an antivirus… they are in just as much danger as you are. (Arguably more) But they show up to work everyday just so you can buy groceries
14. My team is tired
15. My team is very under appreciated
16. My team is exposed to more people who are potentially infected in one hour than most of you will in a week (medical community excluded, thank you for all that you do!)
17. My team is abused all day by customers who have no idea how ignorant they are
18. My team disinfects every surface possible, everyday, just so you can come in grab a wipe from the dispenser, wipe the handle and throw the used wipe in the cart or on the ground and leave it there… so my team can throw it in the trash for you later
19. My team wonders if you wash your re-usable bags, that you force us to touch, that are clearly dirty and have more germs on them than our shopping carts do
20. My team more than earns their breaks, lunches and days off. And if that means you wait longer I am sorry.
The last thing I will say is this
The next time you are in a grocery store, please pause and think about what you are saying and how you are treating the people you encounter. They are the reason you are able to buy toilet paper, sanitizer, milk, eggs and meat.
If the store you go to is out of an item.. maybe find the neighbor or friend that bought enough for a year … there are hundreds of them… and ask them to spare 1 or 2. They caused the problem to begin with…
And lastly, please THANK the people who helped you. They don’t have to come to work!
Stagg didn’t claim to have written the missive, and his Facebook profile listed an occupation other than supermarket employee. It was in fact quite clear that Stagg was not the original author, but he was credited as such regardless by the scraper site Love What Matters in an undated post.
It was also shared to a regional subreddit on April 8 2020, later amended to say that the original poster was not the author:
On April 6 2020, the same missive was shared by the site Crooks and Liars, titled “A Memo From A Grocery Store Manager.” Before transcribing a nearly identical post, the site indicated it originated with “a grocery store manager, [and it] is getting heavy shares on social media.” The earliest iteration we were able to track down was shared by user Tina Shannon on March 27 2020. It’s likely the coronavirus “memo from a grocery store manager” began circulating earlier, but not by much.
On March 13 2020, WBUR reported the onset of “panic shopping” at supermarkets and grocery stores, speaking to a Massachusetts supermarket vice-president:
“The situation is tough right now,” said Arthur Ackles, vice president of merchandising and buying at Roche Brothers. “Over the past seven or eight days [prior to March 13 2020], our customers have been coming into the stores at a pretty alarming rate.”
Ackles said [the first] Thursday and Friday [in March 2020] saw a roughly 10% increase in foot traffic, while [March 12 and 13 2020,] the increase skyrocketed to between 200% and 300%.
On March 15 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported nationwide shortages as the looming pandemic led American shoppers to “stock up” on staple items. That article shoppers were queued for blocks to enter grocery stores across the country, and that empty shelves were commonplace:
U.S. grocers are adjusting their operations to try to keep up with customers who are emptying their shelves amid angst over the new coronavirus, even as their own employees face heightened risk of infection.
It’s not clear who wrote the “letter from a grocery store manager” in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it first went viral on or around March 27 2020 — at which point it had already been copied. A variation shared by a separate Facebook user spread over half a million times, and was credited to him by the site Love What Matters. The circumstances described in the missive were clearly real, but the original author (and whether this was was written by an actual grocery store manager during the coronavirus pandemic) is Unknown.