King Soopers: Killed in the line of retail duty
“They died in one of the few places where Americans have gathered during the pandemic, in a supermarket that had set time aside every day to give people the vaccine that is supposed to open a path back to something like normalcy.”
The Washington Post
I grew up in Boulder, shopping at the Table Mesa King Soopers with my mom. From the day it opened, it was part of the neighborhood’s heart and soul. We not only shopped for weekly groceries but stopped for snacks after long hikes and bicycle rides. We knew the associates. Even after moving to Oregon, I returned to the store when visiting my dad.
Connections like these are common. Stores are important parts of our lives. How did my retailer of childhood memory become a site of mass death? Working in retail today puts associates on the front line of a society overflowing with anger and mental illness.
The King Soopers horror is not isolated. Recent history reminds us that malls and stores are common sites of mass shootings, as are churches and schools.
First responders encounter humanity’s most serious ills when people fall through cracks. Teachers carry a tremendous burden of society’s ills. In retail, however, we’ve tended to only fear being overnight convenience store clerks in a tough neighborhood.
That’s not true anymore. Half of the 10 victims in Monday’s shooting were killed “in the line of retail duty” — three King Soopers employees, an Instacart worker and a coffee machine repairman.
Retail’s front line faces an angry, vocal minority that abuses associates simply because workers cannot fight back. Pandemic videos show shoppers raining rage simply for being asked to wear a mask.
The body of Boulder policeman Eric Talley, killed at King Soopers, was accompanied by an honor guard of emergency vehicles, lights ablaze. We can be assured he will be honored. How should we honor the retail workers who similarly lost their lives while doing their jobs? Colorado Governor Polis and President Biden lowered flags to half-staff. It’s a good start.
How about each of us supporting workers when they are confronted and abused? We may not know an entire situation, but anger is no excuse for abusing an associate.
Pogo Possum observed, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Associates meet us with a smile. Let’s not respond with a slap or tolerate others doing the same.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can we begin to change the world so simple honor and respect is accorded those who make our lives more livable by putting themselves on the front line of retail? Have “the customer is always right” programs in retail allowed confrontations with associates to escalate?