Senior shopper in new retail world of faceless frontliners

This pandemic is unveiling many kinds of heroes.  Big stories are coming out from the lives of small people.  

We have celebrated — and now keep in our hearts — our new heroes, the medical workers who each day brave the battlefield of a deadly virus to save lives and help the sick recover.

They continue to risk their lives and their families’ too to honor an oath when they pledged to be doctors, nurses, medical technologists, health workers. For that, the world is grateful!

Let us not forget the other heroes who are there to keep our lives as normal as possible during this very unusual time. The bank tellers, delivery riders, the people at the convenience stores, groceries, and supermarkets, and vegetable sellers who deliver their produce to customers. They have to be at their places of work every day, despite the risks.  

I met a few forgotten frontliners at the supermarket months ago, during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) when fewer people were out. After some restrictions were lifted, I stopped going anywhere to shop for basic essentials because supermarkets began to look like a slow weekday crowd. Still a crowd just the same, and not recommended for senior citizens.

It was strange shopping then. Greetings of “good afternoon” were somber, gestures of assistance were fast and efficient, and customers kept to themselves, hardly picking a conversation with other people in line.

I watched a clerk pack vegetables into smaller portions. He did the task slowly and meticulously, no leaf or stem fell off the line. It looked like he had more time to do that. And the conversation with another packer was absent, unlike in the past when they would toss story bits of their lives across the aisle.

At the line to the cashier, it did not seem comfortable — at least to me — to have a haul of groceries piled into one’s grocery cart. For lack of anything else to do, other shoppers ogled at the stuff other people purchased. I felt like one was being judged for the kinds of food the shopper was hoarding in case of a food shortage. Mine was dozens of popsicles (it was summer then), ice cream, M&Ms, egg cookies, grapes, and an assortment of fancy snacks for my grandchildren. Not practical food at all. 

So, I shopped online. It was not the first time I did that.  Long ago, I already found delight in shopping at for books that I could not find here.  

Then came Decathlon, Lazada, and, recently, Landers, and an array of websites selling vegetables, fruits, meat, and cooked food.

Today, the “frontliners” who offer me basic essentials are the faceless merchandizers who design attractive photos of food and other products. They pop out in my Facebook account, others in my mailbox. 

Since I am a secret shopaholic, I take delight in clicking the baits, navigating the products, adding to my cart, but most often I still hesitate to click “check out.” Sometimes, it’s the fear of not knowing who I am buying from.  Other times, it was just an exercise to lull me to feel the joy of shopping. 

But there were many times I’ve “checked out” and received the goods the next day or a “few days” later. Only once did I regret a food purchase and ironically it was from someone who came from my home province, which was the reason I ordered food from her. 

As the weekend nears, I now find myself shopping online for something special to serve on Sunday.  I “talk” to a helpful grocer or cook through messenger or email who sends me photos of something I ask for. He sends me more information too—the weight, size of the portion, and sometimes, a personal comment on its taste. Although I’ve never met that person before, I take his or her word for it and click “confirm order.” 

That’s how a senior citizen like me goes shopping for food these days. No face-to-face contact, cashless, and decisions based on trust merely created by a few words sent through a message. 

I’ve lost touch with the frontliners at the supermarkets.