The Student Newspaper of Highline College

Retail mall workers face challenges amid the pandemic

Cece Onyema Staff Reporter Feb 18, 2021

Local retail workers say the pandemic has changed the way they work. 

Some stores were shut down while others remained open at local malls.

“Whenever the mall says we’re open, we will be open.” said Olivia Edwards, from Earthbound at Southcenter. “Unless there is like inclement weather.” 

Meanwhile, Aeropostale shortened its employees’ work days by two hours, said Kailee Pegg, who works at the Outlet Collection in Auburn.

While a majority of workers said they struggle with masks being worn incorrectly by their customers, some encounter people who are not wearing them at all.

“It’s more an issue with people not wearing masks correctly and then having to correct people in the moment like, ‘Please pull it back up over your nose,’” Edwards said. 

“Yes, often, there’s lots of non-mask wearers,” Pegg said. “We just ask them to wear their mask. Usually they’re pretty cooperative. If not, just call security.”

“Usually it’s the adults, like they will try to get into arguments with you, even though we’re living in a pandemic,” said Milagros Garcia from Claire’s at the Outlet Collection.

The hardest part for these retail workers varies from keeping everyone safe to the loss of connection with customers.

“With our limit on capacity, if we have a busy day, we have to make sure someone is up there and counting who’s coming in,” said Ellianna Nelson from American Eagle Outfitters at the Outlet Collection. “If we don’t know the count we have to go around and count everybody in the store and fitting rooms.”

“I think there’s just an under-riding feeling of anxiety and fear amongst everybody right now,” Edwards said. “It makes it a little harder to make those connections with customers and it just feels like there’s a lack of trust between people.”

This experience has taught a lot of lessons, workers say.

“I learned that anything could happen at any given moment and like really mess up everybody’s lives,” said Devyne Omolade from Spencer’s at the Outlet Collection.

“Definitely just to appreciate what you have beforehand,” Milagros Garcia said. “Live in the moment while you can.”

Even though they don’t know when this will end, they said they all share hope that they will make it through. Plans are being made, big and small.

“Definitely the movie theater, just going to watch movies with friends,” Garcia said. “Then probably going back to school, obviously like going to campus and games and stuff.”

 “When they ease back, I’d like to not have to reschedule my wedding for the third time,” Olivia Edwards said. “Also I took over this store during the pandemic, so I’ve never actually gotten to see my employees’ faces.”