Laid off workers turn to essential jobs to pay the bills

Albertsons grocery store in Palm Springs, Calif., has plexiglass set up between the customers and check out clerks. Essential businesses are making efforts to ensure safety and practice social distancing to fight the spread of coronavirus. 
Courtesy of Albertsons

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Rideshare driver Josh Dunn of Indio describes himself as a case of “super obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

“A lot of people weren’t germophobes before this happened, like me,” Dunn said. “Now they’re out there and hoping for the best.” 

Add the threat of coronavirus to everyday life and it makes things unsettling for those who are currently not working but looking to find employment in what’s categorized as “essential jobs.” Some examples include healthcare, grocery stores, utilities and rideshare and delivery services. 

Dunn has signed up for every rideshare and delivery platform available, including Instacart, a grocery delivery and pickup company based in San Francisco. The company is hiring 300,000 workers across North America to meet surging demand for grocery deliveries, as millions of people are urged to stay home to limit the spread of coronavirus.

He was signed up with the platform in August, but found it difficult to schedule around because of its assigned scheduling at the time. It also didn’t pay as well as Lyft or Uber. This week, he downloaded the app to start working the platform again. 

Albertsons grocery store in Palm Springs, Calif., has plexiglass set up between the customers and check out clerks. Essential businesses are making efforts to ensure safety and practice social distancing to fight the spread of coronavirus. 
Courtesy of Albertsons

“Now it’s more like Uber,” Dunn said. “There’s nothing about shifts, blocks or anything like that. All the other rideshare drivers I know are saying Instacart is banging right now. That’s what people need right now. They need people to shop for them, they don’t need to go to the bar or go to work anymore.” 

The drivers are referred to by the company as “full-service shoppers.” Instacart lets users shop from grocery stores like Whole Foods, Costco, Safeway, among others, with the good then delivered to their homes. Full-service shoppers go into the store and pick every item off the shelves for checkout then delivery. They’re timed on each order. 

For the past three weeks, grocery stores have struggled to keep products like canned goods, toilet paper, dairy products and other essentials on the shelves. If the store is out of stock on the desired items, they have to find a similar item and communicate with the customer through the app.

“That’s one of the places where it gets a little tricky,” Dunn said. “Often times, you’ll have to start communicating with the person who ordered through the app, and you’re getting timed while you’re shopping. So if the person doesn’t respond promptly, you can get dinged on your shop time. You’re trying to make sure you got what they need, but the clock is running.” 

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