FRIENDS ON THE FRONTLINES
A feature of our brave members out there still working to keep us safe, healthy and fed.
We had the pleasure of catching up with our H-E-B members, Beverly Leday, Community Relations Manager for several area H-E-Bs and Joe Scala, Unit Director of H-E-B Champion Forest Market, to ask them what it is like for a day-in-the-life of an H-E-B employee supplying food to Houston residents in the midst of this pandemic. After being greeted at the door and appropriately keeping social distancing as I entered the store, I made my way to Customer Service. Beverly and Joe joined me shortly and we stood in a triangle with 6 feet between us and discussed the challenges they’ve faced and their priorities in providing groceries to hundreds while preventing any chances for catching or sharing the coronavirus.
How long have you been with H-E-B (Beverly)
How long have you been with H-E-B (Joe)
How tired are you right now?
Joe: Management is encouraging all employees to take care of themselves and take appropriate rest. I managed to take off 1 day each of the last two weeks and hope to get back to a 5 day workweek soon.
Are the days running together for you?
Joe, grinning tiredly: The 8 AM to 8 PM shifts help. I was having to ask partners what day it was for awhile. My wife and kids are my MVPs.
When did you first start to realize as a company that COVID-19 might be a real concern? Do you have emergency plans in place for things like COVID or hurricanes?
H-E-B has a solid emergency response team that has developed protocols for varying situations. Originally created with a response to weather in mind, we have overcome challenges posed by hurricanes and flooding. They stay informed, and developed protocols which are constantly being evaluated and updated. The team also follows trends and buying patterns to prepare us for the front lines. We have been preparing for coronavirus and we are in a strong position to keep replenishing our shelves.
How long does it take to replenish your stock once things are out or run low?
We replenish shelves several times a day. Multiple trucks make deliveries each day and our employees are unloading and restocking as customers shop.
Is there a concern that supply chains might become maxed out and there will be a shortage of goods? How do you manage to meet the needs of each individual store when it comes to keeping things in stock?
You can buy your groceries for today and we will still be here for you tomorrow – we are not shutting down! Overbuying puts more pressure on our stores, employees and our supply chain, so the more you work with us, the less we have to limit products. We are encouraging preparedness, not stockpiling. We want customers to please buy what they need, but not forget about their neighbor behind them who also needs food and other supplies.
Occasionally H-E-B limits product purchases per shopping trip to ensure our customers can find the products they want, when they need them. It is H-E-B’s commitment to meet our customer needs. We are temporarily limiting the purchase of disinfecting sprays, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and hand soap to four units of each product, per transaction. Additionally, in an effort to make sure all customers have access to products they need, we are limiting some food and non-food items.
To prepare our stores to better serve our customers, all H-E-B, Joe V’s Smart Shop, Mi Tienda and Central Market stores in the Houston area will shift to modified hours, closing at 8 p.m. Starting March 14, all Houston area H-E-B, Joe V’s Smart Shop, Mi Tienda and Central Market stores began operating on modified hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for a limited time.
What do you feel is your biggest responsibility during this time?
As we continue to monitor the spread of the pandemic, we are following guidance and advice from medical professionals and the CDC to make the best decisions regarding the health and safety of our Partners, customers and the communities we serve. Right now, our mission to protect the health and safety of our customers and Partners (employees) has never been more important.
Below are key elements of our COVID Action and Response Plan to help ensure a safer experience for our customers and Partners during this challenging time.
H-E-B Social Distancing Program
‘This one’s the hardest for me,’ says Beverly, ‘I’m a hugger!’
H-E-B has instituted a social distancing program across our businesses, including in our stores and warehousing facilities, and we have dedicated teams of trained COVID Action Managers to ensure proper social distancing and crowd control guidelines are followed.
Each store has ONE dedicated entrance to help meter customer flow. Customers may notice a line outside, but rest assured, it moves efficiently and quickly. A typical wait time is less than 5 minutes to enter the store. Once inside, they will experience smaller crowds, a more efficient shopping experience and limited lines at checkout.
We have placed decals on the floor designating where customers should stand during check-out and throughout the store and installed partitions creating a buffer between the customer and the checker at each check-out, pharmacy and business center. We also are installing additional Plexiglass partitions behind the checker and around the checkstand and bagger areas adding an additional layer of protection.
To better achieve proper social distancing, we ask families send one person per family to shop when possible.
H-E-B Strict Sanitation Protocols
We have instituted elevated COVID-19 sanitation protocols, including thoroughly deep cleaning our stores every day and sanitizing all hard surfaces in the store as well as fuel stations throughout the day.
Partners also sanitize all shopping cart handles and seats, and wash and sanitize their own hands frequently. All Partners must regularly use hand sanitizer, which is available at each entrance and every point of sale.
While at work, some Partners may choose to wear gloves and masks for their own peace of mind, however this does not indicate they are sick. In fact, if a Partner feels ill, they are immediately directed to stay home. Partners who choose to wear masks must keep them clean while those who choose to wear gloves are required to change them frequently and wash their hands before and after each use.