Convenience store clerk’s job used to be a relaxing one

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Column by Jim Clark

Some years ago, I was between newspaper jobs (it’s a long story) and I was working as a convenience store clerk in a beach community.

It was a busy store (location, location, location) so there were always at least two of us on duty at all times. We were open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., so two shifts of eight hours each took care of it.

We had no security cameras (to my knowledge), and no pay at the pump. People pumped their gas, then came in and paid. In all the time I was there, we had one drive off without paying, and we called the Sheriff’s Department, but while the deputy was there, they came back and paid. It was a bunch of kids who drove off, realized it and returned to pay.

We didn’t press charges.

As the newbie (that word wasn’t widely used then), I got to stock the drinks in the cooler. I don’t know how it is now, but then, those drinks you get by opening a door and pulling out the can were stocked from behind in a refrigerated room. I quickly learned that, although I was in a Florida beach area, I took a sweater to work every day.

The store was there for convenience, living up to its name. There were no hot meals (no microwave) although it was vital that the coffee machine stayed full at all times. You had to check ID for beer and cigarette sales, but nothing else.

It wasn’t a glamorous job, but you didn’t feel you were putting your life on the line.

In all the time I was there, we were never robbed. We had an easily accessible alarm button, and we had code words to be used to let the other employees know what was happening. They were never used when I was there.

A couple of weeks ago, deputies were alerted to a robbery and saw a man run out of a store. They chased the car until the man got out and ran. When cornered he shot himself, but it wasn’t fatal, and now he’s in jail.

In the car, they found the driver and a 10-year old girl. The woman was also arrested. Both suspects allegedly said they were paying for a cocaine habit.

Last week they were charged with nine other robberies in Marion, and linked to several others in neighboring jurisdictions.

There’s a lot written about the criminals, but I have to wonder about the effect on the clerks. These are real people, just like us, doing a job most people have never done and don’t take time to understand.

With what has been happening lately, there is no way I would work in that environment. But these people do, and they’re there for our “convenience.”

So make sure you treat them with respect the next time you drop into one of these stores to get something you forgot at the supermarket, or for your morning cup of coffee as you head to work. And if you find yourself going to one of these stores, that’s surprisingly open, for some quick item on Christmas or Thanksgiving, thank the clerk for being there. While you’re going back home to family and friends, they’re minding the store.

And please, let’s crack down on these robberies. I‘d like to see that the worst part of a clerk’s job is stocking the cooler, not worrying every time a stranger walks in the front door.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen and West Marion Messenger.