While in Florida over the Christmas break to visit my mom, I made several trips to Publix. There was not one worker in the store under the age of 60, by my estimation. While this was not at all unusual for Florida, I found it odd that there were not at least a few teenagers stocking shelves and helping people get their purchases to their cars.
On one trip I struck up a conversation with a manager in the frozen food section, asking him why there were no younger people working in the store. He told me that they have tried to attract younger workers, but they tend to be unreliable—not a shocker—and call out sick too often. When I further asked him about the health problems surrounding an older workforce, he said that while older workers do take more time off to deal with health-related issues, it tends to be more predictable. “They schedule their hip replacements months in advance, so we know when they’ll be out,” he said.
Then I asked him who stocks the shelves and helps customers get their groceries into the car. He responded that some of the more able-bodied older workers perform those tasks and there are a few kids in the back that they call out when needed. “But, generally, the older workers are more focused on customer service, so they are more visible,” he said.
Having friendly faces helping customers in the aisles and providing top-notch customer service is a priority, he told me. While customer-service skills are not determined by age, the older workers seem to have the edge.