Senior grocery baggers are returning to Walmart

Photo: Reporte Indigo

Mexico City – The pandemic and changing consumer habits threatened to put an end to a decades-old practice of allowing elderly people in Mexico to earn extra income as grocery baggers at Walmart. But, thanks to an intervention by Inapam, fully vaccinated seniors in green-light states can go back to work.

Before the pandemic, some 35,000 Mexicans, most aged between 60 and 74, packed groceries for tips through a government-backed volunteer program. But they were sent home last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and asked not to come back in December, due to a change in customer preferences.

“Due to the health emergency, we have seen that our customers want to avoid third parties having contact with their purchases,” Walmart de Mexico said in a statement at the end of last year. “Added to this is the fact that under current law to protect the environment, we have stopped giving free, single-use plastic bags. Our customers now bring their own reusable bags and they have become used to packing their own purchase.”

But the baggers only got word of the change in May, when Mexico City loosened pandemic restrictions amid a drop in case numbers, and many of the elderly baggers had begun to contemplate the possibility of going back to work.

So last month, dozens of affected seniors marched on the National Palace, demanding that the president aid their cause, and customers joined a boycott in support with the hashtag #YoNoComproEnWalmart (“I don’t buy from Walmart”). Heeding their call, the president said officials would speak to the retailer.

His intervention seemed to have the desired effect. Last week, Walmart confirmed that correspondence with the National Institute for the Elderly (Inapam) and the Ministry of Economic Development of Mexico City had helped to resolve the matter.

“A weak pension system, an increase in under-the-table work and unfavorable labor market conditions are factors that affect the wellbeing of elderly people,” the Institute said in a statement. “A lot of elderly people are still independent and able to function, and they want to continue working and earning money, to make them feel useful and fulfilled.”

Last week, Walmart reversed it’s decision on seniors bagging groceries.

“Where the epidemiological traffic light is green, older adults who are already fully vaccinated are allowed to resume their work as volunteer packers,” Walmart de Mexico said in a statement.

Walmart has assured customers that any assistance from the grocery baggers is entirely optional. “For customers who prefer to continue packing their purchases, they will be able to let our cashiers know,” the retailer said.

The U.S. supermarket giant has 10,526 stores and clubs in 24 countries, operating under 48 different names. In Mexico it sells through Walmart, Walmart Express, Superama y Bodega Aurrera.

Source: El Universal



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