Grocery employee in Macon has daily up-close look at struggle

At 70, Tom Grady bags groceries, carts them to customers' cars and sometimes mans a checkout-line cash register

Grady doesn't have to work, but like many retirement-age Americans he does it to stay busy.

"I'm not struggling," the Rhode Island native said on a recent morning at the Publix in north Macon. "I've got two retirements."

Grady's job, however, does afford him an up-close look at how others are - and aren't - coping in these unsteady economic times. At very least, the small talk he encounters while pushing grocery buggies between the checkouts and the parking lot has long since drifted away from the weather to the pocketbook pinch.

"Used to, it was always the weather," Grady said of his chit-chat with shoppers. "Now the economy is probably the number-one item. Not only about the gas prices, but prices everywhere. ... You see a good cross section of people here. You have people on food stamps all the way to people who ride up in Rolls Royces."

Grady, who was a purchasing agent for a glass manufacturer, has worked at the grocery store for about three years.

"I see people making more shopping lists and sticking to them," he said. "And they'll tell you they're saving money. They're paying more attention to sale items."

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