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Message from the Frontline: Please Stop.

Who would have though the day would come when toilet paper was the most wanted household item in Britain? Or when pasta became a luxury item? It goes without saying Covid-19 has caused fear and panic on the nation and the results have been empty shelves, abused staff and those less fortunate left without daily essentials.

We spoke to a frontline worker at one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains, the 22-year-old opted to remain anonymous as she shares her frustration with the current situation and reminds us of all the things we should not be doing while grocery shopping.

Stop Panic Buying. There is no need. Supply is completely unaffected and deliveries are being received as usual, the bare shelves you see on the news and in your local stores are entirely the result of extremely high demand. It’s easy to get caught up in the mentality that if everyone else is clearing the shelves, you will be left with nothing. However if everyone remains level headed and buys in moderation, the shelves will remain stocked.

Stop Buying Little Bits. The government advice is for one person per household to go out for essential food shopping only and as infrequently as possible. For most families this equates to one big food shop a week completed by one person to minimise the number of people getting into close contact while using essential services like supermarkets. So why are people still popping in to buy single, unnecessary items like scratch cards, the daily newspaper and sweets? If these items were being bought as part of a bigger shop, it wouldn’t matter but we’re standing behind the tills risking our health so you can feed yourself and your family, not gamble or pop in five times a day for things like ice cream during your daily hour of exercise.

Stop Ignoring Social Distancing Measures. This applies both in supermarkets and generally. All supermarkets currently have measures in place to enforce social distancing, such as markers on the floor to keep customers apart, barriers across the tills to protect staff and one in-one out policies. Please respect these measures and the staff regulating them when making necessary trips to the supermarket. Most importantly, please ensure it is only necessary trips you are making as this is the only way to flatten the curve and minimise the number of people exposed to the Coronavirus.

Stop Arguing with Staff. This has been by far the worst part of my job since we started rationing key items like bread, milk and tinned goods. As a result of the pandemic supermarkets are dealing with higher footfall, fewer staff and a complex, ever changing situation. The last thing we need as staff is to be policing people’s baskets and arguing with grown men and women who think they’re entitled to more than everyone else. We can all appreciate why these restrictions are necessary so please think about how much of something you actually need before you come to the till.

Stop Trying to Find Loopholes. Likewise, I’m also finding myself having to deal with people buying the maximum of an item then sending in partners, children, siblings etc to buy more of the same item. While we’re technically imposing limits ‘per person’, we all know it’s not fair for a household to be able to take home lots of the same item by getting each person in the family to buy the maximum of that item. As staff, we’re there to sell people the essentials and try and make sure everyone has fair and equal access; we’re not there to keep a check on people’s selfishness and nor should we have to.

Stop Treating Small Shops Like Big Ones. Small shops are designed for a fast turnover of customers yet people are using them to do large shops to avoid long queues outside big supermarkets. While this is understandable, it does create a lot of difficulties in a smaller store. For example, smaller shops have narrower aisles making social distancing harder to maintain, particularly if people are navigating the aisles with large baskets or trollies. People doing large amounts of grocery shopping in small stores can also lead to delays for other customers. So while I appreciate the temptation to try and avoid queueing, please be conscientious of where you’re shopping and what style of shopping those stores are designed to accommodate.

Stop Asking When Things Are Coming In. We don’t know. Under the current circumstances, while we’re still getting regular deliveries, we can’t guarantee what will be on them or when certain items will be coming in. The supply chain is under immense pressure, things will arrive when they arrive. And when they do arrive, please don’t complain that staff are getting in your way as we try and keep the shelves stocked so you have things to buy.

Stop being Rude to Staff. An easy one that means a lot to any front line workers during this difficult time. Please appreciate that we’re just trying to do our jobs under challenging circumstances. The head counts and the social distancing measures are there to keep everyone safe, the queues and empty shelves are just a natural result of the high demand and the rationing is necessary so that everyone can access necessities. Please don’t shout at us for enforcing these things as per government and company guidelines.

So the message from the supermarket frontline is this: Please show respect for the limitations in place and buy sensibly. Please observe social distancing to the greatest extent possible for the benefit of society’s most vulnerable and those who can’t self-isolate. And most importantly, please be polite to all the key workers who are risking their health working on the frontline of the NHS, supermarkets and other sectors to keep the country going.

We hope most of these didn’t apply to you and you continue to do your bit in the fight to keep yourself and our key workers safe throughout Covid-19. Happy shopping!

Words by Louisa Merrick-White

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