During this unprecedented period, frontline workers are facing incredibly difficult challenges and are coming face-to-face with the very virus that has so far claimed nearly 115,000 lives worldwide. Right now, millions are dependent on delivery people, community volunteers and supermarket workers to deliver our food and keep us safe. We have heard countless stories of supermarket workers not given adequate sanitary protection, but as consumers, we also have a role to play. We must respect social distancing guidelines and behaviour appropriately when entering supermarkets in order to ensure the safety of all workers and members of the public.
We have spoken to one supermarket worker*, who has lived in Woking his whole life, about his experience of working during this period. He has asked to remain anonymous in this interview.
Do you feel that supermarket customers are respecting social distancing rules?
I would say that most customers have been following government guidelines, but many continue to ignore the advice. It’s frustrating to see so many simply flout these essential safety rules, designed to keep themselves and workers like myself safe. However, the message is slowly getting through and behaviours are changing. For example, the other day I began to see customers respecting social distancing rules when they were waiting in the queue. This enabled me to re-stock the shelves and keep a safe distance from others.
How have you dealt with customer panic buying and how have customers reacted to any supermarket product restrictions?
At first, we were completely overwhelmed. The panic buying started so quickly, and even though deliveries were coming in and out every day, shelves were stripped bare. Due to the demand, we had to enforce product restrictions, which caused a lot of tension. Customers would question why they couldn’t buy more than two of the same items, and even argue with us. However, we stood firm and eventually, customers understood the importance of the restrictions and began to buy with care.
Are you feeling stressed/anxious during this period, and has your job increased this sense of anxiety/stress?
I tend to cope very well under pressure, but I will probably feel a great sense of anxiety when this emergency has finished. What keeps me going is that, at the moment, so many people are depending on our ability to work and supply food, especially NHS workers, the old and vulnerable. It’s been wonderful to see some customers show great compassion and kindness during this time.
What would you like customers to remember when they come into a supermarket and engage with workers?
I ask one simple thing – for customers to be respectful and follow the social distancing guidelines.
Is there anything the local or national government could do that would improve your working life right now/ something about policy at the moment?
The government must continue its messaging in a clear and concise way. For example, it must make clear that only one member of the household can shop in supermarkets. At the moment, we are seeing entire families shopping together in a leisurely manner. It is also unclear whether face masks can make a difference, so this needs more clarification.
I would like to add that I am very proud to work with my colleagues. Not only are we working an average of 54 hours per week, we are buying food and distributing to our local communities, friends and family. This is the best example of community spirit that lives within our society.
*Our speaker asked for his identity to be kept anonymous as well as the supermarket he works for
During this time, it’s important to share the experiences of people in our community, whether that be social care workers, supermarket employees, teachers, doctors, nurses or food bank volunteers – we all have a story to tell. Please get in touch with us if you would like to share your story or connect with local party members in your area.
The most important thing we can do right now is to stay indoors, try to work from home if possible (unless you are a key worker), and only leave the house for exercise and to buy food and medicines. Supermarkets have remained open to benefit the local community, so please only buy what is necessary and remember to respect all members of the public and staff.
Stay Home, Save Lives.