IF anything other than NHS staff has become the main focus of people during this Covid-19 pandemic, the supermarket industry must be in the top five. It’s a place where we are allowed to go to buy most of the things we need, and apart from vital food, a few of them have everything from bed linen and kitchenware to tights and make-up.
When once we would rush in and out of the supermarket after work and before heading for a night out, now from Waitrose to Aldi and all in the middle, shopping is the biggest weekly outing many people have on their agenda.
My NHS friend, exhausted after a week’s work, headed for Morrisons on Saturday having discovered online that the special NHS access wasn’t from 8am to 9am when she was still zonked, but from 10am to 11am.
It was obvious once she arrived that the majority of customers queueing outside were elderly so, distancing herself two metres from the staff member, she tried to present her NHS ID and ask if she was there at the correct time. He apologised for the website mistake saying it had been earlier. She was about to walk to the back of the queue, or decide to drive away, when those nearby about to be next in, who had heard her conversation, were then yelling at the staff man to roll out the red carpet and let her in first.
He did, they smiled and waved her in with a few claps. She was so embarrassed she said her face was as red as someone with a fever, and she whizzed round (keeping a safe distance) failing to get everything on her list because she didn’t want to be the centre of attention.
For some people, the challenge is driving round to find a supermarket with a shorter queue than the rest, possibly winding up with a branch they’ve never been in before where the departments and shelves are unfamiliar. The new one-way system presents a great observational and investigative game because to pick up everything on their list, they can’t turn back.
Most don’t complain now if any shelf for toilet rolls, garlic or flour is empty. C’est la vie. But staff are still working harder, refilling shelves, trying to avoid getting too close to customers, helping to reach up high for little old ladies, dealing with checkouts, standing outside in the wind and rain organising queues, and ‘policing’ the public to make sure they obey Covid-19 behaviour rules – which has sometimes resulted in abuse!
While we may feel exposed to other people in there for 20 minutes, they have to put up with at least eight hours of customers. Some envy them for keeping their jobs and wages. I think they are brave and committed and prepared to cope with frustration and grumps from thwarted shoppers who can’t find what they want or need.
Finally, those on the check-outs are getting Perspex-type shields they should have had weeks ago. But I don’t think we show enough appreciation and gratitude to supermarket staff.
Several chains and branches have constant donation collections for local charities, food banks and pet rescue homes. But I’d like to see another collection point for staff – a pound or two (or more) from well-heeled shoppers, a 20p or 50p or even a few copper coins from others if that’s all they could afford, and perhaps just a verbal “thank-you” from those who are skint.
After a month or two I’d hope there was enough in the pot to give each of them a wee bonus.