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Saluting our supermarket heroes: an ode to the underappreciated workforce

By Jack Walker

The names of people mentioned in this article have been changed for confidentiality purposes.

Queuing two meters apart. Only one member of a family allowed in a shop at a time. Frequent shortages of essential items. No, this is not the plot of some new futuristic dystopian novel or movie. This is the very real lifestyle we have all had to adjust to while coronavirus continues to dominate our lives. Yet spare a thought for the people who are keeping the shelves stacked; who are working harder than ever to make sure consumers have everything they need during unprecedented and difficult times.

Dan has worked for a well-known supermarket chain for close to three years now, and he told me he’s seen nothing like this before. The queues, the tension between staff and shoppers. It’s uncharted territory for everyone. But for Dan, he’s just doing his job. He told me: “As a key worker I personally feel that I am just doing my job. I do feel proud to be a key worker as I was when the fuel crisis was on in the nineties as a postal worker.” Those protests saw panic buying as well, but not to the same kind of scale as the coronavirus panic buying.

Dan acknowledges that most of what he’s been asked to do at work hasn’t really changed that much. He’s still performing the same tasks. But he’s also working in a more challenging environment. He told me that he’s witnessed other staff members at his shop being subjected to verbal abuse from shoppers. More of his time is now dedicated trying to enforce the social distancing laws the government is encouraging us all to follow to keep each other safe. Thankfully for Dan, he hasn’t faced too many difficult situations himself.

Unfortunately, Dan thinks that he’s having to spend so much more time enforcing social distancing laws within his store because people aren’t taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously. He said: “I believe the majority of people are still not taking the situation seriously, which is detrimental to the minority that are.” Dan’s shop is based in a seaside town, and he’s also noticed that more holidaymakers are visiting the coast too.

Thankfully, Dan says the difficult nature of his work recently hasn’t affected his marriage or his mental health. He’s been married for nine years. That marriage has survived two house moves, a dog, and several new jobs. Dealing with difficult customers at work is a piece of cake. He did mention that he has found himself complaining more about work though, so hopefully, his wife’s mental health is still relatively intact.

It’s not all bad news though. Some people are adhering to the social distancing laws, and Dan has noticed the people who are putting in the effort to keep two metres apart, or who are patient while waiting outside to do their shop. He’s thankful that at least some people are making an effort.

So next time you go and do your shop, spare a thought for the staff. By asking you to adhere to new government policy, they are simply doing their job. Yes, their job also requires keeping the shelves stocked, but customer safety has always been, and now even more so continues to be, a massive priority for staff. Don’t give them abuse for asking you to wait outside, or to keep apart from each other. Remember, shop staff are human beings too, just as susceptible to this disease as anyone else. Dan, and others, will thank you for treating him with some dignity and respect, just as you expect from him.

What do you think?