Supermarket staff has said they are “dreading” going to work because of abuse from shoppers flouting in-store Covid-19 safety measures.
Workers at major retail chains have criticized the “blasé” attitude shown by customers who can “essentially do what they like”, but some have been told by employers not to challenge those breaking the rules.
Measures such as compulsory mask-wearing and limits on the number of shoppers allowed in-store to remain in place in most supermarkets but are being routinely ignored, according to staff.
One worker from a superstore in Leeds said it is “annoying” that staff are required to follow the rules, but cannot enforce them with the public.
“Most come shopping with two or three members of the household, many without masks, and I’ve even had some customers come in recently to say they don’t need shopping and have just come out for a chat,” he said.
“My particular store seems to be more focused on staff abiding by the rules, whereas customers can essentially do what they like.
“I’ve had a fair few complaints from other customers saying ‘He or she isn’t wearing a mask’ but all we can do is say ‘Sorry, we’re not allowed to enforce it’.
“As a staff member it’s annoying to see people thinking they’re above the rules and be so blatantly blasé about it, but when you see an elderly person on their own with a mask on saying they’re scared to be there, that’s when it really upsets me.”
Employees spoke of abuse they have suffered after asking people to follow the rules.
A staff member at a branch of Tesco in Gloucestershire, who is currently off work having had Covid-19, said she was “horrified” by responses she had received after challenging customers.
“I find, and so do my colleagues, that it’s not as strict as the first lockdown,” she said.
“We have people refusing to wear masks, customers not social-distancing.
“I asked a customer where his mask was and he hit the roof, telling me ( coronavirus) is not real and it’s the Government making it all up – I was horrified.
“I’m dreading going back, to be honest.”
Some supermarkets have said they will step up enforcement of in-store Covid measures and that safety remains the “top priority”.
Morrisons said customers who refuse to wear a mask without a medical exemption will be told to leave its stores, while Sainsbury’s said its security staff will “challenge” shoppers who are not wearing masks or who enter stores in groups.
But staff members at other chains said they have been told not to challenge customers and that those claiming to be exempt often cannot produce proof.
A staff member at an Asda store in north-west Merseyside said some customers have refused to adhere to safety measures even when offered help.
“I was put as a safety marshal on the front door, asking people to hand-sanitize and if they need a mask,” she said.
“The amount of times the response is ‘Oh, I can’t wear one of those’ or ‘I’m exempt’, and (they) show no proof.
“I used to ask people on the front door for proof of exemption and the abuse I got was mostly from the younger generation.
“My manager told me we have to offer them a mask but can’t enforce it so I feel it’s a waste of time.“Most people don’t even bring a mask with them so have no intention of wearing one.”
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