It’s a fair enough question right? I mean, do we really feel safe anywhere these days? And I’m talking both security-wise, and COVID-wise. Are the stores where you shop regularly truly doing all that they can to be COVID compliant? Do they go out of their way to ensure that you’re safe when you shop there?
I recently returned from a holiday in KZN. Yes, I went on holiday. And let me tell you, I’ve never felt safer! Every store I shopped at was extra-vigilant when it came to hygiene and compliancy with COVID regulations. In fact, I started investigating numerous stores to see if maybe it was just the local Pick n Pay I’d been sticking to that was so impressive! Nope! I visited a Spar and Woolworths and various stores in a major shopping mall in Umhlanga too. The care and detail that went into the vigilance of every store I visited were actually impressive! Counters and tills were constantly sprayed with santizers, as were pens, card machines and trolleys.
From a security perspective, I’m fully aware that it was holiday season in a busy (although sadly, much less busy than usual) holiday destination, but both foot and vehicle patrols were visible on the streets and around shops at all times. While beaches were still open, we were well aware of police walking the beat and checking that no alcohol was being consumed in the public space. Beaches and streets were clean! There are even people walking around picking up litter! Again, I’m well aware it was holiday time and I don’t know if this is done year-round. But coming from Joburg which has slid into such decay, it most definitely is striking! I think one of the biggest things that struck me though is that there’s nobody begging at the traffic lights! Nobody accosting you for a handout wherever you go. Car-guards and security-guards are all part of a structured organisation. You can’t just don a reflector jacket and set up shop directing vehicles wherever you please!
From what I observed, most of this was thanks to the uMhlanga UIP – the uMhlanga Rocks Urban Improvement Precinct, which was established and is funded by uMhlanga Rocks property owners to create desirable and well managed public spaces in the area. Seems like they’ve been highly successful in their endeavour! Well done!
So I arrive back home and head out to my local Pick n Pay today. The security guard at the door is most adamant that he must sanitize the hands of every single customer entering past his doors! But if you want to sanitize your trolley, you’ll need to do that yourself! There doesn’t seem to be any method to count how many people are actually entering the store, even though there’s a big sign at the door saying that only a certain number of customers will be permitted.
While I was trying to shop as quickly as possible, I was suddenly confronted by an individual who came up to me requesting money for whatever it was he was holding in his hand. This is not the first time this has happened to me in this store (not even the second time!), and I’m well aware of it happening to others. On previous occasions, I’ve told security or management, but always after the fact because absolutely no security is visible within the store, which is why this type of thing is possible! I’m well aware of how many people are in dire straits, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to do my shopping in a store without being made to feel vulnerable and unsafe! And I do think that it is up to the store in question to ensure that I am able to do this!
Shortly after that I decided I was done – done with my shopping for the day, and done with this store that I have not enjoyed shopping at for a very long time. I ventured to the tills. The people in front of me finished their transaction and I waited for the cashier to sanitize the conveyor belt … she didn’t. I asked her to do so, and got a rather sullen look before she sprayed it, and then she wiped it with 2 pieces of tissue (or something similar) that were lying around by her scanner. They were most certainly not clean!! When she was done, she threw them back next to the scanner! Once again – this is not the first time (or the second time) I have had to make this request at this store. I’ve complained to management before – more than once – and have always been met with such surprise, as ‘staff are well aware of the protocols that must be followed’. Well, clearly not! I’m just so sick and tired of this. Even if I shop online from this store (because then I don’t have to deal with staff who behave like they’re doing me a favour), I would still have to deal with the unknown factor of whether I’ve been unlucky to have my groceries handled by a staff member who just couldn’t care less about following basic COVID practices.
As with all rules and guidelines, they’re all well and good if someone is checking to see that they’re being implemented. But if nobody’s doing this, many (not all) people will eventually assume it’s ok to slacken off a bit because they know that nobody’s around to watch them. And don’t be high-handed with customers when you can’t even get your own staff to conform to the guidelines we’re all meant to be following.
I’m appealing to the Management of every single store, especially all of you large retail stores: Pick n Pay (https://twitter.com/PicknPay), Shoprite (https://twitter.com/Shoprite_SA), Spar (https://twitter.com/My_SPAR), Woolworths (https://twitter.com/WOOLWORTHS_SA)… don’t assume that your staff on the ground are actually following all the protocols required when it comes to COVID hygiene. Just because they’ve been given the training and ‘know’ what they’re supposed to do, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing it. Hire yourselves some *Mystery Shoppers to regularly go into your stores and put them to the test. While you’re at it, how about making the effort not only to get customers into your stores, but also to ensure that they feel comfortable and safe while they’re shopping there. It’s not only about the safety of your goods on your shelves, but also about how your customers are made to feel while shopping in your space!
Basically, just Be Better!
*You can contact me for information and costs for Mystery Shoppers available specifically to assess staff COVID protocol implementation in your stores on firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently only available in the Johannesburg area.