By Vicki Scott
As the world comes to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic our reality as consumers has shifted to one of empty store shelves, long wait times, changes in store hours and even store closures. However inconvenient this may be, it is important to note that retail workers are among the highest risk frontline workers next to healthcare providers and essential service providers. For some consumer-based businesses, they may even fall under the essential service guidelines announced by government; this may include grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies, financial institutions and postal outlets. As such; workers in these industries do not have the option for self-isolation, we rely on them; whether they are customer facing or behind the scenes, to assist in providing us with the necessities we need daily.
In our present reality, it is important that we recognize the stress and anxiety felt by those working in retail. There can be uncertainty about job security for those facing augmented hours and closures, for others it can be the stress of higher than normal volumes with many in the industry comparing buying activity to that of Black Friday and of course, the risk of exposure. Those working in retail can see hundreds if not thousands of customers per day during peak seasons and this is no exception.
As such below are a few tips for customers navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Be patient: expect long line ups, anticipate delays in delivery of goods, and avoid peak hours.
2. Show empathy: don’t make light of the situation as you may not know how the person in front of you has been impacted; it is also good to avoid political debate, or any social commentary related to the outbreak.
3. Respect personal space and follow WHO guidelines: they might be your friend or someone you have built a rapport with in the past, but it is important to avoid unnecessary contact both for your health and for theirs. Maintain the recommended fingertip distance and proper health and safety guidelines including those related to hard surface transmission.
4. Reward retailers that are doing it right! Shop at the stores that have clearly made changes to their operations, those that are ensuring the health and well-being of their employees, offering alternative delivery models for customers especially for seniors and high risk customers, those who are setting buying limits to minimize stock shortages and those who have made a commitment NOT to profit, price gouge or exploit from the pandemic.
5. Show your appreciation: know that the person in front of you does not have the option of self-isolation and just like health care workers they are putting themselves at risk to ensure your wellbeing; thank them for it!
For those working in retail; stay strong, stay healthy and know your efforts are not going unnoticed, we will weather the storm together!