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Byron Shire
September 23, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Price Check on Kindness

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‘People are screaming at me from both sides’, says one supermarket supervisor.

You want to see humans behaving badly? Go to the supermarket. Thanks to COVID, we’ve taken our avocado molesting, cashew eating trolley rage up a few notches. 

Covid has created a new normal of divided beliefs and uncertainty. Tolerance is something we have for gluten, not other people. Where we used to get angry in the confines of our car, now we’re angry in the shops. 

In a world that is topsy turvy, the one place we still have some agency is the supermarket. Apart from an hour walking with a friend of your choosing, (or someone hostage to your bubble), it’s our major social outing. We’re out. We’re entitled to it. And we’ve just found a group of people we deem ‘below’ us: the staff.  Seeing as the government is telling us what to do, here’s our chance to lord it over someone else.

It’s part of the ‘customer is always right’ approach.

Also known as the ‘customer is occasionally a right twat.’

I have a friend who is a supervisor in a store that belongs to one of the big supermarket chains. She’s had a corporate career and these days enjoys a pretty cruisy role as a store supervisor. Well cruisy pre-pandemic. These days she’s a frontline worker in a war zone. The other day she went home and wept. That’s not something she ever does. It’s a covid cry.

She says ‘people are screaming at me from both sides’. 

On entering a supermarket customers are asked to wear a mask, QR in and sanitise their hands. Not everyone does it. You want to see who the Freedom Fighters are? Unless they are medically exempt, they’re the person in the store without a mask. The maskers want the anti-maskers to wear a mask. Therein lies the conundrum. They ain’t gonna. They’re angry, so they have a go at the staff. ‘Are you going to make him wear a mask?’

The staff are not Public Health Police. A 16-year-old kid who works a four hour shift after school isn’t able to make someone wear a mask if they don’t want to wear a mask. That isn’t on the HSC syllabus. They are so shy they can barely say ‘Hello, how are you today?’. By the way, when did you last ask staff in your supermarket how they are today?

So in comes the Supervisor, ‘Could you wear a mask please sir?’

And suddenly, it’s game on. ‘You have no right to ask me.’

There’s an argument about sovereign rights over near the eggplants. 

It just feels weird to be talking about sovereignty in a supermarket. I don’t think that’s part of the corporate model. They don’t have sovereign rights, but they do have frequent flyers. Sovereign rights won’t get you a discount at the bottlo.

Every day my friend cops abuse. From people in masks and from people not in masks. So do her staff. It’s an atmosphere of constant aggression, and it’s taking its toll on the people at the till.

She says that engaging in this high conflict situation is above her pay grade. This is a job for the UN’s peacekeepers. Or the Taliban.

Supermarkets have to operate in accordance with public health orders, but they can’t make you do it. Darryl from the deli may be a black belt in slicing ham but he’s no ninja when it comes to crowd control. It is really up to the individual to comply. 

Also, the staff do not make the rules. Gladys doesn’t call them up to create her covid strategy. They’re not ‘in on it’. You don’t see any of the fresh food people standing behind Gladys at the 11am press meets. Supermarket staff are also locked down, living under restrictions, and some are trying to finish their HSC. These people work in what has been identified as the most at-risk space for covid transmission, while all their friends are on disaster payments bingeing Netflix, they work a minimum wage dealing with angry people clearly intending to do some dry walling with toilet paper.

And that’s another thing that’s dong their head in; the panic buying. When the rules change suddenly everyone has decided society is crumbling and they better get one last big shop in. Usually on a Sunday, between 4 and 6. Here’s a tip. If you want to engage in what psychologists recognise as classic herd behaviour, do it on a Wednesday. Get your doomsday prepping in early. 

Every new health directive is followed by a run on meat, carbs and bog paper. And cleaning products. People worry they’re never going to see a bottle of Harpic again. 

So, here’s a few tips to make the lives of the supermarket staff a bit easier: Try and be compliant with health orders. Don’t take your anger out on them if someone else isn’t. 

Don’t bitch about how uncomfortable your mask is when you’ve worn it for ten minutes. They wear theirs for the entire shift every day.

And smile. Even though it’s behind the mask, the love can still get through, while hopefully the virus doesn’t. And love’s got an R rate higher than Delta.


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21 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks again Mandy for a compassionate and common sense commentary on what’s happening out there in COVID land. It’s maddening to observe and raises hackles to the level where you want to react, but there in lies the danger of escalation of hostilities. I think supermarkets, and possibly the post office, will need to employ ‘specialist’ negotiators to help keep the peace.

  2. If people don’t want to comply with the rules of the shop, they have the option of going elsewhere. I gather there are several shops in our Shire which are happy to cater for the 5G / Bill Gates / CCCP conspiracy nutcases.

  3. “Society” these days has certainly changed. I am closer to 90 than 80 & I constantly see rudeness when shopping. Yes, I ask the salespersons how they are & commiserate with them for having to stand all shift & wear a mask. It’s not hard to act thoughtfully is it? Please consider others- we don’t were their shoes do we?

  4. Great article Mandy & I must say very funny OMG , we ALL need a damn overt laugh. I don’t understand why anti vaxers were protesting outside Council Cambers in Mullum either, WTF did Council have to do with the restrictions ? I open heartedly agree with your commentary on Supermarket employees, I have seen a few people arguing with staff just trying to do their difficult job & keep everyone safe. Also see several selfish dickheads in store, who refuse to wear a mask & who are incapable of actually thinking of others . NO other issues impacts on your divergent opinion/s than this one……HELLO! this is a pandemic & your narcissism could get others killed. Maybe the only solution is to invite the Taliban here to organise crowd control, I have seen the images & Hell they are brilliant at it . This would also give the privileged (& spoilt) another perspective on how lucky we are to be in the Sth Pacific and not Afghanistan . I worry about the women & kids now forced to deal with these brutal sods alone. Makes wearing a mask & staying home seem so trivial 🙁

  5. Another thank you Mandy. I have a son who works at a major supermarket and he can’t believe the ridiculous behaviour of some of the so called ”adults” who act worse than a 3 year old having a tantrum.
    I also have a family member who’s employer makes them enforce a no mask, no service rule. She is on valium now because of the anxiety caused by entitled twats who feel it’s their “right” to publicly abuse staff for just doing their job.
    It’s just so damned petty. A mask on your face isn’t an infringement of rights, it’s basic common bloody sense in a pandemic ffs. If more people wore masks in Sydney in the first place, we probably wouldn’t still be in lockdown. Duh.

  6. To all these people who are now so sure it’s a good idea to get vaccinated and even push to force people into it…I will ask you the same question in a years time and see if you are still so convinced it was such a good idea…let’s see!

  7. This article is spot on. As a father of two girls who work at a supermarket, it infuriates me at the level of entitlement that some customers have. When your kids come home upset or in tears it breaks my heart. I just wish I was there when these rude people do their thing. Common decency and manners would go a long way towards improving a customers supermarket experience. It’s free after all.

  8. About a month ago I was served by a staff member in the largest supermarket in Mullum. She wore a badge to the effect that she had a medical exemption from wearing a mask. I go maskless but do not wear such a badge. My medical condition is private and confidential and I do not have to explain to anyone my reasons for not wearing a mask. But not being a believer in the Covian Cult, I congratulate anyone I meet in the supermarket or anywhere else for that matter for not wearing a mask. It is surprising how this is appreciated and I get a lot of big smiles and a knowing look for doing so. No one has accosted me for not wearing a mask in this supermarket and if they were to do so I would politely point out that every mask wearing study ever published do not prevent any virus or germ being transmitted. Mask wearing is just an obiedience device, just like the yellow star that Jewish people had to wear in Mr Hitler’s Germany. Wearing a mask is classic herd behaviour, as rightly pointed out by Mandy. So is fighting over toilet rolls! Love and Peace to all.

  9. Thanks again Mandy. Lots of anger, coming from FEAR. The news is full of it day and night. Gladys is terrifying young people who are already afraid says the music teacher in your front page story. Massive new powers the police have to fine us thousands of dollars many of us simply do not have, ever. Proper bullying. Health experts calling anyone dissagreeing with them stupid but never mentioning diet, fresh air and sunshine and less alcohol might help your immune system. Is this the same old divide and conquer game? Not noticing any agro in Nimbin btw, very tolerant over this way!🙂

  10. Herbert… no-one’s discussing anti/or/for vac. The point being made is simple – just treat people
    as people no less. You, instead choose to bully. Caring for others is no waiting game.

  11. Great article, pity about Theo’s response. how can it be compared to the Holocaust. That is outrageous and offensive. His arrogance and self importance and his “ f#¢4 you” attitude is beyond words. He does know he needs to carry proof of exemption. I would say he is one of those people being unpleasant to staff.

  12. Surpermarkets make plenty of money.They can a fford to protect staff and normal non agressive shoppers.
    Do what is done in Sydney. Put a security guard at the door. No mask on check-in. No Entry.

  13. My sister lives in NZ, over there mask wearing in shops is mandatory; no mask no entry, period. Simple. Whats wrong with people here that they get angry over a simple thing like wearing a mask to protect the community they live in?

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