Coronavirus: Supermarket shoppers furious at ‘packed’ aisles

After announcing its stores would have strict social distancing measures in place to cope with Easter crowds, supermarkets have been accused of struggling to keep shoppers safe. Coles had announced plans to restrict customers to 110 people in its smallest store and 275 in its largest over the long weekend in a bid to uphold the Federal Government’s coronavirus restrictions.
But hoards of angry shoppers have taken to social media to share images that show aisles packed with people, many blasting the supermarket giant for failing to give adequate space to shop safely.
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Coles told that feedback on new social distancing measures had been generally positive.
“While most customers are doing the right thing, there is a small number of customers who are not following these guidelines,” a spokeswoman said.
Some customers also had their grumbles with Woolworths’ queuing system and claimed it led to customers bunching up at the checkout. However, the chatter around Woolies has been far less than that about the situation at Coles.
Bunnings, where stores have also been busy today, was even singled out for praise from the country’s deputy chief medial officer who remarked the chain has “very clear” markings so people know where to stand.
Coles’ Facebook page has seen complaints from “disappointed” shoppers who said it was “impossible” to maintain a 1.5 metre distance from others.
“Just went to Coles Midland and very disappointed by the number of people being allowed in store at a time,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “Aisles were packed and it was near on impossible to remain at least 1.5 metres distance. It was the most anxiety inducing experience I’ve had shopping during this pandemic.”
Another shopper visiting Dernancourt in Adelaide described a similar experience, saying he was forced to “abandon” his shop as it was “chaotic” in the store and “not possible to avoid people at all”.
Another detailed “terrible scenes at Coles Sanctuary Lakes today”, claiming shoppers “packed in aisles kept bumping into each other.”
Twitter users shared similar stories, with one person asking if the “chokkas” situation at Broadway in inner city Sydney, would lead to a “corona spike”. Other stores where issues were raised on the networking platform included Winmalee, NSW, as well as Tunstall Square, Oakleigh, and Warragul in VIC.
Coles told they would not be commenting on “on one-off incidents in stores” adding that customers feedback had been “overwhelmingly positive”.
“As well as introducing social distancing decals in stores and measures that minimise contact – like contactless payment and customers packing their own bags – we have introduced new limits when the stores are busy on how many customers can be in a Coles store at any one time,” a Coles spokeswoman said.
“While most customers are doing the right thing, there is a small number of customers who are not following these guidelines. We ask that customers follow the instructions from our team members and any signs in-store so we can continue to safely serve as many customers in the community as possible.”
Woolworths and Aldi also implemented extra social distancing measures this weekend, with Woolies restricting customers depending on the size of the shop and Aldi letting between 70-100 people per store.
Woolworths’ chief executive officer Brad Banducci updated customers this morning, telling shoppers to expect queues to accommodate the changes and asking shoppers to use floor markings to measure a safe distance.
One shopper pointed out an issue at checkouts in a Woolworths store today, that despite people lining up with distance between them to be served, at the checkouts they had to stand next to each other.
Another customer said Woolworths in Niddrie, VIC, was “jammed” with people.
A Woolworths spokeswoman said: “We’ve been pleased with the way our customers and team have responded to the introduction of new social distancing measures, including customer limits.”
She added that Woolworths hadn’t felt the need to implement queuing in many stores as yet, explaining most customers had been “understanding and patient” with the situation.
“We encourage our customers to continue following the many different social distancing prompts and guides available in our stores.”
Australian store Bunnings appears to have mastered the difficult situation, as Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth praised its efforts during a press conference earlier today.
“Whether you’re talking about Ikea or talking about Bunnings … we do know that the local management of those stores and Australia wide are putting in social distancing restrictions within the stores themselves,” he said.
“I was at Bunnings the other day and was very clear where I had to stand in order to maintain distance.”
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