'We're very anxious at the moment': Co-Op staff on public abuse

Steve Charlton on the abuse staff at the East of England Co Op are still receiving when asking people to wear a mask

Steve Charlton on the abuse staff at the East of England Co Op are still receiving when asking people to wear a mask - Credit: East of England Co Op

A store manager at a Norfolk branch of the East of England Co-Op has spoken of his staff's "nervousness" around coming to work due to the abuse they are receiving from members of the public. 

Staff at supermarkets and corner shops have reported customers refusing to wear masks and becoming aggressive when asked to do so. 

Steve Charlton is the store manager of the East of England Co-Op's Harleston branch, and said: "I think it's fair to say that my colleagues are feeling very anxious at the moment.

"Although our customers have been mostly kind and considerate, we’re certainly wary of receiving abuse when challenging a customer about adherence to the guidelines."

He said that although 95pc of customers arrive wearing a mask there are still exceptions to this who cause the most disruption. 


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"Sometimes customers arrive without a mask and we provide them with a disposable one. For customers who have genuinely forgotten to bring their mask, they are happy to wear the ones we provide," he said.

"Unfortunately, we do have occasions in which customers, who are not exempt, refuse to wear a mask at all. Their reasoning can be things like 'it's against my rights' or 'you can't make me'.

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"Some people think that just because they are 'popping in' for a newspaper the rules don't apply, and others think it is ok to just cover their faces with the sleeve of their jacket. We have also seen an increasing number of customers wearing masks incorrectly, for example, lowering it under their nose so it’s only covering their mouth," he said. 

His plea to the public was to treat staff who have worked "tirelessly" with respect, adding: "We are all wearing face coverings to help keep our colleagues and customers as safe as possible.

"We would just like the same respect and courtesy from anyone that enters our store. Some of my colleagues are wearing masks for up to nine hours a day, we are only asking customers to wear them for the short time they are in the store.

"Me and my colleagues are working hard to protect each other and our customers, but we can’t do it without your help. Please wear a mask, be mindful of social distancing, use our hand sanitiser stations, shop alone where possible and don't congregate in aisles.

"I must stress again that most of our customers are doing the right thing and we are very grateful for their ongoing support. I know they would join me in asking the small minority who don’t follow guidelines to please consider others around you and how your actions can impact them."

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