‘We are working the best we can’: Convenience store manager reveals life at Romford and Barking shops during coronavirus crisis

PUBLISHED: 11:48 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:48 04 May 2020

Joanne Gates, team manager at Romford South Street Co-op store. Picture: Joanne Gates

Joanne Gates, team manager at Romford South Street Co-op store. Picture: Joanne Gates

Joanne Gates

A manager at two Co-op food stores in Romford and Barking has revealed her experiences of being on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.

Joanne Gates, team manager at Romford’s South Street branch and covering the role at Barking Faircross, spoke about what staff are facing in the shops on a daily basis.

She said shoplifting and customers verbally abusing shop workers are still things staff have to deal with.

“Sometimes we find some customers can a little bit more anxious, more agitated and they will start to panic, or will start to take it out on colleagues. We are only doing what we are told by the government to do.

“People are aware we have got to stop them at the door and they are more than happy to stand there.

“You do get a few who don’t or complain that they have to wait, but we are only trying to accommodate the social distancing rules as well as making sure that colleagues and customers are remaining safe.”

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Joanne’s message to impatient customers is to “bear in mind that like everyone else, we are worried and we are anxious about the situation”.

“None of us wants to be ill, none of us want to risk anyone so we’re following the government guidelines. Please bear with us. We are working the best we can to make sure everyone gets everything they want.”

Restrictions on the number of certain items people can buy, with the exception of eggs, have been lifted.

Joanne praised the Co-op for providing staff with protective equipment, including gloves and screens at checkouts. It has also put one-way systems in place around the shops.

She told how a lady had called to give her appreciation to staff for their work, adding: “Some customers make a point of saying thank you for all the hard work that we are doing.”

The Rush Green resident has worked for the Co-op for eight and a half years and has also signed up to be an NHS volunteer.

When asked how staff morale is, she said: “They are going to be anxious as obviously they are on the frontline.

“They want to make sure everyone is safe but they are also worried about their own health. They are proud to be on the frontline and to serve their community.”

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