Empty shelves at Auchan Kirchberg on 13 March. Supermarket staff continue to work and serve customers despite government recommendations are to reduce social contact as much as possible.
Delano is singling out individuals, groups of people and associations or businesses who are going beyond the call of duty during the coronavirus crisis. Today, the men and women who ensure we can still buy food.
In an article entitled “‘I never signed up for this shit,’ says supermarket employee”, satirical website Luxemburg Wurst hit the nail on the head about the debt we owe staff at Luxembourg’s grocery stores right now. Doctors and nurses and police officers are doing unprecedented work (and will be subject of a future “In praise of…”), but supermarket staff are also placing themselves in the front line whenever they clock in for a shift.
Many of us who have worked in retail recall our time with fondness, though we know that it is not an easy job at the best of times. Awkward or beligerent customers, poor pay and conditions in the majority of cases, being on your feet all day, working weekends… all are par for the course. So, to be called upon to carry on doing your job knowing that government recommendations are to reduce social contact as much as possible is a genuine sacrifice. Even more so for those who commute, some from across the border, using reduced public transport services.
Thankfully, apart from that first Friday the 13th of March, the day after school closures were first announced, Luxembourg has been spared the sort of panic buying madness that has afflicted many countries. Reports in the press--including from our own Jess Bauldry--and on social media indicate that the vast majority of people are respecting social distancing recommendations as well as the stores’ own request that customers leave space in the checkout queue, only touch the items they are going to buy and try to limit their time in stores to 30 minutes or less.
More importantly, perhaps, personnel were also doing their utmost to assure customers. Checkout staff were using disposable gloves and cleansing their hands with sanitizer between serving each shopper. Several stores had installed plastic protective screens at the checkout. And the majority were doing so with a smile, or at the very least noble stoicism.
Despite a call from the OGBL for stores to close on Sundays and earlier in the evenings, to give employees a rest and allow them time with their family, staff still turned up and were welcoming--they realise that some people, despite the current restrictions, still have little choice about when they can shop for groceries.
The good news is that some supermarket chains--Auchan and Cactus--have announced special bonuses for staff who continue to work in trying circumstances. It is the least they deserve.