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Retailers won’t tolerate ‘abusive’ customers

May 3rd, 2020 6:25 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Martin Scally, Darren Hayes, owner Eugene Scally, and Eva Shanahan practise social distancing in the Clonakilty SuperValu store. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

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RETAIL bosses across West Cork have said they will no longer tolerate some customers being rude and verbally abusing their staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their comments come after Scally’s SuperValu in Clonakilty appealed online to customers last weekend to respect social distancing guidelines and not to verbally abuse their staff while in the store.

Eugene Scally said it was like a ‘release valve that was just let go’ as he was inundated with comments of support from other supermarkets, co-ops, butchers and green grocers – and not just in West Cork, but all over the country.

‘It shows that we’re not the only people being verbally abused and that’s the sad thing about it,’ he told The Southern Star.

He stressed that those who have been verbally abusing his staff are not from Clonakilty, or the local area, and are strangers to town.

‘Nobody seems to know them and they are certainly being quite careless about their whole reaction to Covid-19. We don’t know them, but they’re happy to abuse us. ‘Everyone is worried and I have had staff having to leave work because they were stressed or upset due to incidents of verbal abuse,’ he said.

Eugene said he was forced to post the message because there had simply been too many incidents of abuse in recent weeks – with a noted increase since Easter – and he said he felt ‘emotionally distressed’ when he left the store last Friday.

He highlighted one incident last week whereby a man pushed aside eight posters about social distancing, and stretched in over a hot food counter.

‘When he was asked to step back by a staff member, he threw a tantrum and stormed off.’

There was an outpouring of support for Eugene and his staff on social media from customers and fellow retailers, with many praising the staff who are working on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ruth Healy, owner of Urru Culinary Store in Bandon said Eugene’s appeal certainly resonated with her and particularly more so last week, where she and her staff witnessed instances of ‘impatience’ from customers.

‘Maybe it was coming, but last week was a little bit of a crescendo. It all sounded very familiar, but obviously on a smaller scale here, and maybe some people were just out-of-sync with each other,’ said Ruth.

‘It’s not the majority, but it’s the one who can upset the majority.’

In Skibbereen, Ruth Field of Field’s SuperValu said that for the most part her customers are very understanding about the restrictions regarding social distancing and their one-person shopping rule.

‘You do get the odd complaint alright from some customers, but we explain to them that these are government guidelines that are set down for both staff and customer safety,’ said Ruth.

Meanwhile, McCarthys Meat Market in Bishopstown tweeted their support for Scally’s and said that they have had a handful of awkward customers through their doors too.

‘It is difficult enough to work in the current climate without dealing with rudeness too. Thankfully the vast majority of customers are awesome,’ they Tweeted.

Eugene Scally said he understands that people are on tenter hooks with Covid-19, and that everyone is doing their best. His local and regular customers are obeying the guidelines and respecting his staff, he said.

‘Everybody is frustrated and we all have to do our best and allow people to shop comfortably and, most of all, protect the people that are serving the customers,’ added Eugene, who said one of the biggest problems in trying to comply with Covid-19 guidelines was asking people to shop alone.

‘We also cater for single parents and can arrange deliveries for them, so no one is not getting to shop. There is help there,’ he said.

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