An Aberdeen shop worker has told how he has seen the “best and worst of humanity” since the coronavirus pandemic took effect.
Peter Leslie, 62, has worked at Tesco in Westhill for a decade, and in retail for 20 years, but has never witnessed anything like the scenes Covid-19 has caused in the sector.
From toilet paper hoarding, to huge queues of eager customers waiting for the store to open, it’s been a strange few months in retail, but Peter is happy to be able to work and not be trapped indoors.
He said: “I look at people around me, neighbours and such like and think ‘they’re stuck in their houses’. I get to work, my life is almost normal.
“It’s obviously not normal, but comparatively speaking it is normal.
“When I get home at the end of a shift I’m tired as usual, I refresh and get ready for the next shift.
“I think we’re all the same.
“We’re not working extremely hard, we’ve got a relatively easy life because we’ve taken on lots of extra staff, but by the time the end of the week comes I feel absolutely drained.
“It’s not a physical draining, it’s probably more of a mental draining.
“Whenever you hit the shop floor you’re constantly being conscious of the social distancing for all the customers that come in.
“It’s quite disconcerting when you see them all in masks and gloves and you think ‘oh my god’.”
When the pandemic first started to take hold, an array of different measure were put in place to make supermarkets safe.
Peter, who is also the store’s lead Usdaw and health and safety rep, said: “We started to introduce social distancing. There was quite a scramble across the entire retail population to put in plastic screens.
“We then progressed with the one-way system in the stores.
“We put a head-count of 200 people in store including staff.
“We had extra staff outside with cleaning stations and whatever else counting people and counting people out so we didn’t have crowded aisles.
“That was quite a learning curve because nobody had done it.
“It’s something that has become quite successful.
“On day one we were out on a limb, everybody was out on a limb, the whole world was out on a limb, the whole country anyway.
“I was panicking, my head was all over the place.
“I think the support that was in place was sufficient to make sure we communicated stuff to the staff.
“We have masks available, we have gloves available. Sanitiser, we didn’t sell sanitiser to the public because we kept it for ourselves.
“In terms of feeling safe I think we couldn’t have felt any safer.
“Day by day there were new things implemented, the screens were brought in, the one-way system was brought in.”
And with a high-pressure environment, Peter, a general assistant at the store, has seen the good side and the bad side of customers.
He said: “In terms of humanity you get the very best of it, but you’re also seeing some of the very worst of it.”
He went on: “Customers have been the greatest that I’ve ever seen and the worst that I’ve ever seen. I would have to say 90%-10%.
“People, I would say probably two or three a day, have seen me in passing in the store and have taken time out of their shopping trip to tell me ‘I just wanted to say can you tell everybody thanks for what you’re doing’.
“I’ve not experienced that ever before.
“So although we’ve got bad customers, as we all do, we’ve had some absolutely fantastic customers.
One of the stranger features of the coronavirus pandemic has been the mass buying of toilet roll.
Peter said: “There was a massive panic buy to start off with and the one thing I could never understand and still can’t understand is the mass purchase of toilet paper.
“The amount of toilet paper that we sold, we were out of stock for days on end.
“People were queuing up at the store at 6am for it opening looking for all these soaps and sanitisers.
“We still struggle for flour and pasta but other than that we’re kind of back to normal.
“The other thing that’s happening now is the same people are coming in multiple times a day because it becomes a social event. It’s the only opportunity they’ve got to, the way they see it, legally come out so they’ll come down and get their bread and milk and then they’ll come back and ‘oh I needed potatoes as well’.
“That puts quite a bit of strain on us”.