Supermarket workers have offered a glimpse into the incredible pressure they’re under as Australians struggle to make ends meet after losing their jobs during the coronavirus crisis.
Exhausted staff at Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA are struggling to keep up with the high demand as shoppers continue to strip shelves bare – and some frustrated customers are lashing out at workers.
All four major outlets have imposed strict rationing measures on products such as toilet paper, pasta, rice and meats to curb panic buying.
One Woolworths service team member said her day-to-day role has consisted of constantly restocking shelves and having to put up with ‘fed-up, cranky and upset customers’.
‘I’ve been feeling a rush of emotions throughout the day. Happy, sad, angry and grateful. Being praised for the work we are doing which soon gets kicked down after someone yells at us over the limits,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We’re physically getting abused over toilet paper. One customer threw it at me after I told him he could only have one.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Woolworths for comment.
She said she spends her shifts putting 17 shopping trolleys worth of essential items back onto shelves after staff were forced to confiscate them from customers who tried to buy more than the imposed limit.
‘People wonder why the shelves are always empty. Instead of putting new stock on show, we are spending our time and resources putting back the stock which are taken off customers,’ she said.
‘We constantly get yelled at and abused for just doing our jobs. We don’t make the rules, we can only enforce them.
‘Our groceries and night-fill teams are working around the clock to fill all shelves to ensure customers have access to products but if the delivery doesn’t come until 1am there’s really not much we can do.’
She said the worst part about her job is missing out on purchasing essential items at the end of her shifts – as she urged shoppers to only buy what they need.
‘The workers are the ones who miss out. We are so busy all day that we don’t even get the items our families need as we aren’t allowed to leave our post and run when the toilet paper comes in,’ she said.
‘We always miss out. For customers, it’s a luck of the draw. For staff it’s always a guaranteed no by the time we finish our shift.
‘Please only take what you are allowed to have so we can focus on putting other items like toilet paper and tissues on the shelves. Before you say “put more staff on”, it doesn’t work that way. We are at full capacity with team members every single day.’
Another Woolworths employee told Daily Mail Australia his shifts have been busier than ever with the increased workload – as his Sydney store struggles to keep up with soaring demand.
‘Our stock levels have increased so every shift is crazier than usual but we’ve been adequately resourced,’ he said.
The worker, who spends most of his shifts stocking shelves, said his store has had to hold back on stock just so they have enough essential items for other customers to buy over the following days.
‘A lot of customers complain about the lack of stock, and our managers have to decide to keep some stock from going on shelves so they have something available for when the store opens the next day,’ he said.
One Aldi employee – who has been working 12-hour shifts in the company’s warehouse on the Gold Coast – desperately urged shoppers to ‘stop panic buying’.
‘Advice to everyone panic buying, please stop. We’re doing 12-hour days because people think they need to stock up, you do not need to stock up, supermarkets will still be open even if a lockdown occurs,’ he said.
‘If everyone just shopped how they have been before the coronavirus, then you will find it easier to go about your day without the panic. Kind regards, the team at Aldi.’
Meanwhile, two Woolworths employees shared a video on TikTok revealing how they have been bombarded with questions on whether their store is hiring.
Many who have lost their jobs have asked questions like: ‘Is your work hiring?’, ‘can you put in a good word for me at your work?’ and ‘is there any positions available in night fill? I’m desperate’.
Tens of thousands of Australians were laid off earlier this week after dine-in restaurants and cafes, gyms and pubs were forced to shut indefinitely under the government’s tough restrictions to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
One young woman has turned to Centrelink for employment benefits after she lost her job as a cruise ship dancer.
When lodging a claim online, she was asked ‘how much cash on hand do you have?’ to which she responded $7 – as she shared a video of her struggles on TikTok.
A physiotherapist told Daily Mail Australia she had lost her job and was was feeling ‘really s**t’ about receiving government assistance for the first time in her life.
‘I’m just trying to get any money I can really. I worked at a physiotherapist as practice manager and in client rehabilitation, I’d been there for seven years but my work wasn’t considered essential so I’ve now lost my job,’ she said on Monday.
‘It’s the first time in my life I can’t get a job anywhere – even with qualifications. I’ve got my own place too so I’m going to have to call the banks, I’ve got no way to pay at the minute.’