While welovestornoway.com has been making every effort to highlight how this crisis is bringing out the best in local communities, we have to admit that we’ve all now seen examples of the worst human behaviour, too.
Empty shelves and stressed shop-workers are evidence of over-buying, hoarding and even aggression on the part of some shoppers.
The disappointing traits have led to practical moves to protect the most vulnerable shoppers – and to pleas for understanding from some of those behind the counter and stocking the shelves.
Stornoway supermarkets are to introduce reserved shopping hours for senior citizens in line with a national trend to protect older people from consumer-created shortages.
The move comes in response to astonishing buying behaviour which has seen supermarket shelves routinely cleared of almost all essential food and toiletry items.
From tomorrow, Stornoway’s two Co-op stores will be offering a dedicated shopping hour to older people, between 8am and 9am daily at the Macaulay Road superstore and the Cromwell Street convenience store.
And from Monday Tesco’s superstore on Shell Street will also be offering pensioners hour shopping on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9am-10am.
In both cases the move has been handed down to island stores by the supermarket chains themselves, but enthusiastically embraced locally.
A specifically local appeal, though, has come from Tesco’s store managers in Stornoway, following the national chain’s decision to limit purchases within the store. The Stornoway manager said:
“Thank you to the customers who have taken time to approach me and other staff members to thank us. You don’t realise how much this makes our shifts bearable at this incredibly stressful time.
“Those simple words of thank you made me cry this week, with happiness, to know people do notice us.
"We are humans, we aren’t robots who can take abuse being hurled at us in every direction.
“We don’t know what’s round the corner any minute of the day, but I can promise you Tesco Stornoway staff are trying our very best – at every minute of the day.”
Those words have been echoed by small retailers, including Charlie Barleys, the popular butchers on Ropework Park, who have experienced extremely high demand for meat and fresh goods, leading them to limit quantities on some items.
They said: “The ongoing availability of products is dependent on people buying considerately, and also our suppliers being able to fulfil our orders. Unfortunately, this situation is outwith our control and we understand that it is frustrating, as it is for us too.
“Please remember that our staff are working really hard to ensure that we are able to serve all of our customers, including the vulnerable in our community. They have no option to work from home and are doing their best to ensure that nobody has to go without!”
Pharmacists are struggling with exceptional demand both for prescription items and for over-the-counter medications, with Boots Stornoway store now open for limited hours only and Back Pharmacy closing between 12noon and 2pm to allow pharmacists time to work on an exceptionally large number of prescriptions.
Cromwell Street’s KJ Macdonald is allowing only eight customers at a time into the store to maintain safe separation distances. A spokesman said: “In these challenging times we would like to take the opportunity to thank all our customers for their continued support and understanding. These measures are not easy for any of us but unfortunately necessary to enable us to keep providing our service to the community for as long as possible.”
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has backed a move by Tesco to limit shopping on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between the hour of 9am to 10am for the elderly and the most vulnerable. Comhairle Leader Roddie Mackay said: “This is a good move by Tesco which should benefit older people and the most vulnerable in our community. We would ask that the public respect this for the benefit of these groups. People in the Western Isles are known for their compassion, respect and social responsibility. Now is the time to show it. Leave your shopping until later in the day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Every little helps.”
Picture shows Boots the Chemists during a late working night for the staff yesterday (Thursday). A spokesman said: “Another late night spent by the team trying to get your prescriptions dispensed safely under all this pressure. We are trying our absolute best for you all.”