With the COVID-19 epidemic worldwide, people started madly stocking up on toilet paper, beans, fish, meat, chicken, sugar basically anything and everything. Bleach, disinfectant, bread eggs, hand sanitiser are impossible to obtain.
While the huge demand for hand sanitisers, medical masks and disinfectant wipes is somewhat understandable (since the main symptoms of the virus are sore throat and cough) it is not possible to explain the mysterious disappearance of toilet paper from stores in Britain, Australia, USA, China and other countries. Among other things, according to media reports, the new trend has forced stores to quota purchases of those goods that are really necessary. Yet many do not enforce this quota.
The CEO of Tesco Dave Lewis made a statement part of which assured: To ensure our more vulnerable and elderly customers can shop in-store, we will prioritise one hour every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning between 9-10am (except in our Express stores) and ask that you respect this. When people panic they are far less likely to respect anything one has to say about food and supplies.
We also emailed Dave Lewis three days ago receiving a pre-scripted email from Derek Duncan Customer Service Specialist on behalf of the Chief Executive’s Office which we will share with you below.
St Mary’s hermitage has provided pastoral care for over 24 years specifically to those that are vulnerable we try to help them as best we can by enabling them. We heard from one of our parishioners who had been concerned that he could not purchase the food he needed for him and his wife. This is what he sent:
Dear Mr. Lewis,
I’m writing plainly out of concern and perhaps a touch of internalised panic. Our household is a disabled household in Kent, specifically a small town called xxxxxxx, we both have low immune systems. It has been relayed to us by our GP on the advice of NHS England and the Government that we should self isolate for at least the next 3 months, something we are attempting to do, although this is somewhat difficult when you cannot stock up with the food you need in order to do this.
I am mobility impaired and have an immunodeficiency. For the past 6 days I have made several attempts and 40 mile all round journeys to stock up with at least the necessaries items we would need for at least two weeks (it would be impossible for us to stock up with 3 months worth of food) worth of supplies.
Every Tesco store I’ve gone to so far in Dover, Broadstairs, Canterbury remind one of a scene from the zombie apocalypse (minus the zombies of course) where the shelves are completely empty as though someone has come in and completely swept every item off the shelves. There is no meat, fish, chicken, bread, porridge, disinfectant, hand sanitisers, beans, tinned vegetables, frozen goods, in fact what is available is absolutely useless to us. It was also somewhat off putting and shameful hearing one of your staff singing “it’s the end of the world as we know it” … it was far from amusing but not surprising from one of your staff in Margate to try and trivialise the current global situation.
One wonders, if we, who are considered at risk, and have been advised to self isolate for three months cannot even get a weeks worth of shopping how on Earth are we going to survive three months?
It has been an ordeal for me to go into your stores, mainly because I have been housebound for the past 5 years and have been forced to go out, I find walking excruciatingly painful having advanced stages of rheumatoid arthritis, and I have Asperger’s syndrome to boot … yet have not even been able to even get a few days of shopping to sustain our 2 person and 2 animals household. Frankly it was a waste of time for me to risk going out to your stores and returning with with only I block of cheese, 6 eggs, 2 milk etc. Which would only keep us going for 2 days.
Whilst I understand that you may be frustrated by your supply chain, staff wellbeing and profit margins, we have been more concerned with putting food on the table like a hunter gatherer who is unsuccessful.
I just wanted you to know, this is not a complaint, it is not a condemnation but a sharing of our concern for the immediate future, and just to ask that something be done. I cannot keep going to your stores every day hunting for food and returning empty handed. The last 5 days of food hunting trips have left me exhausted, with severe physical pain and sensory overload and I have achieved absolutely nothing other than waste money driving to your various stores.
I wish you a good day and send you our regards. Prof. C. (Name and address on file.)
The response was not quite what one would have expected when one reads the content of the first email but we would very much like to share this with you. As it is entirely contrary to the assurances made by Tesco CEO Dave Lewis. Perhaps now is the time to bring back ration books for certain items.
Response from Tesco Head Office.
Thank you for contacting our Chief Executive.
We find ourselves in an unprecedented situation, where we need to react very quickly to changes in circumstances for our staff and our customers. We recognise that some situations are far from ideal, but we are listening to our customers and government announcements to meet as many of our customers’ needs as possible in these challenging times.
Thanks for your understanding and feedback.
Kind regards, Derek Duncan, Customer Service Specialist On behalf of the Chief Executive’s Office. firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0800 072 6685
Thank you for ignoring the content of our parishioners email and ignoring those that are old, infirm and disabled.
Before writing this article I wanted to experience it for myself. Therefore this morning a Monday, at 08:30 I was waiting outside one of the Tesco super stores, in Broadstairs to be more precise, it’s not a Metro, and therefore according to Mr. Lewis the elderly and disabled should have been prioritised between 9am and 10am. I’m in my 60’s and I’m disabled with a mobility impairment which is quite visible as I have to use walking sticks to remain upright. I noted that already there was a large crowd outside before I even arrived, quite a number of them very quite young in their 20s and 30s with no obvious disability. As soon as security opened the store this group rushed in, security made no attempt to allow the elderly and disabled in first in fact they stood back laughing and joking, I could not hear what they found so amusing. By 9:30 most of the necessary items needed to survive were gone, what was left was far too expensive for a pensioner or someone on disability benefits.
I found no bread, no sugar, no eggs, no meat except for the expensive cuts double the price I would normally pay, no full fat milk, no chicken, even the frozen had gone. The cheese coolers were a sad sight to see. Tinned goods shelves were full of empty cartons with an odd tin here and there. Dog and cat food was scarce. Yet it was a vegans delight, lots of fruit and veg available but not tins.
After an hour, exhausted and in pain, somewhat dejected I left the store and headed for Lidl and then Aldi, between both stores I managed to get almost two weeks of supplies, yet no hand sanitiser or disinfectant. My mother in law tells me to use vinegar which is a natural disinfectant. We also purchased four live chickens from our local farmer so that we’d have fresh eggs, I believe the lay alternative days which hopefully will provide us with two eggs a day (chicken feed (corn mash) is easily obtained, as is goat and cow milk from the farmer and it’s a good price too. Locally we have farm shops which helped a great deal and tastes like it aught to compared to a Tesco’s fresh fruit and veg which has been irradiated, waxed and chemically aided yet is absolutely tasteless. We will survive at least through the month thanks to local farms, Lidl and Aldi… kudos to you guys.
As for Tesco, feeling absolutely let down by them and fobbed off by their chief executive, our the author of the initial concerned email, his family and friends which includes St. Mary’s Hermitage we consider Tesco as pariah and will never set foot in there again.
One last note I took a quick drive to Tesco Dover (white-cliffs) to their pharmacy asking for my usual bottle of surgical spirits to clean and prepare for my daily injections… and sterilising the injection area! the pharmacists head looked me up and down (I was not wearing my clericals) and was unshaved as I’d been in a rush. Her counter assistant returned and said sorry we don’t have any left but the pharmacist said to use a tissue with some water?? Wow… I have immunodeficiency and the Tesco pharmacist advises using tissue and water… at a time when a pandemic is rife. Great advice and thank you.
When I was a young man in the military and they sent me on survival instructors course in Belize I thoroughly enjoyed being a hunter gatherer in order to survive. Now close to pensionable age and with 3 different types of disability the fun I had in the 80’s is no longer such an attraction. And one would have hope that having reached this age bracket and having served Queen and Country in three separate theatres of war that I would no longer have to hunt for basic food items in order to survive.
If you are one of those people that are hoarding food, please consider others that are more vulnerable than you are. You have greater opportunities to obtain what you need. Those who are vulnerable only have a limited window within which they can obtain the basics to survive. Please do consider being somewhat less opportunistic and selfish… as they say what goes round comes round.