APPLES AND ABUSE: North Burnett supermarket employees have been on the receiving end of abuse from frustrated customers. Picture: Facebook
APPLES AND ABUSE: North Burnett supermarket employees have been on the receiving end of abuse from frustrated customers. Picture: Facebook

Shoppers hurl apples and abuse at supermarket workers

ABUSE and apples have been thrown at frontline supermarket workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

North Burnett grocery stores have been under scrutiny since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic due to a rise in customer demand.

Item restrictions and out of stocks became a common occurrence across the country, with panic buyers pillaging shelves.

Warehouses for supermarket chains such as FoodWorks and IGA were hit with shortages in essential items such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser, pasta, and more.

Biggenden FoodWorks owner Hardev Kooner said this ultimately led to warehouses rationing stock to stores across the state.

"Our orders are currently being filled at around 54 per cent from our warehouses," Mr Kooner said.

"It's pretty much rationing due to the size of our store, we're in a medium sized shop so we're only allocated what we can sell."

Mr Kooner said that supermarkets had no say in the matter, with their allocations reduced to 30 per cent at the height of the COVID-19 panic buying.

The inability to place orders on out of stock items have led to customers venting their frustrations to employees at the Biggenden FoodWorks.

"When you're trying to restrict people like that, they're going to get upset," Mr Kooner said.

"We've had apples thrown at our employees, someone got that annoyed by the allocations."

Mr Kooner sympathises with his customers, believing they're just concerned for their families.

"We don't know where they've driven from either, they might be feeding a large family and they're in desperate need of those items," he said.

Mundubbera IGA had encountered similar issues at the start of the pandemic, as manager Angela Beutel endeavoured to address frustrated customers.

"There were occasions were our workers were getting upset when we first started fielding complaints," Mrs Beutel said.

"It's water off a ducks back now, those first few weeks it wasn't."

Wanting to protect her staff, Mrs Beutel took an educational approach after several incidences of abuse occurred in the shop.

"It was just frustration, and after explaining the reasons for doing certain things, they understood," she said.

"They've all got stuff going on as well, but I feel things like this were happening everywhere."

Mundubbera police were made aware of the unsocial behaviour, and had made regular visits to the IGA to help, and to enforce social distancing laws within the store.

"They were aware that we were copping it a bit, and they were supportive to us," Mrs Beutel said.

"But it never got as far as having to make a call."

The Mundubbera IGA have since changed their processes to adhere to restrictions over the past few weeks.

These included restricting the store capacity to 20 people at a time, splitting their staff into day and night teams, and encouraging deliveries and phone orders.

These adaptations have been taken on by the town according to Mrs Beutel, seeing a noticeable decrease in aggravated behaviour.

"It's more about changing their feeling once they arrive, they might come to our store anxious and upset," she said.

"We want them to leave happy, so if we can do that, we've done our job."

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