First the supermarkets put in limits on what we can buy, now Woolies has a strict regime to keep stores clean and maintain social distancing at the checkout.
First the supermarkets put in limits on what we can buy, now Woolies has a strict regime to keep stores clean and maintain social distancing at the checkout.

Woolies’ new coronavirus trolley rule

Supermarket chain Woolworths will ask customers to physically change the way they shop due to the coronavirus threat.

In a letter to customers being sent out this evening, Woolworths Group chief executive officer Brad Banducci frankly admits it is "no longer business as usual" at the retailer.

He also said that some product shortages are "inevitable" and acknowledged the "rocky start" to the elderly only shopping hour, which led to grumbles people still couldn't get what they wanted despite queuing from before dawn.

Fresh milk was the latest product to have a limit imposed with customers only able to grab two bottles as of yesterday.

But more significant is a series of new measures Woolies is to put in place to maintain social distancing in busy supermarkets.

The chain will now ask people to keep a trolley length between them and other customers. It will also ask people to pay with tap and go "whenever you can" to avoid staff touching notes and coins.


"These are undoubtedly testing times for all Australians, given the impact COVID-19 is having on the way we live. And if you believe the experts, we still have a long way to go," Mr Banducci wrote in the memo.

"At Woolworths, we accept that this is no longer business as usual.

"In the last four weeks, we have seen a huge surge in demand, which inevitably means you're seeing material product shortages on our shelves."

He said Woolworths needed customers to help them ensure there was enough products for everyone.

The changes were being introduced, "in the spirit of fairness for all Australians, especially those who need our help the most, we have made some changes".

First, Woolies would like customers to wash or sanitise their hands before they cross the threshold.

Then there is a new guideline to use trolleys as a device to help people keep their 1.5 metre social distance, particularly in checkout queues. If shoppers keep their trolley, which is between them and the person in front it will help limit the virus's spread.

Stores will now have markers on the floor leading up to the registers one trolley length apart. So even if you don't have a trolley, you can still judge the gap to maintain between you and the next shopper.


Stores will also double the amount of time spent on cleaning. In some supermarkets this will mean 10 hours a day will be dedicated to cleaning.

"We've also upgraded to hospital-grade disinfectant and are focusing on regular cleaning of counters and other surfaces," said Mr Banducci.

"And as well as thorough hand washing, you'll start to see many of our team - including checkout operators - wearing protective gloves."

A controversial change introduced last week will remain in place - that's the 7am-8am dedicated hour for the elderly and people with disabilities for a further week.

Last week, there were furious scenes when some older shoppers found they still couldn't get the items they needed despite rising before dawn.

"It was a rocky start, but it is getting better," said Mr Banducci.

Woolworths said it its online pick up service from stores will remain unavailable.

It will also prioritise online orders to the elderly, people with a disability, those with compromised immunity and those in mandatory isolation. Woolworths has an online form for these people to fill in to help them get earlier delivery windows.

But Mr Banducci said they were looking to increase the overall availability of online slots, the lack of which has been a bug bear for many shoppers.

"We know that home delivery will only become more important, so we are working hard to ramp this up as much as we can," he said.

All home deliveries will now be contactless with Woolies' staff leaving groceries at the front door in reusable bags. Staff will not deliver to bench tops.

Last week, Woolies put a two-product limit on most packaged products. Yesterday, the company announced chilled milk would be added to the list of products that are limited to two per customer. Flavoured milks are excepted.

However, there are many exceptions across the store including tinned fish, bakery items, seafood, yoghurt, baby food, pet food, fresh food and meat excluding mince.

Similar limits have been put in place at IGA, Aldi and Coles stores.

All the major retailers, and the Government, have said there is no problem with the supply to supermarkets with Australia producing three times the food it needs. The issue is on the demand side with shoppers continuing to stock up above and beyond what they actually need.

Mr Banducci once again reiterated his plea for customers to respect Woolies staff who he said were "proud to serve" their local communities.

Originally published as Woolies' new coronavirus trolley rule

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