Please Stop Risking the Health of Retail Workers for Your Christmas Presents

Retail Workers Health

Retail can be a pretty thankless job. I worked in retail during high school and university, so you know I’ve seen some sh*t. I’ve had to pry too-small dresses off braless women, slip shoes from bunioned feet, deflect come-ons from customers (don’t hit on someone in their place of work, especially if they’re underage). And, I once had a manager get bitten in a botched shoplifting attempt.

If you think that’s bad, during Christmas, it only gets worse. People lose basic human decency and turn into maniacs. This year, while a pandemic rages on, you’d think people would avoid shops and malls as much as possible. But no, they’re still coming out in droves. And what’s worse, is that they’re willing to risk the health of retail workers for it.

On the Northern Beaches — you know, the area of Sydney that’s on lockdown — retail workers are protesting the inability to shut up shop. One retail worker on the Northern Beaches, Talulah*, called in sick after people refused to stay home on the first day of lockdown.

“Lots of people came into the store on Friday to panic buy their Christmas gifts,” she told The Latch. “They were refusing to wear masks, even after we were advised to start doing so.” Forced to take a sick day because she felt too uncomfortable working in the circumstances, she says just one staff member was in store by Sunday, adding: “She told us there was still 30 customers that came in shopping for last-minute gifts”.

It’s not just customers who are risking the health of retail workers — head office also isn’t looking out for their staff in stores.

“On Friday we were told ‘business as usual’ despite the advice from the government that everyone on the Beaches should stay home,” Talulah said. “The store staff, not management, had to suggest taking temperatures, enforcing hand sanitiser and wearing masks upon entry. There wasn’t even a QR code/login, so there’s no way of knowing who came into the store that day.”

She was quick to point out the hypocrisy coming from management, saying “Our managers don’t even live on the Beaches. It felt very inappropriate for casuals to still be running the store until at least Wednesday when cases continue to pop up all around us. The official advice is to stay at home except for essential reasons.”

Even though this job helps Talulah pay her rent, she “won’t be returning to work until we get the all-clear from the government. Public health is too important”.

With workers forgoing a paycheck for their health, you can forgo a trip to the mall. If you’re risking the health of retail staff for a last-minute Christmas present (seriously, it’s the same day every year, sort out your presents earlier), it won’t just be the halls getting decked this year.

Seriously everyone — Christmas shopping is not essential.

*Name has been changed to protect their identity.

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