Yesterday was the first day of ‘lockdown’ in the UK.
I work as a kitchen designer for a major DIY chain. As a ‘hardware store’ we are counted as providing an essential service, so we’ll be staying open one way or another. We sell items that people will need in order to keep their homes safe, secure, warm and healthy – plumbing, electrics, light bulbs, CO alarms, rat poison, heaters, and so on.
So no lockdown for me.
It’s a fluid and fast moving situation. I think it’s important to remember that nobody knows what to do for best – but decisions about what to do for best still have to be made. Everyone is flying blind.
On Saturday the store was manic. There were queues to the back of the store from every till, some of our design appointments cancelled, some still came in. A design appointment normally involves sitting with a couple of random strangers for about two hours…
By Sunday we’d put in a queuing system, so there was only one person at each till, and everyone else had to queue in a single line, 2 metres apart. It’s scary how many people don’t have a clue what two metres looks like. We were told that we could now do design appointments over the phone, and we can now arrange finance and take payments over the phone as well. Don’t underestimate how much went on behind the scenes for all of that to happen.
All employees are till-trained – and that’s pretty much what all employees were doing on Sunday. I spent the first hour and a half standing outside, telling people that we were no longer taking cash payments, only cards. Most people were absolutely fine about it, a very few decided not to shop, and one guy said ‘Oh, it makes no difference to me, I’ve just come for a look round’.
By Monday our opening hours had been cut. We normally open 7am to 8pm – now it’s 8am to 5pm. We were only allowing about 50 people into the shop at any one time. The boss stood outside, opening/closing the doors as appropriate. People seemed much more resigned to the situation, we got far fewer comments about ‘over-reaction’ and ‘what a lot of nonsense’, and things felt generally calmer. But, of course, we’re starting to be short-staffed ourselves. All employees over 70 are at home, some colleagues are having to self-isolate, some people have kids at home now so need to be off work to look after them. And of course there are normal days off and holidays too!! And normal illnesses!!
On Tuesday (yesterday), we were closed. We needed to re-group, give ourselves a bit of a breathing space – and re-stock the shelves. It was like a plague of locusts had been through. I spent yesterday working stock. Cage after cage coming out of the warehouse, and everything had to be unpacked and stacked on the shelves.
Today is a day off for me. By the time I left at 5pm last night, we still didn’t know to what extent we would be opening today. There seem to be two main options – open the whole store as normal, but only allow a very few people in at a time – or close the store and only do Click and Collect. If we just do ‘Click and Collect’, we’ll be taking items out to people in their cars.
Are all these people buying essential items to keep their homes safe, secure, warm and healthy? Mostly they’re buying paint and bedding plants. And cushions. Fucking cushions.
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