October 19, 2019
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    Behind the walls of ‘super’markets

    September 17, 2019

    On the other hand, the story of a young girl who works at a supermarket does not make anyone happy. If I put it in her own words, “Miss, we do many more shifts than are assigned to us. We are always short of staff. We have to beg to take a day’s leave. Usually, our superiors do not let us take leave. We work six days a week. We hardly have time for ourselves or our families. But we do not earn an adequate salary.” If this is their story, how can we expect them to work with enthusiasm?

    I stepped into one of the leading supermarkets in the town to purchase some essentials recently. What I witnessed there will not make anyone happy. Girls and boys employed at the supermarket were spraying one of the popular insecticides to kill cockroaches in broad daylight!

     

    Some supermarket staff put items such as biscuits, bananas and salad leaves at the bottom of the shopping bag and place the heavy rice bag on top. All the items are damaged unless the customer notices this and asks them not to do it

    The insecticide sprayed hit fruits, vegetables and all other food items, especially the food items stored at the lower shelves of the racks. These employees did not bother about the customers who were watching them and most probably inhaling the insecticide.

    What struck my mind was what happens when all supermarkets are closed and no shoppers are around to witness anything that happens inside. If some employees sprayed insecticides during the daytime when shoppers are around, how can we expect that no such thing will happen in the night? May be at that time, the workers attached to all supermarkets spray insecticides freely without taking any precaution to protect themselves or the food items for sale in the supermarket. On the following day, shoppers purchase food items which have been contaminated with insecticides and consume them believing that they are fresh and safe.

    Customers witness these incidents rarely and accidentally and therefore, do not have evidence. Without any evidence, any state authority such as the Consumer Affairs Authority cannot take any action against culprits. But the grave situation will continue harming the health of people who shop at supermarkets. Therefore, relevant authorities should have a better monitoring system for such sensitive institutions.

    There is another common incident that takes place at almost all supermarkets in Sri Lanka. All supermarkets have already become racing fields for children. Their ‘vehicle’ is the cart available for shoppers to carry their groceries. It is pathetic to see that most of the parents spend some free and relaxing time at supermarkets after letting their children race with carts.

    ‘Cart races’ are much more violent than the actual motor racing! Feeble or aged shoppers walk slowly without noticing the deadly carts racing towards them from behind.

    If such a ‘racing cart’ hits the leg of a diabetic patient, it can be his or her last visit to the supermarket or it may be the end of a healthy life for that person. A diabetic patient may be forced to undergo an amputation due to such an injury. Even death can result from such a leg injury. But the parents of the child who ran the ‘deadly cart race’ do not know the harm that could result.

    Supermarkets are not a place for parents to rest and relax and for children to play inconveniencing other shoppers. It is the responsibility of supermarket staff to ensure the safety of their customers, especially aged and feeble customers. Supermarkets should deploy adequate staff or security guards to ensure that children who are racing with carts do not injure other customers.

    Some young girls and boys work at supermarkets just to make ends meet and so do not show commitment to their jobs. One example says it all. It is the way some supermarket staff pack items bought by customers. They put items such as biscuits, bananas and salad leaves at the bottom of the shopping bag and place the heavy rice bag on top. All the items are damaged unless the customer notices this and asks them not to do it.

    Most of the time, supermarkets are running with minimum staff. Therefore, customers have to wait in long queues to pay for their groceries. This happens often during peak hours. Now, a new trend has emerged to snatch money from customers. Most of the time, the cashier does not give balance money if it is worth a few coins or less than Rs. 10. What they do is, ask the customer whether they can transfer the balance to the loyalty card which is another business. Although they say the loyalty card offers discounts, some of those cards offer nothing to customers and just swallow money.

    Sometimes, customers smell the stench of rotten fish and meat when passing the storage area. Maybe that is the time that they clean the place.

     

    On the other hand, the story of a young girl who works at a supermarket does not make anyone happy. If I put it in her own words, “Miss, we do many more shifts than are assigned to us. We are always short of staff. We have to beg to take a day’s leave. Usually, our superiors do not let us take leave. We work six days a week. We hardly have time for ourselves or our families. But we do not earn an adequate salary.” If this is their story, how can we expect them to work with enthusiasm?

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