‘He spat on his credit card’: Retail workers fear shoppers behaving badly

They bunch together in aisles to snatch the latest batch of toilet paper.

They spit on cash before paying staff and shun government pleas to stay home so they can continue to buy their daily bottle of wine.

Staff and well-behaved customers are growing increasingly frustrated by shoppers who are ignoring social-distancing rules and touching stock and counters with unsanitised hands.

Shoppers stock up on supplies amid the uncertainty over the coronavirus threat.Credit:Paul Jeffers

While authorities have stressed the need to stay at home and practice social-distancing as much as possible in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19, some people continue to flout the orders.

Mark, who works in an Aldi supermarket in Melbourne’s south-east, said: ‘‘One elderly man sneezed into his hand, then wiped his nose with his hand, then wiped his pants, and proceeded to pay in cash. I sanitised my hands after that".

Mark said some customers come too close to ask him directions, or they ignore social-distancing floor marks to bunch up at the cash register.

John, a staff member at an inner Melbourne Coles liquor store, feels his health is in danger and wants the store to close.

He said one man licked his fingers to pick out his money, and when told John couldn’t take the cash, ‘‘he deliberately spat on his credit card’’.

Some customers continue to buy one bottle of wine each day, when it would be safer to buy weekly.

Shoppers practice social distancing outside a Bunnings store in Croydon on Sunday.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Hardware mega-chain Bunnings is among retailers cracking down on high-risk shoppers, capping the number of customers allowed in store at one time, in a bid to slash the chances of transmission of coronavirus.

That hasn't stopped the crowds coming through, with queues stretching outside Bunnings outlets across Melbourne all weekend.

The scene outside another Bunnings in Melbourne’s north on Saturday.

Several Bunnings customers spoke of fellow customers ignoring floor markings for social distancing and of crowding in front of popular products.

Bunnings managing director Mike Schneider said the chain had capped the number of customers allowed in a store at any one time, which could be as low as 20 in smaller stores, since Friday.

Mr Schneider said those queuing outside had to keep 1.5 metres from both the person behind and in front of them, with marks on the ground as a guide.

Customers could use hand sanitiser on entry and exit of stores. Marks to show distance were put at service desks, and in some cases PIN pads and receipt machines had been placed on trestle tables in front of registers, so customers can tap their card and take receipts without staff contact.

Mr Schneider said it was disappointing when some customers were rude and abusive to staff and didn’t obey guidelines. They could be asked to leave.

From Monday, from opening (6am or 7am) till 9am, Bunnings stores will be open only to trade and health care professionals and emergency service workers.

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Stores are closing at 7pm instead of 9pm so they can be cleaned and re-stocked.

There was ‘‘no reason to run in and panic-buy anything from Bunnings’’, Mr Schneider said.

Cleaning and storage products were limited to four items per customer and gas bottles, face masks and sanitiser were limited to one item per customer.

For products of high demand there are now signs limiting customer numbers in those aisles.

Mr Schneider said ‘‘99 per cent of customers are doing the right thing’’ and the process wasn’t perfect, so he encouraged customers to raise any concerns with staff.

He said Bunnings was staying open because they supplied products for small business, for home repairs, shop security and cleaning products, and even for small hobbyists and their children stuck at home.

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