Cornett's IGA Garbutt has been caught up in the toilet paper pandemic with staff receiving abusive calls over limited availability. Service manager Elaine Coghill is calling on customers to remain calm and patient. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Cornett's IGA Garbutt has been caught up in the toilet paper pandemic with staff receiving abusive calls over limited availability. Service manager Elaine Coghill is calling on customers to remain calm and patient. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

Local shop staff cop abuse during toilet roll panic

Retail staff in Townsville are calling for calm over the limited availability of toilet paper and other products with abusive phone calls becoming a daily occurrence.

Staff at Cornett's IGA in Garbutt are receiving up to 30 calls a day inquiring about product availability in the midst of panic buying due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

The store currently has no restrictions on the number of products shoppers can buy, with pallets of toilet paper selling out in under an hour.

Service manager Elaine Coghill has been in retail management for 19 years and has labelled the "crazy" panic buying as the worst she's experienced.

"Apart from water flying out the door when there's a cyclone, I think this toilet paper situation has been a lot worse than any of the other cyclone panic buying we've ever had," she said.

"We're getting numerous phone calls daily (with customers) asking if we have toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

"We actually don't have any because it's all sold out and customers are getting a little bit abusive on the phone as to why we don't have any."

Shoppers are also becoming abusive when staff won't take their names and phone numbers to contact them when stock is replenished, instead working on a first-come, first-serve basis for logistical reasons.

While toilet paper is out of stock, so too is hand sanitiser with alternative products such as baby wipes and Pine O Cleen wipes also flying off the shelves.

Pasta and bulk packages of rice are also limited.

While more experienced staff are trying to lighten the mood and keep their sense of humour during the crisis, morale is being damaged as younger staff are left to deal with angry customers.

"Being that we're retail workers we're generally used to a slight amount of abuse daily but this is affecting morale," Ms Coghill said.

"It's been getting quite upsetting for some staff members when they're getting yelled at on the phone for something that's beyond their control.

"I've been very humorous with customers trying to make a bad situation into a light situation, and nine times out of 10 that works. In 20 years we can all say we survived the toilet paper crisis of 2020."


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