Older and disabled people say they encountered huge queues and empty shelves.
Elderly and vulnerable customers who visited Sainsbury’s stores for a dedicated shopping hour have said they were met with huge crowds and empty shelves on Thursday morning.
The first hour of trading at the supermarket’s 2,300 UK stores had been set aside for the exclusive use of those whose health is most at risk from the disease. Many people have taken to social media to complain about the chaos. Teresa Marsh, 63, who visited Sainsbury’s Balham superstore, in south-west London, with her 71-year-old husband, described the dedicated hour as “a waste of time”.
“It was very, very busy. There were vulnerable people up close and personal in that scrum when I thought it would be a sedate shopping experience,” she said. “There was very little tinned fish, no toilet rolls, no kitchen rolls, no tinned tomatoes. I didn’t feel there was any advantage.”
Marsh added that she felt Sainsbury’s should have provided signage outlining the dedicated hour to both security guards and customers. “As I left about half seven, there were security on the door just letting people in – it didn’t matter what age they were, they were just saying in you go. It was just getting busier,” she said.
Another Twitter user, who did not want to be named, said he had picked up his 74-year-old mother, who lives at home with his elderly and disabled father to take her to the Surbiton superstore in south-west London. When they
arrived there was a “very long queue” outside, while a shop assistant had said it was “rammed inside”.
In a statement, Sainsbury’s said that customers over 70 or who have a disability would be given priority access to its online delivery slots from Monday 23 March. It added that it would be expanding its “click and collect” services for all customers.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said, “We would like to thank our customers who supported the decision to dedicate an hour in our supermarkets this morning to the elderly and vulnerable. We know that they appreciated the early access and we will listen to feedback from our customers and colleagues.”
UK supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco and Aldi have announced tight new restrictions on purchases in recent days amid a battle to keep food on the shelves as panicked shoppers continue to stockpile.
Photo: People queue inside a Sainsbury’s supermarket in Watford on 19 March. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters