Unsung heroes: Store staff working hard to fill shelves during Covid-19

coronavirus in uae, uae fights covid19

Dubai - One among them is Prem Prakash Dhanwani, a supervisor at West Zone Supermarket in Satwa.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Fri 27 Mar 2020, 11:42 PM

Last updated: Sat 28 Mar 2020, 10:12 PM

When you see a supermarket staff in your brief forays out of home, have you ever thought of expressing gratitude and saying thank you.

With social distancing up on everyone's mind amid the Covid-19 pandemic, these members of the service staff are the 'everyday heroes' at this head spinning moment. They remind us that without them, everything would grind to a halt.

If they didn't step out daily, those empty shelves in the supermarkets would perennially remain void.

These 'true soldiers' ensure that the residents are alive and fed, has access to grocery and other essential provisions, despite the very real dangers of being exposed to infection.

One among them is Prem Prakash Dhanwani, a supervisor at West Zone Supermarket in Satwa, a branch that serves customers round the clock.

Faced with unprecedented times, Prem makes every effort to adhere to safety measures, such as sanitising hands at fixed intervals, wearing masks and gloves, and undergoing regular temperature checks that are mandatory now.

"My store feels like a second home to me. We've observed high grocery demands, especially in the last few weeks. So, I arrive at 9am, which is an hour earlier than what I usually do. I make sure that the deliveries have arrived on time, the bakery is well stocked and the fruits and vegetables are fresh."

On the elevated risk of exposure in his profession, he said: "It's not all about the month-end salary and paying our bills. I genuinely feel it's a call for duty. I also feel scared, but if everyone coils up, then who will do the required work."

Prem works for as long as 15 hours on the floor daily, dealing with over 9,000 unknown people every day in these stressful times. This obviously means risking infection from higher levels of public interaction. Although, maintaining a reasonable distance while talking to customers has become the 'new normal', but calming down people with frayed nerves is often daunting.

"Some people are really difficult to handle. Panic shoppers snatch things from each other, quarrel, hoard things in the trolleys and even snap at us. At such times, I've to intervene, explain and assure them that there is enough in the stocks for everyone."

Working tirelessly, forgoing weekly offs, his otherwise regular job, is nothing short of heroic now.

"Checking up on supply chain facilities, filling up for floor salespeople, lending an extra hand as a cashier, overseeing shelf stockers, doing pricing checks are some of my roles. I also ensure these days that high-risk areas, such as check out kiosks, baskets and trolleys are sanitised often," he said.

With the coronavirus pandemic leading to increased customer footfall, keenly observing them while respectfully assisting sick customers is an added agenda.

"I have been handing out free masks and sanitisers to customers who look a little unwell to me. Sometimes, I watch them on the camera and see if they require further assistance to their cars or nearby homes."

He added: "It can be something as small as helping a customer to select some item, especially now that people have increased enquiries, I feel I have a crucial role to play in these frightening times."

Navigating through different challenges, Prem's long day ends after overseeing check-out cash handling managers at all the fourteen counters of the store.

"This includes ensuring strong internal controls, counting, loading the deposits on the system and handovers. Not every transaction follows a contactless payment method. So, while handling cash, we wear gloves and are very careful."

Thus, it seems, while most works around the world are slowing down, a few like him, who are said to be essential emergency workers, have ironically speeded up.


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