Argos workers' fury over 'putting their health at risk' to sell paddling pools, sand bags and BBQs

ARGOS employees have slammed the company for keeping stores in Sainsbury's open as usual during the coronavirus crisis as customers flock to buy non-essential items.

One worker told The Sun he felt the company was "risking staff members' health" by staying open.

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Under the latest government’s rules, shops selling non-essential items must close.

Argos closed its standalone stores earlier this week, but its stores which are within Sainsbury’s supermarkets remain open because they can be considered part of the supermarket, which is allowed to stay open.

Some staff who work in standalone stores have been redeployed to help these smaller stores, the retailer confirmed.

But an Argos employee who works in one such store in London told The Sun that many workers at higher risk from the virus had already been sent home and others were self-isolating.

SHOPS ALLOWED TO STAY OPEN

ONLY a small group of retailers will be allowed to stay open, they include: 

  • Supermarkets
  • Pharmacies
  • Vets
  • Newsagents
  • Pet shops
  • Hardware stores
  • Retail shops in hospitals
  • Petrol stations
  • Laundrettes
  • Undertakers
  • Banks
  • Post Offices
  • Off licences
  • Public toilets
  • Credit unions

He said this means stores have “barely enough staff to cope”.

He added that staff in stores were being forced to share face masks intended to protect them from catching the virus.

The man, who has worked for Argos for ten years, added: “Argos stores in Sainsbury's are so tiny that the aisles are not even wide enough for two people to get past each other, so social distancing is literally impossible.”

He said when the crisis began, he expected Argos to stock more health and medical equipment but no extra stock has come in.

“Even delivery drivers, the people that should only be delivering [essentials such as] white goods are being forced to make multiple drops for items as frivolous as video games and Airpods,” he said.

He added that Argos employees had been sent a letter telling them that they were now considered key workers.

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Another employee, who manages deliveries at Argos, told The Sun he felt the company was “trading workers safety for stupid money” by staying open.

He was concerned that drivers routinely “cross the whole of the UK” in a day and risk spreading coronavirus.

He said: “The sites are understaffed due to what is happening, but the load orders are doubled.

“The depots are selling just like it's the week before Christmas or on Black Friday.

“People are buying toys mainly, and electronics.”



Other workers took to Twitter to express their outrage that people continued to buy items which are not considered essential items.

Laura Barlow, 22 from Bognor Regis, tweeted: “We have 100s of UNESSENTIAL items that we have to put away for the customers that should be staying at home. Why is Argos still open!?”

She also shared a photo of crates full of items for customers.

Another worker, Matt Bradley from Manchester, said: “All these f**ing BBQ’s, paddling pools and bags of sand we are rapidly selling are ‘essentials’.”

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A spokesperson from Sainsbury's, which owns the Argos brand, told The Sun: “The government has been clear that online retailers should stay open as part of essential retail services and so we continue to accept orders from the Argos website.

“We are strongly advising customers to only place Argos orders online.

“These can then either be delivered to their home or collected from Argos store-in-stores while they shop for essential items in Sainsbury’s supermarkets.

“Many colleagues who have been working in Argos standalone stores are redeploying to help feed the nation in our supermarkets.

“The safety of colleagues and customers is extremely important to us and we have introduced a range of measures to keep everyone safe – from asking everyone to practice social distancing, to closing every other till and collection point and providing hand sanitiser to drivers.”

Yesterday, off licences, public loos and credit unions were added to the list of coronavirus essential shops that can stay open.

And here are all the other shops which are still trading.

Most supermarkets have announced special shopping hours for NHS workers – we've rounded up everything you need to know here.

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Supermarkets warn shoppers could wait more than a week for deliveries

Supermarkets warn shoppers could wait more than a week for deliveries as Ocado takes its app offline and Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons are forced to drop rivalries and share vans and depots

  • A surge of panic-buying and large orders means online shops are ill-prepared
  • Leading supermarkets will work together to ensure shopping is delivered
  • But housebound members of the public may have to wait days for their deliveries
  • Ocado have had to take their app offline as it struggles with the high demand 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Britain’s major supermarkets have suggested they are ill-prepared for the surge of panic buying and bulk online shopping orders, meaning customers could wait more than a week for deliveries.

With much of the population ordered to stay at home due to coronavirus, Britons are turning to online shopping in a bid to avoid going outside.

Such is the extent of the demand that shops will forego their rivalries and work together to ensure customers receive their deliveries, according to The Times.

And premium online supermarket retailer Ocado emailed its customers on Friday saying their app was being temporarily taken down because of the amount of traffic. 

Ocado emailed its customers saying they had taken down their app because it was struggling with the high demand

Shoppers are finding many shelves empty as many have started panic buying long-lasting foods and hygiene products

They said: ‘Due to performance issues driven by continued high demand, we have decided to take our app offline for the time being. 

‘We are using this time to improve our infrastructure so that we can return to our normal service levels. 

‘In the meantime, please use your mobile, tablet or computer to go to ocado.com and shop on our website instead.’

Supermarket bosses are conceding they may struggle to meet their orders, saying there is a ‘real issue when it comes to thinking this can replicate the supply of physical shops’. 

An executive of a leading supermarket revealed: ‘It if comes to an emergency situation for the likes of Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s then we’ll share depots and vans. But there may still be a question of manpower.’

The ability to order online and remain self-isolated may be lost on certain elderly members of the public who may not be so tech-savvy and understand online shopping. 

In high-street supermarkets, shoppers have also noticed shelves of dried and tin foods, soaps and toilet roll being completely empty

Analysis shows that Iceland is still offering deliveries for the following day, while many others can deliver on Wednesday at the earliest.

Ocado currently has the longest waiting time with shoppers having to wait 10 days to receive their goods.  

In high-street supermarkets, shoppers have also noticed shelves of dried and tin foods, soaps and toilet roll being completely empty.

In the coming days, adverts will appear encouraging people to buy food and supplies for those affected by the virus.

The government will also waive competition law, allowing supermarkets to share data with each other to ensure there is no food shortage.

But bosses of the leading supermarkets have sought to reassure the public there is plenty of food and no need to panic buy. 

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How supermarkets are controlling your diet (and your weight)

If you spent some time considering the causes of the obesity epidemic, chances are you would be quick to blame poor food choices, our sedentary lifestyles or the companies making soft drinks and snacks. Far less likely is it that you would name your local supermarket as playing a key role in the crisis.

But with two-thirds of food consumed in Australia purchased at the supermarket, our local outlets play a much bigger role in what we eat than we may realise.

It is not only the store lay out and price incentives that supermarket’s can influence but also individual consumers buying behaviours.Credit:iStock

There are several ways supermarkets can push up the the consumption of energy-dense, non-nutritious foods including soft drinks, confectionery, processed snacks and sugary breakfast cereals.

Known strategies include massive end-of-aisle displays with heavily discounted junk food, paid product placement on shelves, discounted products highlighted in advertising material and lollies displayed at purchase points.

And there is strong data to show these tactical placements and promotions are often for unhealthy products.

A study conducted by a team of Deakin University researchers, and published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that on any one week in Australia’s biggest supermarkets, almost 30 per cent of discretionary or extra ‘junk’ foods were on price promotion. Meanwhile, just 15 per cent of core or ‘healthy’ foods were on special.

They also found that the specials were almost twice as big for junk food compared to healthier options.

Lead study author Associate Professor Adrian Cameron, an expert on consumer behaviour in supermarkets, says that supermarkets are key players in our fight against obesity.

"With two-thirds of our food purchased at supermarkets, and with a small number of major supermarket players influencing what consumers routinely buy, we must work with retailers to help change consumer behaviours," Professor Cameron says.

"One area that we know has a big impact on behaviour is the placement of products at end-of-aisle displays, and usually on special. Unfortunately the involvement of both retailers and manufacturers make this a challenging thing to change."



Professor Cameron does acknowledge that supermarkets have made some positive changes in recent years, but stresses there is more work to be done.

"The increase in the size of fresh food sections of supermarkets is a great initiative. And while supermarkets do play a key role, we have to also remember that it is food manufacturers who pay for shelf placement and price promotions, so for these changes to be successful, we also need the cooperation of the large food manufacturers."

As an expert in obesity prevention, lawyer and academic Dr Alexandra Jones from The George Institute knows all too well of the power our major supermarkets have in convincing shoppers to buy more unhealthy food.

"I am well aware of the power of contracts to drive shelf placement which directly influences what we purchase, and the way in which supermarkets are designed to keep us in there for longer, and with a range of nudges to encourage us to buy foods we do not need," Dr Jones says.

"Of course this means that supermarkets can also help us to make good choices and in particular our supermarkets are in the unique position of also being able to encourage us to buy healthier, fresh foods more frequently.

"If I could make positive health changes to supermarkets tomorrow it would be to stop the sale of sugary drinks completely, but to also place fresh fruit and vegetables rather than confectionery and snack food at the end of each aisle. There are simple changes but ones that would have a significant impact on public health in the long term."

Studies are currently under way to determine if supermarkets' intricate knowledge of their consumers through the use of loyalty schemes could be used to directly encourage people to purchase healthier items.

In such studies customers receive targeted marketing materials to encourage them to buy healthier products. Whether this works, and reduces the purchasing of junk food, remains to be seen.

So while we watch and wait for healthful new initiatives to be implemented in our supermarkets, there are tricks you can employ to help you take back control.

Online shopping, for example, is one method. Free of temptation, shoppers may not only spend less cash, but also save on calories, too.

Avoiding the shops when you are hungry is another simple trick, as is always shopping with a list so that you are not mindlessly wandering without a clear guide for exactly what you need to buy.

Finally, avoiding the most tempting aisles altogether can minimise impulse purchases. What you do not see, you will not be tempted to buy.

Susie Burrell is a dietitian and nutritionist.

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