Singapore

No toilet or rest breaks for FairPrice staff during panic buying spree

Branch manager of FairPrice outlet in Bedok North Street 1 says there is more than enough stock for shoppers

One customer carried more than 120 rolls of toilet paper, while another pushed a trolley filled with nothing but bags of rice.

And over 20 baskets of frozen food, abandoned by shoppers who grew tired of waiting in line for the cashier, could not be placed back on the shelves due to their prolonged thawed state and had to be sent back to suppliers.

Mr Frankie Tan, branch manager of the 24-hour FairPrice outlet in Bedok North Street 1, told The New Paper that last Friday and Saturday saw the craziest crowds he had ever seen in his 11 years with FairPrice.

On Feb 7, the Government raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition to orange.

Queues at the Bedok North outlet stretched from the cashiers to the far end of the supermarket, from evening to the next morning - with some people having to queue up to three hours.

His staff had to work overtime as they could not close the checkout counters. Volunteers from FairPrice headquarters also went down last Saturday to help out.

Chief cashier Tan Lay Loi, 38, extended her shift until 1am on Saturday morning and returned at 6.45am for the next shift. She said some items were discarded by customers at the cashiers, but they did not have enough workers to return them to the shelves.

She told TNP: "The moment the queues started, there was no time for toilet breaks or to rest."

To encourage his colleagues, Mr Tan, 48, prepared chrysanthemum tea for them.

"I wanted to make sure they are healthy and fed, and know that they are not alone."

He added: "As part of the service industry, I feel a sense of achievement when I see customers smiling when they walk out. We need to think of their needs all the more during this period."

Other local supermarket chains such as Giant and Cold Storage also saw a spike in traffic and had to redeploy employees from other stores to accommodate the queues, a Dairy Farm spokesman told TNP. Some Giant outlets also extended their opening hours to serve more customers.

Mr Tan said the supply of rice and other food items have been increased for the upcoming weeks, adding: "We have more than enough stock for the public. There is no need to panic.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, said at a press conference on Wednesday that major retailers will be fully stocked in a day or two.

He said: "It is simply a manpower and logistics issue in order to get the restocking done. We just want to continue to assure Singaporeans that our supply chains remain robust."

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