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Older customers more likely to disrespect social distancing requirements of Coronavirus response

Mark Fletcher
March 27th, 2020 · 10 Comments

Older customers, 70+, male and female, are the cohort most likely to ignore social distancing requirements laid out by government in their coronavirus response according to retailers.

Older customers are more likely to shop in groups, cluster with too many in a limited space, touch others in the business, want to stand still for a talk and mock moves being taken by the government to flatten the coronavirus infection curve.

I have been hearing this all week from newsagents and other retailers across the country in one on one conversations and in video conferences with groups of retailers. Retailers are frustrated, and they feel helpless to fix the problem.

One retailer talked about two grandparents coming into a small shop with two grandkids.

Another told me about an old customer who reached across the counter and patted a staff member on their arm saying it’s nothing to worry about.

Another retailer tells of two older male shoppers saying that social distancing is for sissys.

Plenty said that in their experience the older customers are less like to take the coronavirus risk seriously.

With my newsXpress group we have a daily video conference meeting and with my Tower Systems POS software retailer business customers we have a video conference every few days. It is these coronavirus related meetings to discuss business conditions and encourage each other where I have heard about the problem withholder shoppers.

How some older people are behaving is a challenge for all retailers and those who work in retail. While not the same as the health workers helping those with this illness, those who work in retail face a considerable challenge every day with their safety very much in the hands of customers and their behaviour.

Retailers are protecting employees with gloves, hand sanitiser and good, safe, practices. They have floor and other markings to guide social distancing. Some I know are installing perspex partitions to create a better distance between staff and customers to reduce the opportunity for droplets to pass.

The challenge remains how to deal with older customers as they represent the cohort causing the most difficulties. 

I think our communication needs to be clear and consistent – at the front of the store, in-store and on social media. we need to be vigilant at front of store, controlling shop entry and being firm to stop people if they present a risk because of the number in the group or because of their behaviour. We need to be prepared to ask people to leave if their in-store behaviour is inappropriate.

I appreciate some here may say this is overkill. Of course, I disagree. These are unique and challenging times. We need to provide a safe workplace for all who work in our businesses and for those who shop with us. Anyone who puts this at risk needs to leave the business.

Here is a message I put on social media this morning to address this issue:


Category: Social responsibility

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve // Mar 27, 2020 at 11:31 AM

    Tell them, BLUNTLY, if necessary. They might not like it but it is effective. I’m off one elderly gentleman’s Xmas list after telling him in no uncertain terms that wearing a pair of disposable gloves doesn’t mean he can wonder the street’s for no real reason.


  • 2 Graeme Day // Mar 27, 2020 at 11:57 AM

    Maybe we could gently remind the ederly that they are at more risk in breaking the rules than any other age bracket. This is evident within their age bracket quoting the numbers dying.
    Some polite retailers are using this kind and thoughtful approach recieving a responsive “thank you I wasn’t thinking”. The aged can be solitary determined in thought pattern and forgetful why not give them benefit of the doubt because they will naturally resent at being “barked” at.


  • 3 Mark Fletcher // Mar 27, 2020 at 12:46 PM

    Here is something I received just now about this:

    One of the locals was a customer that was a passenger on the Princess Diamond cruise ship and should have been self isolating. but instead decided to visit the store to get money out. This customer was asked politely and firmly to leave but would not until they got their money. This was a lady in her 70’s. FYI – they gave the lady her money and asked her not to come back.

    They have had other customers in the store with sniffles and one customer that clearly looked they were getting the sweats from a fever.

    They also wear face masks and gloves because of the reasons above. Jane sounds terrified to be honest. The other thing there experiencing is some customers (again usually the oldies) walk in and see their face masks and laugh then say not here too, like it some kind of joke.


  • 4 James // Mar 27, 2020 at 1:09 PM

    They are all in the at risk group and should just stay home.

    As are a lot of Newsagents by the way so even if you’re an essential service, its worth considering whether exposing yourself to a passing parade of the public is good for your own health.

    I heard this morning where 15% of positive cases in Spain were health professionals who I assume would all be exercising the highest level of preventative measures. I imagine many levels higher than the average Newsagent and without having to fondle the contents (cash or card) of people’s wallets and purses.


  • 5 Graeme Day // Mar 27, 2020 at 2:37 PM

    James, What you say is the right thing for all mentioned to do and most are doing just that however some have to go out a do some shopping for themselves. No relatives or friends -not on line friendly, and fgrankly need the break from confinement.
    There also many newsagents out there 65 years old and over still serving customers that as you say are exposed as is all age groups it seems.
    1.5. metres in a line and 2mtrs by 2mtrs (4 sq metres is 25 people evenly spaced over a 100 sq metres shop.
    Difficult to police howver yesterday I say 4 newagencies in my area some with line 1.5. apart in front of Lotto and some with immitation cute footprints. Very few were lined up at the lotto counter-maybe the went on line maybe after all two of these agencies were in a major Shopping Complex and the other two strip shopping.
    It is really very difficult times and we need to co operate as much as possible (and most people do) or there is no point in staying open, which may well turn out to be the case sooner than one thinks.


  • 6 Mark // Mar 27, 2020 at 5:23 PM



  • 7 Peter // Mar 27, 2020 at 6:07 PM

    Sincere best wishes to everybody for the coming weeks ahead. Stay safe and sane if possible. It’s going to test us all.


  • 8 Jeff // Mar 27, 2020 at 6:16 PM

    Grumpy old Mark. Stay home.


  • 9 Graeme Day // Mar 27, 2020 at 7:53 PM

    Thanks Peter, same to you and yours. Sharing different opinions open, honest and with tolerance to others will get us through. This in no joke it’s the biggest test we will ever face -over conservatism and extreme “she’ll be right” are attitudes that will test us to the fullest never the less respect for each other and doing positive things will prevail.
    All the best everyone in the Lockdown.
    By the way the latest grapevine news is that on line lotto increased in sales and retail lost a percentage more lost in the Big Malls however losses overall at this stage less played the game than usual Jackpots of this size.


  • 10 Graeme Day // Mar 28, 2020 at 1:58 PM

    Direspectful Post. Too generalised -Age groups have collective within their groups responsibilities -some inividuals mainly in group situations have violated this respect more than others and in particular Youth -Partying-Backpackers etc and Beach goers en masse.
    Singlely out an aged individual for poor behaviour is fine however singleling out aged as agroup is offensive -The sign could have said “we serve all peolpe that respect the “Social Distancing” accords that have been accepted by Society in General the breaking of this conditions may result in you not being served. Or something to this effect.
    I know that you mean the same for all howver to single the aged threatening their discount doesn’t sit well with the community at large for this group. No wonder they play and win $80m in Lotto on line.


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