Pensioners have slammed Woolworths’ elderly-only shopping hour as a ‘PR stunt’ after finding shelves were empty of essentials- including toilet paper.
Hundreds of elderly and disabled shoppers joined a 100-metre long queue outside Woolworths at Ryde, on Sydney’s lower north shore, on Tuesday in expectation they would be able to stock up on items they will need should they go into coronavirus quarantine.
But once inside, shoppers quickly discovered the aisles were less crowded but the shelves were as bare as they have been for the past few weeks.
View outside a Woolworths in Sunbury as people wait outside on March 17, 2020 to shop during the dedicated shopping hour
Large crowds of elderly people are seen outside Woolworths in Sunbury on Tuesday
Shoppers rush into Woolwoorths to get their hands on products during the dedicated shopping hour for the elderly
Shoppers huddled and lined up outside Woolworths as they waited to enter for the dedicated shopping hour for seniors
People are seen waiting for the opening of Woolworths supermarket in Balmain on March 17, 2020
An elderly woman pushing a trolley filled to the brim walks past empty shelves at Woolworths
Dedicated shopping hour for the elderly
Woolworths – From Tuesday, people with government-issued concession cards have a dedicated shopping hour which runs nationally from 7am to 8am on weekdays.
Coles – The Coles shopping hour will start on Wednesday, when its stores also open at 7am for customers holding a government-issued Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card and Health Care Card.
IGA – the smaller supermarket is considering the idea as they trial at an IGA in Melbourne’s Altona, with a shopping hour between 6am to 7am.
‘It was horrible! I thought they would stock the shelves especially for this morning but they were empty,’ Looi Wong, 70, said.
‘I wanted to get frozen vegetables, frozen fish and Spray’n’Wipe, but they were all out.
‘It seems like a PR stunt, so I’m now going to Coles to see what their stocks are like.’
The supermarket giant’s announcement of a pensioner and disabled shopping hour was quickly followed by Coles, who will have theirs from 8am to 9am on Wednesday.
‘This temporary measure will give them, and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open – helping them obtain the essential items they need most in a less-crowded environment,’ Managing Director Claire Peters said.
Elderly shoppers wait outside in the dark for Woolworths to open to stock up on essential items
Elderly shoppers seen at Woolworths wearing facemasks as they take advantage of the shopping hour to stock up in case they go into coronavirus quarantine
Shoppers were left frustrated after finding shelves empty from the essentials
Some shoppers said they would not return to the supermarket after finding empty shelves (Pictured: Woman wearing a face mask as she shops during ‘elderly shopping hour’
Anita Devi, 59, and Noel Kneale, 77, who came to stock up on rice, milk and toilet paper, said they gave it a chance, but would not return.
‘If they put it on again I won’t come because I don’t have any hope that they’ll stock up properly,’ Ms Devi said.
‘They said the first hour is for the seniors, but there was nothing.
‘In principle it was a great idea, but in reality it was a disaster.’
Hundreds of elderly and disabled shoppers joined a 100-metre long queue outside Woolworths at Ryde
Shoppers were left frustrated and labelled the ‘elderly shopping hour’ as a PR stunt
Coles and Woolworths announced a dedicated hour for elderly shoppers to stock up on items
A customer wears a face mask as she shops during the dedicated hour for the elderly
Woolworths grocery limits
Dry Pasta – 2 pack limit per shop.
Flour – 2 pack limit per shop.
Tissues – 2 pack limit per shop.
Paper towel, serviettes and wipes – 1 pack limit per shop.
Toilet paper – 1 pack limit per shop.
Hand sanitiser – 2 unit limit per shop.
Bulk rice (2kg+) – 1 pack limit per shop.
Jenny and Cliff Fenney arrived at Woolworths in the Top Ryde shopping centre just before 7am, thinking they would ‘get in and out’ quickly.
But within two minutes they found there was already no toilet paper – despite supermarkets limiting it to one pack per customer.
‘We haven’t bought toilet paper since January and we thought we’d be able to get it today, but the shelves were empty,’ Jenny Fenney said.
‘I thought the idea was that there would be stock for those who need it most, but there was no difference us coming in today as opposed to midday yesterday.
‘Even today people were pushing and shoving in the aisles for toilet paper.
‘We’re not as old as other people, but if we have to self-quarantine then you want to have supplies.
‘Luckily we can go for a bit longer but there are many who can’t.’
Within two minutes of entering the shop, customers found that there was no toilet paper left
Shoppers rushed into Woolworths to stock up on necessary items during ‘elderly shopping hour’
Panic buying in recent weeks sparked by the spread of COVID-19 in Australia has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice, frozen food as well as tinned and other dried goods.
The issue has caused stress and frustration amongst elderly shoppers, many of whom find it difficult to make frequent visits to supermarkets for essential goods. In many cases, particularly for toilet paper, the shelves are often stripped bare.
Woolworths fresh food director Paul Harker said the initiative had proved very popular on Tuesday morning.
He insists there is no shortage of goods despite reports of widespread food shortages.
‘There is no shortage of goods here in Australia,’ he told the Nine Network on Tuesday.
‘It is a logistics exercise of moving the product to get it back into stores with the pace and demand we’re seeing.’
Woolworths fresh food director Paul Harker insisted that there were no food shortages during the ‘elderly shopping hour’ (pictured: Shoppers in Woolworths)
A shopper walks around Woolworths stocking up on certain items during the ‘elderly shopping hour’
He said the exclusive shopping hour for seniors and pension card holders will be reviewed later this week to determine how it can best be managed.
The Coles shopping hour will start on Wednesday, when its stores also open at 7am for customers holding a government-issued Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card and Health Care Card.
Coles grocery limits
Eggs – two packs per person.
Chilled pasta – two packs per person.
Frozen vegetables- two packs per person.
Frozen dessert – two packs per person.
Mince includes Beef, Pork, Lamb, Chicken & Turkey – two packs per person.
Flour – two packs per person.
Dried rice – two packs per person.
Paper towels/tissues – two packs per person.
Hand sanitisers – two packs per person.
Coles is also seeking more than 5000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets faster under a fast-tracked induction process and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.
It also plans to dedicate grocery deliveries to people who are isolated and vulnerable. This means deliveries for other customers will be temporarily suspended, as will the Click&Collect service.
‘We believe all Australians deserve the right to access their share of grocery items, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable,’ Coles CEO Steven Cain said.
Meanwhile, the smaller national supermarket chain IGA is considering whether to roll out a similar pensioners-and-seniors-only shopping hour across its 1300 Australian stores.
The idea is being trialled at an IGA in Melbourne’s Altona, with a shopping hour between 6am to 7am, which could be extended across its network if successful.
IGA Chief Executive Fred Harrison said on Monday a final decision would be made by Wednesday.
THE FOOD YOU NEED FOR 14 DAYS IN QUARANTINE
Pasta sauce 2 jars
Two minute noodles 2 pack
Cheese slices 500g 1 pack
Vegemite 1/2 jar
Nutella 1/2 jar
Peanut butter 1/2 jar
Jam 1/2 jar
Frozen fish 1 box
Frozen vegetables 1 kg
Pork, beef and mince meat
Chicken 5 breasts
Canned tuna 7 tins
Eggs 1 dozen
Tinned soup 7 tins
Tinned vegetables 5 tins
Long life milk 3 litres
Frozen bread 2 loaves
Cereal 1 box
Soup 3 packs
Salt and pepper
Pasta sauce 8 jars
Two minute noodles 6 pack
Cheese slices 500g 4 pack
Vegemite 1 jar
Nutella 1 jar
Peanut butter 1 jar
Jam 1 jar
Frozen fish 4 boxes
Frozen vegetables 3kg
Pork, beef and mince meat
Chicken 15 breasts
Canned tuna 14 tins
Eggs 3 dozen
Tinned soup 14 tins
Tinned vegetables 15 tins
Long life milk 12 litres
Frozen bread 8 loaves
Cereal 3 boxes
Soup 12 packs
Salt and pepper
Source: St Vincent De Paul Society