Put Downs, Put Ups & Put Backs – Almost Frontline Retail in Windsor

On the 20th March I walked into Tesco’s in Windsor, with my Councillor hat on, for a meeting with the Manager to talk about them helping feed the vulnerable and walked out with a 12 week temporary contract for myself as a Customer Assistant!

jon davey 18Full circle, 38 years ago I was a Grocery Boy for Safeways and it was like riding a bike… almost!

I’m thinking I need to do a weekly blog from the almost Frontline? Best start with a summary of some of the highs & lows of my new world to date…

First few weeks were completely exhausting! Who would have thought sitting on a checkout would be that tiring? But you are working ALL the time… 9 hour shifts with 1 hour and 2 x 15 minute breaks, the latter disappear in a blink of an eye! It’s like doing a business EXPO each day!

My old world of Sales & Marketing required a variety of tasks, working out strategies, evolving campaigns to find new prospects, turning them into customers and then raving fans… so way more air space to ponder ones navel 😉

The checkout provides a constant flow of customers but this is VERY different… Covid-19 times!

jon tesco checkout short dots

My goal is to try and help folk feel more relaxed as they leave the store… doesn’t always work!

Every customer has a different mindset… I’m reminded of the couple who turned up, her smiling, him wearing a mask with ants in his pants, huffing and a puffing. “Slow your breathing sir, if there are any bugs in the air, you’ll be getting more than your fair share breathing so heavy!” I think he heard me and his brain will apply next time if she invites him again!

Next we have the lady who said her husband had been told to isolate for 12 weeks which meant she had to go out and do the shopping alone! “Don’t worry, he’ll be out shopping alone for as many weeks as I have to do it 😉 ” she said with a smile but she’s thinking, “How does him staying in while I go shopping make any sense… if I catch something?” Lack of clear thought on part of the Government.

“Are you a Councillor… there’s a pothole in my road… I still haven’t received my green bin! “Did you email me like I asked you last week and the week before?” Sutherland Grange is a disgrace… happy to deal with any queries you have and I’ll try and offer solutions…

clean bins at sutherland grange

Then there are the babies that smile with happy parents… how great is that 🙂

A contrast to this, is the numpty that leaves her 3 year old baby in the isle and walks around the corner… I thought to myself, I couldn’t let that slide, just walk on by, no way… “Excuse me love, could you calm down?” said gently, appealing to her better nature. “Shut up, what business is it of yours!” True, sod all to do with me!

Then we have the hangry imam, unappreciative of my instructions on how to position oneself, storms off to self service! On reflection, it was 5pm, how would I feel if I hadn’t eaten all day?

Next on my encounters is steroid fuelled “big man” who in the first week really didn’t like my instructions, “Why should I, where’s the sign, should be a sign or I’m not doing it!” The look in his wife’s eyes when, after the shopping was done, I apologised, “Don’t get him started again!” Off he went, why, why, why 🙂 In times like these you just have to smile…

Another day I had an older chap, 2nd customer of the day in the early days buying beer, similarly not into being told what’s what. “Got any ID?” I said with a smile… a step too far, “You ‘aving a laugh, you ‘aving a laugh, just FO!” He didn’t seem that tense. You really don’t know what is going on inside someone’s mind!

tesco screen faces removed

Prior to my shift I had been helping the old boy fix a puncture on his Polo… people like polos 😉 We’d had banter the first time when we got talking and he said, from under a full mop of hair, I’m 94 you know, I was thinking early 70s! I’d got in early, as I usually do… he’s strolled past having been served by another and mentioned feeling a bump on way in, may have a puncture? I checked the clock, “Can I pop out for 10 and fix his puncture Kelly?” The nod of approval… job done… felt like an F1 challenge and I know how that would have played on his mind… back on till at 9am… sorted!

Not long after we had an old lady moving round the checkout to help her husband, “I’d rather you didn’t… if you could just stay there.” “What a good employee you are!” She says with sarcasm in her voice… “I am actually getting lots of top scores in the survey 😉 ” I’m thinking to myself while offering an explanation, “It’s Covid, we need to respect distances, give others space.”!

Well some of us do… others are obviously beyond reproach and can do much as they please. Like those idiots ganging up on a local PCSO and recording it to video and pushing out via Facebook… great to see the Police sent a van in and nicked those involved. Disgusting behaviour. In France, small fine, big fine then prison if you keep abusing the law.

map of local biodiversity for windsor

Most people like instructions, especially when their head is doing back flips in shops and saying, “Get me out of here!”

A soldier boy, training officer, who dropped his coffee liqueur on the floor who had no concept of the economic impact of covid-19 on small businesses and how they are being decimated at this time, went on to tell me… “It will all come back to how it was” being his underlying feeling! We all operate in silos… I tried to explain that where as a batallion, say 500 men, each with a main and secondary job can keep moving forward, their training having prepared them, as their mates are picked off around them by the enemy… within the world of SMEs that training isn’t in play, each operates as its own unit and so if a corporate supply chain loses 150 of the 500 small companies it uses then it will not be so straightforward for them to be operating like nothing has happened! The disruption will reverberate for months and 150 more will bite the dust as cash flow and knock on supply chains are impacted… this feels like a criminal act.

There will be new opportunities, as yet undefined!

Lots of people are feeling fairly relaxed but then there are many who are nervous and many more who are obviously not turning up to do the shopping for fear of catching something. My neighbour is a Nursing Sister in A&E and she said she’s happy to walk into A&E with covid knowingly all around but supermarket shopping, that’s a step too far!

It is funny how we all see things differently…

One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter! A little bird told me this week that while most folk with any sort of compassion were looking at how to help their fellow man at this time of Covid-19, some local tories were looking to take me to court for not declaring “Tesco Assistant” on my Councillor register of interests… how low can you go… very apparently!

I’m feeling a regular feature coming on as I get comfortable in my new role… best scribble me some notes each day as the queues allow, to remind me of the action on the almost Frontline.

Reminds me of the Amazon Driver who commented on us both being frontline workers… that didn’t resonate with me… delivering a t-shirt or new bonnet, frontline work! Only the NHS workers, the true frontline, have the right to say who else is frontline… I’d best ask my neighbour, a true frontline worker, for her thoughts… those 3 deliveries a day say it all 😉

Keep up the good work everyone in whatever role you are playing to help the nation through these difficult times.

Thank you.



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