Last weekend, WCNG was alerted to reports that staff at the Iceland in Bishop Auckland refused entry to an elderly couple because of social distancing rules within the store.
A frontline worker witnessed the event and challenged the staff member in question but the couple was still refused entry and were told to “shop elsewhere if they wanted to shop in pairs”.
Customers immediately took to social media and within minutes the story attracted comments from as far as Australia. Google suspended its review section under the Iceland Bishop Auckland listing and some calls were made to boycott the store until the staff member was removed. Some 15,000 comments and post shares were made within hours of the post being made public.
WCNG contacted the store for comment but rather than explain or comment, staff simply hung up the phone. Later in the evening, comments were seen on social media which appeared to have been posted by staff who claimed they were in fear for lives and that the reports were factually untrue.
Many thousands of the comments being posted were raising the important question as to whether or not the couple managed to get shopping elsewhere. At the time of reading and reacting to posts, no witnesses could comment and so, Weardale Community News took to its social media pages asking for help in contacting the couple. We received messages from all over the UK offering money, shopping, and any other support if the couple could be identified.
After a few hours, Weardale Community news managed to confirm the elderly gentleman had returned to the store alone and had purchased his shopping. Our witnesses claim that “he was not offered any assistance and struggled on his own to the very end”. Posts asking for assistance were removed by WCNG and a statement was released to advise those following the story of the latest update.
Iceland has since released a statement claiming that “We have looked into this issue with our Bishop Auckland store team. Our store colleagues are working hard to ensure that social distancing guidelines are adhered to, and in this case it meant requesting that just one member of the couple entered the store. The gentleman referred to in the Facebook post in fact completed his shopping in-store. We continue to review our policies in line with customer feedback to ensure that social distancing is achieved whilst offering customers the best experience possible whilst shopping in our stores.”
Since the statement was released through the Northern Echo and Newcastle Chronicle, Google reviews have been removed. Some commenters on various sites continue to criticize Iceland for its policies which recently included telling frontline NHS Staff that if they ‘touched’ a product, they must buy it. Some NSH staff have since vowed never to use the company again and say that the company has branded them ‘dirty and contagious’.