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Saturday, Apr 17, 2021

'I never thought I'd be so proud to sell bread and butter'

Laura McLellan says she has never felt so humbled as when she and her team of checkout operators were told they were key workers.

The Tesco supermarket worker felt so proud that she wanted to go back in time to tell her school headmaster about the important job she was now doing during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I don't fear coming to work," she said.

"I don't feel more at risk, because we are doing everything we possibly can in this unprecedented situation."

As a checkout manager, Laura is in charge of 60 of the 200 staff at a Tesco superstore in Leith.

'Pulling together'

She said she was conscious not to show fear in case it would "ripple down" to her colleagues.

"I did have colleagues at the beginning who were concerned, and one young chap was so upset we offered him a lifestyle break.

"There are concerns but everyone has been pulling together, which has been really positive.

"I've never been more humbled to be a front-line worker, its a beautiful title."

The 42-year-old said in the early stages, before the safety measures were put in place, some staff had asked to stack shelves rather than work on the checkouts.

She said: "When the screens went up on the checkouts that did a lot for their peace of mind, although it was really mind-boggling at first.

"The screen makes you feel like you're in a goldfish bowl because they warp the sound. Also, you feel like you're shouting."

However, she said it was better than the "bizarre feeling" of having to wear masks.

"We have a lot of regular older customers who have been coming here for 20 years and speaking to them through a mask was hard for them," she added.

'A lot of guts'

Laura said it had also taken "a lot of guts" to enforce the rules with some customers.

She said: "We have 50,000 customers a week and with that volume of people it's been tricky marshalling them.

"A few weeks ago when we had restricted items people were sneaking back into the store, and others had to be asked to stay back from the checkouts.

"It takes a lot of guts when you get push back from the customers.

"I have also had to pick staff to man the door who are strong enough to be assertive."

Laura said her sister was also on the front line as a nurse.

She said: "I never thought my mum would have two front-line workers to worry about, especially me working in a supermarket.

"My husband, Mark, is in isolation because he has asthma so I have to strip off my uniform and go straight to the shower when I get home before I can say hello."

And she added: "I never thought that selling bread and butter I would be this proud, but I am."


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