Opinion: Burnaby businesses under fire over social distancing rules

Chris Campbell

As the saying goes, “snitches get stitches.”

Social media is full of people mocking those who “snitch” or “rat out” their neighbours for certain behaviours.

article continues below

But we’re in the COVID-19 era, a time when attitudes have changed when it comes to complaining about your neighbours or a local business.

People are universally applauded for exposing and reporting others who are not adhering to social distancing rules during this pandemic.

My inbox, voicemail and social DMs have been flooded with complaints about these rules being violated.

And the No. 1 target for these complaints? Businesses.

The vast majority of Burnaby businesses, in my experience, are following social distancing rules. The Burnaby Board of Trade has been a valuable asset in educating businesses on what they need to do in order to allow customers into their shops.

But not everyone, apparently, is following these rules. I’ve had calls about a number of businesses, ranging from grocery stores to greenhouses to small retail outlets.

The biggest complaint seems to be about crowded stores. People see too many customers in a store at one time and they see red.

A Burnaby resident named Izabela was incensed about what she allegedly saw at the Walmart at Lougheed Town Centre on April 8.

“None of the special measurements and any precautions are in this store,” she said. “None of the employees on the floor pay any attention to keeping social distance. There are no precautions about how many people can enter the store at the same time or if people keep their distance. Employees don’t pay attention what is going on.”

burnaby home depot social distancing
Doing it right: People keeping far apart at the Burnaby Home Depot. Social distancing recommendations for COVID-19 say people should be far apart. This Home Depot is limiting the number of customers in its store at any given time. JENNIFER GAUTHIER/NOW

Walmart, for its part, says it takes COVID-19 seriously. Walmart’s director of corporate affairs, Adam Grachnik, told the NOW’s sister paper, the Tri-City News, that the company is following strict protocols at all of its locations.

“Rest assured, we will continue to take measures necessary to ensure the well-being of our customers and associates,” said Grachnik in an email to the News. “We have regular enhanced cleaning in the store and other social distancing measures in place.”

I’ve been to this Walmart twice in the past two weeks. During one visit, I saw staff being quite diligent and ensuring customers kept their distance. The other time, well, not so much.

But this is the problem with what you see at any given time. Sometimes the system just breaks down for whatever reason.
People need to remember that this is an overwhelming time and businesses are working to adapt to this new era. It takes time to train your staff to meet such strict regulations.

Sometimes, there are going to be issues.

The other thing to remember – and this is important – is some customers don’t pay attention to social distancing when they are out and about. It’s not always the fault of a business if you see people getting too close.

It puts a lot of pressure on workers to have to force customers to do the right thing.

If you do some bad behaviour, you can call Burnaby’s COVID-19 action team, a task group made up of people from various city departments, including parks, engineering, bylaws and licensing. It is responding to reports from the public to a dedicated COVID call-centre phone line (604-570-3800) and email account (covid19@burnaby.ca), as well as to reports made on social media.

Stay safe everyone.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

Read Related Topics

© Burnaby Now

Popular Burnaby Now

Community Events Calendar