‘We will no longer serve rude or impatient customers’ – Dublin butcher

Village Butcher shop in Ranelagh urges customers to be patient

The Village Butcher in Ranelagh is one of several businesses that have said in recent days that customers are becoming impatient with queues and are abusing staff. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

An upmarket butcher’s shop in a leafy south Dublin suburb is probably the last place you would expect to find customers behaving badly during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Village Butcher shop in Ranelagh displays its McKenna Guide plaques in a neat row beside the front door. It has won a plaque every year since 2015 and it has been open only seven years.

The shop dry-ages its own beef, which is hung on display in a fridge. It sells free-range chicken livers, olive-fed pork, organic Irish rose veal, rare cuts of meat and, when it’s available, wagyu beef from Japan, which retails at €220 a kilo.

Yet, the notice outside the front door is a jarring reminder of the extraordinary times we live in. “Please do not complain to staff about the length of the time you have que’d [sic] for. We will no longer serve rude or impatient customers.”

The Village Butcher shop is a family business, owned by Michael Madden and his wife, Sarah Kelly.

During the Celtic Tiger crash, they lost their butcher’s shop in Dorset Street and started selling meat by delivery only before they got back on their feet again.

Their daughter Jessica (25) came home from Melbourne at the start of the pandemic to help out.

The staff have already been acquainted with the devastating impact of Covid-19. Their butcher, Chris Murphy, lost his mother to the disease in March.

Booming

Covid-19 presents a different scenario to the Celtic Tiger crash. Business is booming. It was up 100 per cent in the first two weeks in the lockdown and consistently 70 per cent up week on week since then.

By the time the shop opens at 10am, there is already a steady queue of socially distanced customers outside, but this presents its own challenge, says Kelly.

“It’s like this all day. It’s a different stress. This is physical, not mental. It’s exhausting. It’s like your busiest day every day for seven weeks. We are lucky if we get a 10 -minute break.”

Weariness has set in, and that has extended to the behaviour of a small, but vocal number of their customers. One banged loudly on the window last week, and another customer recounted the amount of minutes she had to queue to be served. Others complain about having to queue.

“People were very panicked at the beginning. Then it settled down, but in the past week people are getting very fed up and very restless and that’s projected on to us,” Kelly explains.

“We are listening to people complaining every day about queuing. You could be 40 minutes queuing at weekends. It [gets] to you after a while. People are saying ‘hurry up’. It is starting to wear us down.”

Impatience

Bob Johnston, the proprietor of The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar, is also noticing the public’s impatience. He has tweeted some of the responses he has been getting from customers: “I want to buy a book from you but I need you to post it today”. “I’d like to support you but I need the books in the UK by the weekend”. “Can I just come down and pick a book up because I don’t want to wait?” “I ordered a book yesterday, have you sent it yet? #Monday”.

Joe Mannion, who owns a Daybreak store in Clondalkin, said the majority of customers are well-behaved, but it is the ones who misbehave that stand out.

“In general, about 90 per cent are following the rules, but some of the younger crowd think it doesn’t apply to them. There’s tension in the shop all the time. It leaves a bad taste for a few hours afterwards,” he says.

There is increasing anecdotal evidence that the public is becoming tired of the seemingly interminable lockdown, with the assistant secretary to the Department of the Taoiseach, Liz Canavan, admitting that support for the restrictions is “waning”.

Yet it seems likely the public is in for several more weeks of restrictions, even if it happens that some are loosened next week.

Convenience Store and Newsagents Association (CSNA) chief executive Vincent Jennings believes that instances of customer misbehaviour are “very limited”. Indeed, he suggests that, generally speaking, people are better behaved and more understanding.

“By and large most shop owners and staff will agree that the majority of people are behaving exceptionally well and are possibly even better mannered than in ‘pre-Covid’ times, understanding the strain and stress that everybody is under.”