Tongala IGA faces abuse and racism in wake of coronavirus

By Ivy Jensen

TONGALA IGA is facing a barrage of abuse and racism from inconsiderate panic-buyers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Forcing the locally owned business to introduce a ‘locals only’ policy on certain items.

Store manager Jodie Wilson said things were getting out of control, with hundreds of customers, many from out-of-town, abusing staff because they could not stock up on basic essentials.

“It's disgusting what's been happening,” she said.

“We've had people trying to buy multiple items and abusing our junior staff when they can't.

“I had to come down to the registers because one of our junior girls had faced so much abuse, she became so upset, she was red in the face.

“Most of the staff at IGA are working 12-hour shifts to keep up with demand and then we cop this.

“The more people we come into contact with the more susceptible we are to the virus, so we will not be tolerating this behaviour.”

Even more disturbing is customers hurling racist remarks about store owners David and Celine Yang, who are Chinese.

“They are saying David and Celine are keeping all the toilet paper and sending it to China,” Jodie said.

“It's absolutely disgusting. David and Celine are so community-minded and generous, and donate to every local organisation in Tongala, no questions asked.

“They also employ local people to help keep our money local.

“We are a tiny little store and have no control over what stock we are sent. When people heard we had food, they came from everywhere.

“David went over and above to make sure we had enough food and even drove to Melbourne to get gloves so we could keep serving people in the deli.”

David and Celine, who have a six-year-old daughter, Caroline, have owned the store for the past four years.

“They can't believe it. They are very upset by this because they are trying their hardest,” Jodie said.

“We had no meat the other day so David spent hours finding suppliers and the fridge was full by the end of the day.”

With limited stock on certain items, the store will be putting "locals first" when it comes to toilet paper and tissues, while products such as rice, noodles and long-life milk will be limited to two per person, according to Jodie.

“Grabbing seven to eight of each item is just ridiculous,” she said.

“We have elderly people who don't leave town and they rely on us having stock. We need to look after them because they are the most vulnerable.”

Jodie reassured customers the store would be regularly stocked, so there was no need to panic-buy.

“There is no need to stock up on everything. All it does is make it hard for the elderly,” she said.

“Stock will keep coming every week and we'll keep going for as long as we can.”