PHOTO: Ken (Jughead) and Kim McKeown from McKeown’s Store say their local customers are getting increasingly frustrated by the state government’s statewide mandatory mask wearing and electronic or manual check-ins.
By OLIVER BROWN
WITH ONGOING COVID-19 restrictions in regional NSW continuing to be extended in recent weeks, local businesses across Coonamble are observing a mixture of reactions from their customers.
As part of the current restrictions, people are now required to wear masks while inside non-residential buildings and to check-in and out, either electronically through Service NSW or manually on a paper form.
Most businesses throughout the town have observed both their customers and clients complying with the rules, though Kim McKeown from the McKeown’s grocery store said asking their regular customers to check-in every time they come in doesn’t come without its dramas.
“It’s frustrating because some of our clients are only coming in for two, three seconds – it’s causing a lot of drama, a lot of people are getting cranky at it,” Ms McKeown said.
“I believe it should be a thing for our out-of-towners and anyone that we don’t know, but for our locals and especially our regular customers, it’s painful to do the regular sign-in sign-out.”
According to Ms McKeown, a lot of their customers also don’t have the Service NSW app, resulting in them recording at least 30 customers a day signing in manually, which she then has to keep in an electronic format for 28 days.
She also said the mandatory mask rules made communication difficult for both customers and staff – many of whom are family – but she could understand the logic in these rules.
Larissa Carter from Wrigleys store said most of her customers have been complying with the restrictions, with only a few flat-out refusing.
“Some we’ve turned away – we’ve had some walk out because they didn’t want to sign in or wear a mask, but most have been pretty co-operative with it,” Mrs Carter said.
Though she has been mostly happy with her customers compliance, Mrs Carter said the electronic sign-in requirement is occasionally an issue for both customers and staff.
“A lot of phones aren’t working right unless they are the newer models – Tanya’s got an iPhone and she has trouble with hers sometimes,” she said.
“And another one of my staff members just has a smartphone, and she can’t log in with it, so she needs to sign in manually – and a lot of people say they don’t like doing that one because it doesn’t have a sign-out time.”
Issues with the QR check-in have also been seen by Karrina Wright from the Coonamble Roadhouse, particularly for older people who don’t own the newer smartphones. However, she said this is mostly due to forgetfulness than neglect.
“We’ve got to make sure some of our older customers who don’t have the newer phones remember to sign in manually – they’re quite happy to sign in, it’s just trying to keep on top of them as they walk in that can be a bit hard,” she said.
“But as the days go by, everyone is trying to pick up on it and they’re doing it more without us having to ask them so much.”
Meanwhile dual business owner Lucy Moss, with café Two Birds and giftware shop Mink and Me, said she has experienced little to no issues with getting her customers and staff to follow the rules.
“It’s been quite easy – although wearing a mask isn’t fun I suppose it’s a lot easier than getting COVID – we haven’t really had to remind anyone,” Mrs Moss said.
“A few people walk in and forget, which they seem to notice as soon as they see someone else wearing one and run back out to the car, but it’s been pretty seamless for us.”
“As for checking in, there’s definitely some people that forget but we just make sure to check when they order if we haven’t seen them do it – just a bit of a friendly reminder.”
Though it seems that most Coonamble customers are complying with the restrictions, Ms McKeown said keeping up with it all does have an impact on their business day-to-day.
“I think there should be more broader information going out especially to the smaller businesses that don’t have the time,” she said.
“I’m probably spending an extra three to five hours a week researching COVID, making sure we’re up to date and covered by all the rules and regulations.”
As for Mrs Carter, she also said the government could be doing more to make things easier for small businesses, such as providing free masks for them to give to customers who come in and aren’t wearing one.