CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

West Hampstead post office to close due to ‘aggressive’ customers refusing to follow social distancing

The Sherriff Centre branch is shutting amid the coronavirus pandemic

30 March, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

A POST office in West Hampstead is closing its doors to protect its workers’ welfare after “aggressive” customers refused to follow social distancing rules.

The branch located inside The Sherriff Centre had remained open so far during the Covid-19 lockdown but will shut from 4pm on Wednesday, April 1 until further notice.

The decision to close was taken partly because staff had experienced members of the public becoming rude and abusive towards them when asked to obey the two-metre guideline.

Post Offices have been classed by the government an essential service so can stay open except when they are found inside buildings which are closed due to the pandemic.

Customers were told of the closure on Monday in a social media post that said: “We have been keen to support our community at this time and continue for as long as possible to deliver this vital service, however our staff must remain a priority.”

The post went on to say staff had “received abuse this week from aggressive customers who refuse to social distancing rules”.

Centre manager Stephanie Duell told the Camden New Journal: “There have been several people refusing to social distance themselves, getting uppity when asked to adhere to the clear queuing guidelines taped to the floor and some people that are completely oblivious to the whole thing.

“Most of the customers are very calm, understanding and polite, but you do have the few that are extremely rude, using very bad language.

“We have three Post Office staff and each of them gets public transport into work each day, some getting more than one train or tube and we’re concerned about their welfare.

“Financially, it’s costing us a lot to remain open too. And we’re not very busy at all, (except Mondays) so it seemed best to close as we won’t be able to sustain it long term.”

Ms Duell also said she was concerned many people were still using the branch for non-essential errands despite the government’s measures stating not to leave the house except for essential work, shopping and exercise.

“The amount of ASOS and Boohoo parcels being returned is insane,” said Ms Duell. “We didn’t feel it was necessary to remain open and putt staff at risk for these sorts of unessential services although this was just a small factor.

 

“We anticipate higher customer numbers in the next 2 days prior to our closure and ask that anyone coming into the building only does so for essential Post Office use, observes the 2m rule and are patient and polite to our staff.

“We’d like to thank all of our customers and staff for their support and understanding during this extremely difficult time.”

The centre is based in St James’ church and is also home to Hullabaloo and The Sanctuary Cafe which will also be closed until further notice.

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