Found this story this morning and wondered what would have happened in Mega or the Juan de Dios Mercado. Perhaps it was because it was in the produce aisle that makes the difference

Woman dies in grocery store, store remains open

07/03/2011 4:10:00 PM

by Sameer Vasta
A Superstore in PEI remained open while emergency responders dealt with the passing of an elderly woman in the produce aisle. Closing or evacuating the store would have been worse.

While shopping at a Superstore in Charlottetown, a couple and their 11-year-old daughter came across an unexpected sight in the produce aisle: a dead body.

A 92-year-old woman passed away in the produce section of the PEI grocery store on Friday night, and according to Susana Rutherford, shoppers at the store were not notified or even blocked from entering the area where the deceased woman was being looked at by police and paramedics. According to Rutherford, the store was “running like it’s normal” despite the emergency situation.

According to the public relations department of Loblaw Companies Ltd., the parent company of Superstore, the staff at the grocery store followed “appropriate processes and protocol” in dealing with the situation.

Panic has never helped any emergency situation, so I can understand protocol that limits alarmism to shoppers. Telling people in the Superstore that someone had passed away in the store would not just be disrespectful to the deceased woman, but would possibly also cause morbidly curious shoppers to get in the way of the work of emergency personnel who are dealing with the situation.

Closing the grocery store, or trying to evacuate the shoppers from the store, would only raise the level of panic and alarm, and those two things are counter-productive during an emergency. The logistics of trying to evacuate a large store would be onerous on staff who are already trying to deal with an unforeseen situation. Closing and clearing the store would not help in this circumstance, and in that sense, Superstore was prudent to stay open and remain calm.

However, it is also the responsibility of the Superstore staff to make sure that the impact of this tragic situation is controlled and limited. An appropriate course of action would be to make a quick announcement to shoppers that a medical situation was underway in a certain part of the store, and to ask everyone to stay away from that area while emergency personnel completed their work. The area should be physically closed off to shoppers while paramedics and police officers are on scene. Additionally, new customers looking to enter the store should be told by staff upon entering that they are dealing with a medical situation and asked to either return later or avoid that particular area of the store until the situation has been resolved.

If, as Susana Rutherford claims, Superstore staff were slow in blocking off the area or if the messaging to shoppers about the situation was inadequate, I hope that a follow-up review by senior management will address those gaps in process and protocol. It is, however, unfair to lay blame on Superstore for having protocol that encourages level-headedness and controlled reaction in times of customer emergencies.

The situation was surely a difficult one for everyone involved — staff, emergency responders, shoppers, the family of the deceased — and being angry at Superstore doesn’t make it any easier for anyone. Pointing fingers doesn’t make a difficult incident get better; learning from it does.