Exclusive stores such as Harrods and hotels such as The Ritz in London have their doormen who greet shoppers with a smile and old-fashioned courtesy. They are the first contact with those establishments so they’re trained to the enth degree because first impressions count.
New World Ōtaki supermarket owners Steven and Janine Cole might not have known it at the time, but when they hired Joseph Te Wiata in the week after the Covid-19 lockdown, they got more than a doorman.
They got the kind of supermarket assistant that no amount of training can supply.
Joseph has been at the front of New World five days a week for the past two weeks. In that time he’s delighted shoppers with his unerring good humour, his immaculate courtesy and infectious smile.
“It makes a trip to the supermarket just that much more enjoyable,” said one shopper who did not want to be identified. “This is a really stressful time for everyone, so to come down to New World and be greeted by someone like Joseph just makes your day. He’s just fantastic.”
Joseph normally runs his Ōtaki fitness gym, Body & Soul, in Riverbank Road after moving out of the old Jubilee Hotel building in Waerenga Road late last year.
However, when the lockdown came on March 26, the gym had to close.
“I was a bit stressed for a while,” Joseph says. “Like a lot of people here, my business was gone, at least for a while, and I didn’t want to just sit around.”
With the supermarkets suddenly becoming busier than ever and a son already working at New World, Joseph put his name down for a job there. He got a four-week contract.
The job is to make sure shoppers go in and out of the supermarket in an orderly fashion – keeping good physical distancing and forming a queue if necessary – ensuring they get a trolley if they need one, and sanitising the trolleys as they return.
With the apparently boundless energy of a gym expert, Joseph says he clocks up about 30,000 steps a day on his fitness tracker.
“I probably get more exercise out here than I do at the gym,” he says.
He couldn’t be happier. He gets to chat to his gym clients that he wouldn’t see otherwise, he says hello and shares a joke with locals he knows, and gets to meet new people.
There have been no unhappy incidents, unlike at many other supermarkets.
“No, I haven’t had any real problems at all,” Joseph says. “I had one guy who didn’t agree with not being able to take bags into the store, but we agreed to disagree.
“People have been really nice and no one seems too stressed.”
It seems the perfect fill-in job and a bonus for New World.
Owners Steven and Janine Cole say he’s a huge asset to their team.
“He’s our own store celebrity and goes above and beyond to keep the New World Ōtaki team and our customers safe,” Steven says. “He ensures all customers understand the Level 4 protective measures before entering the store in a way that expresses his genuine enthusiasm and kindness.
“If Joseph isn’t on the door, customers might see his son, Cullen, following in his dad’s footsteps helping customers understand the measures and bringing a smile to everyone’s faces.
“We’re privileged to have both Joseph and Cullen on our team as we serve and look out for our community.”