Watch: Animates customer harasses employee over contact tracing

Megan Harvey, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 May 2020, 6:36PM

Watch: Animates customer harasses employee over contact tracing

Megan Harvey, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 May 2020, 6:36PM

A Nelson Animates employee has been "left shaken" after a video of a man harassing an Animates employee over contact tracing has gone viral.

In the video, which was posted on YouTube on May 13, a man is heard questioning why he needed to provide his contact details in order to enter the store, saying that the system breaches his privacy.

The staff member then calmly explains that the store is following the Government's alert level 2 guidelines.

At the time the video was filmed, retail businesses were being asked to collect contact information from customers to record details of all people's movement on their premises.

This is so health officials can easily and quickly contact people if they are linked to a Covid-19 case.

After explaining, the customer repeats: "You're refusing my ability to come in here and purchase something unless I give my personal details?"

She reiterates her same points before he rants: "You realise you're breaching my Privacy Act [sic]? You're in breach of my privacy, do you understand?"

The harassment continues to a point when he mentions the Nuremberg Code, which a set of 10 research ethics' principles for human experimentation created as a result of the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War II.

"The Nuremberg Code is the trials Hitler did after the war, when he put all his minions through the courts there, and they said 'just doing my job' is not an excuse [sic]," the man ranted.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Animates said: "Animates fully supports our staff member who was shaken by a person who confronted her on the matter of contact tracing.

"The safety and privacy of our customers, our staff and the general public is of the utmost importance to Animates.

"Animates followed the guidelines which were posted on the Government Covid website at the introduction of alert 2. The company immediately put in place a paper-based contact tracing for store entry countrywide while awaiting the QR code system.

"The Government guidance on contact tracing for retailers evolved and we have adapted our processes accordingly, taking a conservative 'safety first' approach.

"This included making the signing of the contact register optional from last Saturday and the overwhelming feedback from customers was that they appreciated the steps we were taking to keep the public safe.

"Animates stores have subsequently now instructed all its stores to remove all contact registers. The information collected to date will be destroyed immediately.

"Animates is an early adopter of the Government's QR Code system which it is deploying today."

Since the video went viral, the man published a second video and apologised to the staff member, admitting that he didn't put her in a good situation.

"I agree that the lady at the time was not put into a good situation - she was very professional and I take my hat off to her for that," he said.

He argued that the first video was not premeditated and that he got worked up when he got an "abrupt" response from the employee in an earlier interaction.

"If she had been a bit courteous to me at the start things could've been a bit different," he said.

He added that he regretted that he compared the staff member to a Nuremberg trial defendant.

"The point I was making there was, out of the Nuremberg trials came the fact that breaching people's individual human rights in 'just doing your job' is no excuse," he said.

"Rules are not laws and when you are being asked to follow rules that breach everybody's rights we need to be questioning them.

"I know it was harsh and believe me, I'm sorry for her as well."

Retail NZ Chief Executive Greg Harford said that it is disappointing that retail workers are being given a hard time about contact-tracing requirements.

"If information is being collected, it is for the purposes of keeping New Zealanders healthy and preventing the spread of Covid-19, he explained.

"Retail NZ is urging customers to be understanding, kind and polite to retail employees in store as we manage through the crisis."

He added that it is not a breach of privacy asking for customer details on entry to a store,

"However, retailers do need to be clear about the purpose of collecting that information, and make sure that it is kept secure and used only for the purposes it was gathered [for].

"Retail stores are private property and retailers are free to set conditions of entry for their stores."

He added the Government rules on contact tracing changed last week, but as things stand most retailers are required to maintain a two-metre distance between customers wherever practicable, and are not required to contact trace.

"However, cafés, restaurants, personal services and similar are required to maintain customer records, and there is nothing to stop other retailers doing so if they think it is important from a health and safety point of view," he said.