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Shop Staff Copping Customer Rage Over Toilet Paper And Stock Shortages

Staff at supermarkets and distribution centres have been bearing the brunt of the panic-buying sweeping the nation as coronavirus fears mount.

Shelves have been stripped of stock like toilet paper, hand sanitiser, tissues as well as long-life food items such as pasta, rice and frozen food.

But as stock dwindles, customers' tempers are boiling over as they struggle to buy products.

Shelves stripped of pasta at this Woolworths in Western Sydney. Image: Supplied

On Thursday, a man in Tamworth was accused of assaulting two people in an alleged dispute over paper products in a Big W store.

"Police were told the man became aggressive over stock unavailability and threw boxes of tissues at a female staff member and walked off," NSW Police said in a statement.

"When a female customer approached the man, he allegedly grabbed her around the throat before she was assisted by another customer."

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One Coles worker from the NSW Central Coast said the last few days have been a "nightmare" for staff at his store.

"More than a dozen [customers] were taking photos of the empty shelves within an hour," he told 10 daily.

"Throughout the day many outraged customers came through the store asking the same question: 'when will you get more?' To which we had to reply 'tomorrow, however it will sell out as soon as we get it like it did today so you have to get in early.'"

Hand sanitiser is sold out at this Woolworths in Western Sydney. Image: Supplied

He said before the toilet paper panic, hand sanitiser had been flying off the shelves for the past two weeks.

"People today are even ringing up the store before coming in to ask about stock," he said.

The same experience is echoed by a Woolworths worker at a store in Western Sydney, who compared the toilet paper frenzy-buying to working on Christmas Eve.

"We haven't been able to restock the shelves, the pallets of water and toilet paper don't even make it past aisle three," she told 10 daily.

"Tissues, paper towel, wipes, hand sanitiser, pasta, long life milk, tuna, toiletries are all going out of stock."

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Staff at this store are also feeling the brunt of customer anger, particularly after a post on a local community page on Facebook claimed workers at her store were hiding stock from customers.

"People go off at us, they don't believe us when we say we are out," she said.

"They go off and make snarky comments when they see us leaving the store with any products.

"Please don't yell at us, we don't order the toilet paper."

The increased demand for stock is also being felt at distribution centres for major supermarkets around the country, with interstate centres picking up the slack.

A worker at a rural Victorian distributor for Woolworths told 10 daily that Sydney distribution centres are "behind a whole day" on keeping up with stock demand.

"We have plenty of stock coming in. It’s more about getting the large amount of volume to the stores on time, which is why we are giving Sydney a hand," he said.

"Let’s just say I’m working a 12-hour day tomorrow thanks to this virus."

Coles and Woolworths have been contacted for comment.

10 daily has chosen to not name those interviewed for privacy.