EXCLUSIVE: Cleaner seen ‘spit shining’ shopping baskets at Toronto FreshCo

A Toronto woman says she was shocked and sickened at the sight of a cleaner spitting on a towel and wiping down grocery baskets with it at FreshCo. Dilshad Burman with the woman's concerns and the company's response.

By Dilshad Burman

A Toronto woman says she was left shocked and disgusted after she saw a cleaner at a grocery store spitting on a towel and then wiping down grocery baskets with it.

The incident was recorded on July 5 at a FreshCo location on Bathurst and Nassau. In the video exclusively obtained by CityNews, a cleaner is seen using a small white towel to wipe down baskets. At one point, he appears to spit into the towel and continues wiping down the baskets.

“I couldn’t believe that. I was in shock…I feel sick,” says Marta Casimiro, the customer who recorded the video. She adds that the cleaner continued on to wipe down grocery carts with the same towel as well.

Marta tells CityNews she first began recording because she noticed the baskets were very dirty when she entered the store. She intended to show the manager that the cleaner was not doing a good job of wiping them down when she coincidentally caught what she calls the “unacceptable” act on video.

A manager was unavailable on the day the incident occurred, so Marta says she called back the following morning and was subjected to “very bad customer service” from the franchise manager.

“The [manager] protects his worker. He said he didn’t want to see the video. He didn’t believe me and he treated us very badly,” she says.

Marta said she contacted management at a higher level, but did not hear back for a few days. On Wednesday, her husband received a call saying the cleaner has been suspended.

But Marta feels her concerns were not taken seriously enough or acted upon urgently, given the seriousness of the issue and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot allow such things to be overlooked. I’m furious and very disappointed,” she says. “We are living in a pandemic…how do you think we feel? This is terrorism for me.”

CityNews reached out to Sobeys, the parent company of FreshCo, to respond to the video and Marta’s concerns.

They say the cleaner is not an employee of FreshCo but rather works for a third-party service provider and confirmed he is no longer working at the store.

Jacquelin Weatherbee, Vice President, Communications & Corporate Affairs, says the behaviour seen in the video is “absolutely reprehensible.”

“[It is] completely against the standards we work so hard to achieve in our stores each day,” she said in a statement. “The health and safety of our customers and teammates is our top priority – that has never been more true than right now, through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She stressed that the matter was being taken very seriously and a full internal investigation is being launched.

Marta says she hopes “justice will be done” and simply wants to feel safe when she goes to the supermarket.

After the publication of this article, Marta says she received a call from a FreshCo district manager on Wednesday night who was “more respectful” and offered her a gift card as an apology.

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