There’s now an array of discreet words and codes people can now use to make their shopping or night out experience that little bit easier – and safer.
They can be used in a whole range of scenarios such as alerting staff in Boots to flag you are a victim of domestic violence by asking for ‘Ani’. Meanwhile, revelers can ask for ‘Angela’ in clubs, pubs and bars if they feel unsafe on a date.
And another big name retailer with a secret code is Morrisons. This initiative allows people who are on their period to get free sanitary towels. The ‘package for Sandy’ initiative was launched last year.
It was created by Morrisons community champion, Emma Parkinson, in response to period poverty. Following a trial, the initiative is now available in 497 stores, with the supermarket distributing a further 125,000 sanitary products to local charities in a bid to ‘end period poverty’.
She said: “Period poverty is a real problem and going to a school in a predominantly low-income area gave me an insight into what it’s like to have no access to sanitary wear. It’s shocking that young girls and women go without sanitary products through no fault of their own so I’m really pleased that we at Morrisons can help to support those in need across the whole of the UK. “
It can be really quite distressing to realise you’ve just come on your period in a public place, and there’d be no chance of escaping the supermarket with a full food shop without forgetting a few important items because you were stressing about leaking onto your jeans.
That’s without the worry of whether or not you can afford the products, particularly with the rise in the cost of living, and if you’d factored emergency pads into your weekly budget.
So I decided to see whether Morrisons staff would help me, or others caught short without a sanitary towel, when asked for a ‘package for Sandy’. In all I visited for Morrisons stores across North Staffordshire and South Cheshire.
Heading into my first Morrisons branch, I was feeling quite nervous, as I’ve not actually menstruated for six years, but asking for a period pad made me feel like I was back in high school asking the school receptionist for a spare. There was no-one at the customer service desk, but it didn’t take long for a member of staff to head over.
When the friendly sales assistant asked if they could help me, I asked: “Hi, I wondered if you had a package for Sandy?”
“Yes, of course,” she replied, before heading to the filing cabinet behind her to pull out a brown paper bag with the word ‘Sandy’ written on it in marker pen. It was discreet and certainly nothing unusual about the package beyond the fact my name wasn’t Sandy, but who’s to know?
The whole conversation took less time than it took for me to reverse bay park in the car park, and I was thrilled at the success and swiftness of the scheme. If I had truly been caught without a sanitary towel, I’d have been extremely grateful, but instead I explained that I was a journalist and wanted to know if the initiative worked, and handed back the package for someone who truly needed to use it .
During my second store visit, the customer service desk was being manned by a member of staff who, though they asked me to repeat myself, knew exactly what I was covertly asking for and headed into the back to retrieve not one, but two brown parcels .
Each package for Sandy includes two single sanitary towels, which is enough to get your through your food shop and home without a major disaster. I thought it was very generous that the sales assistant had offered me two packages addressed to Sandy. Again, I explained why I was really asking, but that I was really pleased to see that the scheme does seem to work.
I was feeling really positive by the time I headed into the third Morrisons branch, though asking for a ‘package for Sandy’ was still a little daunting. There was still a chance a staff member could look at me like I’ve got two heads and say ‘no, sorry, nothing for Sandy here’. But that never happened.
This time, the customer service desk was a little busier, but seeing as other customers were unlikely to think twice about my code phrase, I didn’t mind asking for the package in front of them.
It was another female member of staff, which was purely a coincidence, who quickly pulled out a brown envelope addressed to Sandy from behind the counter. I loved that all of these interactions took less than 60 seconds, meaning that anyone fearing ruining an outfit and facing potential embarrassment wouldn’t suffer for long.
It was only in the fourth store that I hit a bump in the road, as when I asked the sales assistant for a package for Sandy, she nodded in acknowledgment before searching the cabinet behind her, only to discover that they’d run out.
I was half gutted that I hadn’t hit a 100 per cent success rate, however thrilled that it’s clearly a scheme that’s being used by members of the public, and serving its intended purpose. I was impressed that every member of staff I asked was aware of the initiative and were able to help me without making me feel ashamed or degraded.
I’m just really thrilled to know that, if I – or anyone else – happened to be in need of a sanitary towel, Morrisons have got our backs with no questions asked.