Penangpac staff verbally abused by stubborn theatregoers who refuse to comply with Covid-19 SOP

The Penang Performing Arts Centre took to Facebook to detail the hostility, including the use of the F-word, from customers. — Picture courtesy of Penangpac
The Penang Performing Arts Centre took to Facebook to detail the hostility, including the use of the F-word, from customers. — Picture courtesy of Penangpac

PETALING JAYA, Sept 21 — Staff members at the Penang Performing Arts Centre are having a difficult time carrying out Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) put in place to curb the spread of the pandemic.

And it’s all due to unbecoming behaviour of irresponsible theatregoers who refuse to conform to the new normal amid the coronavirus health crisis.

A recent Facebook post by the theatre company in Tanjung Tokong detailed the verbal abuse and hostile behaviour staff members had to put up with.

A visitor dropped the F-bomb last week after she was asked to sit in a designated row instead of her regular favourite seat.

When explained that the measure was to help control crowds at the theatre, she replied, “That’s your problem, not mine!”

In another incident, a visitor told staff members to move a reserved seat for the camera crew during a sold-out show.

While the Health Ministry has said that a thermometer should be pointed at the forehead and not the wrist, one theatregoer with children yelled at a Penangpac staff for doing just that, even asking if they had read the news.

“There are so many incidents similar to these. 

“When they happen, our staff try their very best to stay calm and respond accordingly. But we are not robots — we have feelings too.

“Why are people so rude? Why can't we show some warmth and friendliness?” the post read.

Box office executive Esther Chan is just one of the theatre staff who has to deal with rude patrons. — Picture courtesy of Penangpac
Box office executive Esther Chan is just one of the theatre staff who has to deal with rude patrons. — Picture courtesy of Penangpac

But these unwarranted reactions aren’t just Covid-19 specific.

Penangpac box office executive Esther Chan was ridiculed by a male customer who was overheard telling his wife that Chan was “slow” and “if she is smart, she wouldn't be working at the box office”.

Similarly, the theatre’s Indonesian cleaner Sumiyati said people treated her as though she was stupid because of her job.

“It is unfortunate to experience such incidents, especially since theatre companies are struggling to stay afloat and are in desperate need of support,” Penangpac publicity manager Fa Abdul told Malay Mail.

Since theatres were allowed to resume operation in July, Penangpac has been working hard to fill up slots with plays, stand-up comedies and music performances to restore a sense of normalcy after four months of the movement control order.

But not everyone is adapting well to the new norm, she said.

Following the incidents, Penangpac has ordered a self-check infra-red thermometer for entry to the centre. — Picture courtesy of Penangpac
Following the incidents, Penangpac has ordered a self-check infra-red thermometer for entry to the centre. — Picture courtesy of Penangpac

“We understand, change is not easy for everyone.

“Sadly, while some people resist these changes, they fail to understand that these SOPs and ways of doing things are also pretty new to us.

“But we adapt because it is a priority to us to make sure our patrons, visitors and guests feel safe and protected when they are in our centre,” Fa added.

By sharing the incidents on Facebook, Fa hopes the public will be understanding when these SOPs are carried out.

“We hope educating the public by sharing these experiences would bring light to the struggles faced by those expected to enforce the SOPs. 

“We are not punching bags for the public who do not have things their way,” she said.

Fa commended visitors who complied with the rules without hesitation.

“We do not want to focus only on those few negative incidents that we fail to appreciate many others who showed us support and love,” she added.

Following the incidents, Penangpac has taken steps to protect its staff by ordering a self-check infra-red thermometer for entry to the centre.

“We have also spoken to our ticketing partner, Proticket, to have all our seats in Stage 1 and Stage 2, numbered — as such, there will no longer be incidents of patrons switching seats,” said Fa.

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