Open Letter post
Photo Credit: On File

Nathalie Leblond wrote an open letter to all South African retailers after experiencing one too many dud hand sanitisers while shopping.


South Africa (01 December 2020) – We all know the system well enough now to know that sanitising at every shop is quite the experience. If you enter more than one shop, you will know you have to sanitise at each store. Each store is responsible for its own supply of hand sanitiser and some are better than others.

It is this experience that led Nathalie Leblond to write an open letter to retailers about their choice of sanitiser. Aside from the painful or smelly sanitisers, Nathalie highlights some of the rules many retailers seem to have forgotten.

If you are a retailer, take note of Nathalie’s letter below, it comes from a customer experience point of view and may be very helpful going forward.

Dear South African Retailers

I used to love shopping before the pandemic. Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, or just window shopping – it didn’t really matter which – all gave me a chance for a bit of mental downtime. But now shopping has become something I endure because we have to eat and I can’t get a slot on my local retailer’s delivery schedule.

And it’s not for the reasons you may think. I’m not scared of catching COVID-19 from a contaminated escalator handrail that someone touched after sneezing, or from the person in front of me in the really long queue. I wear a well-fitting mask, practice social distancing, sanitise my hands regularly with my own high-quality sanitiser, and feel confident that these measures are enough to keep me safe in a large, reasonably well-ventilated space like the grocery store.

So what’s the problem, I hear you ask? Well, it’s your sanitisers.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m certainly not suggesting that you stop having shoppers sanitise their hands on entry. But what I am asking you – very nicely – is to please stop spraying my hands with window cleaner!

Ok, I know it’s not really window cleaner, but it may as well be when it’s wielded by a security guard in an unmarked 1 litre spray bottle. And it smells like window cleaner (or toilet cleaner – I’m not sure which is worse). Apart from the smell, which is horrible, some of these unlabeled sprays burn like crazy, leaving my hands a sore, red, flaky mess, possibly because they don’t contain glycerol. And if it smells like window cleaner and feels like window cleaner, in my world – it’s window cleaner!

The WHO recommendation for hand sanitiser production is that a 60% isopropanol alcohol-based sanitiser should contain 1.45% glycerol as a moisturising agent, to protect the skin from excessive drying. Studies have shown that even lower amounts than 1.45% may be effective, but with sanitiser production in South Africa being unregulated, there’s a good chance that the large numbers of new suppliers in the market are using low-quality ingredients that may trigger skin allergies and damage the skin.

Many of these new suppliers claim to have complied with the WHO formula guidelines and to have SABS approval, but these claims are not substantiated and very few have the required accreditation’s. The majority do not have NRCS registration numbers required by South African law for detergent and detergent disinfectants, nor do they comply with basic labelling requirements.

I know margins are tight, and that the additional cost of hundreds of litres of hand sanitiser was unlikely to have been in the original budget for 2020, but all I’m asking is that when you buy hand sanitiser, you look for the following information on every bottle:

– an alcohol content of at least 60%;
– a list of the active and inactive ingredients and the adverse effects they may cause;
– instructions for use and mandatory warnings;
– the batch code and expiry date; and
– the full address of the manufacturer.

Any reputable supplier would be able to provide you with this information, and it would go a long way to ensuring that you are using products that are safe for your shoppers.

I for one would be inclined to spend more time in-store (and there’s plenty of research that links increased dwell time with increased spend) if I didn’t have to run the gamut of burny, smelly ‘window-cleaner’ hand spray at every entrance.

Thank you

Kind regards,


Sources: Website Submission – Nathalie Leblond
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Tyler Leigh Vivier
About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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