Officials with supermarket giant Stop & Shop are defending their continued use of aisle-roaming robots during the coronavirus pandemic, when space for social distancing in grocery stores is at a premium and customers worry about potentially contaminated surfaces.

The Massachusetts-based grocery chain defended its use of the robots — collectively known as “Marty” — during the pandemic after criticism on a Connecticut forum on Reddit. In a recent post, one Connecticut-based Reddit member claimed Stop & Shop’s use of the robots is impeding social distancing efforts.

Maura O’Brien, a spokeswoman for Stop & Shop, said the robots were rolled out in the chain’s stores more than a year ago “to identify hazards, such as liquid, powder and bulk food-items spills, throughout the day” and summon store employees to take action.

“Without Marty, our associates would be required to walk all aisles of the store on an hourly basis to check for hazards,” O’Brien said.

The robots are sanitized by Stop & Shop employees, as well as by a third-party cleaning company throughout the day, according to O’Brien.

Most people who responded to Hearst Connecticut Media on social media said they found robots more annoying than a threat to shoppers’ health and safety.

“The robot is a pain in the tush,” said Donna Lodynsky, of Cheshire. “It is an inconvenience and just plain gets in the way.”

Connecticut Media Group