Shopworkers union asks: Keep your cool at Christmas

Business / Sun 17th Dec 2023 at 03:34pm

EAST of England shopworkers speak out about violence, threats and abuse – Usdaw asks customers to ‘keep your cool’ at Christmas.

Retail trade union Usdaw is asking customers to ‘keep your cool’ as the busy pre- Christmas shopping gets underway, which will culminate in what the retail industry has already dubbed ‘Super Saturday’, with 23 December being the last full shopping day before Christmas.

Shocking statistics from Usdaw’s annual survey of shopworkers shows there are still far too many incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. Interim results from over 3,000 retail staff responses show that in the last twelve months:
· 65% have experienced verbal abuse.
· 42% were threatened by a customer.
· 5% were assaulted.
· 71% of verbal abuse was caused by customer frustration.

East of England voices from the frontline: These are some of the comments East of England shopworkers shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:

Bedfordshire: “Verbal abuse and saying to mind my own business on health and safety issues.” – “Mainly drunk customers refused sales.” – “Knife incident demanding money from the till.” – “Beer thrown at me.”

Cambridgeshire: “In three weeks we have reported over 36 crimes in our store ranging from assaults to threats.” – “Threw his shopping at me and told me to drop dead.” – “I deal with shoplifters all the time and get abuse from them regularly.”

Essex: “Told I was miserable and did not smile, she then went into a rage and started swearing at me.” – “Bottle of drink thrown by irate customer who had to wait.” – “Intimidation by two members of a family, who used to live next door to me.”

Hertfordshire: “Mostly people just getting angry about products we don’t have.” – “Mainly shoplifters threatening to hit you when you approach them.” – “Pharmacist was punched in face and when I went to help him I was pushed.”

Norfolk: “Customer once grabbed my behind, he comes in every day never apologised.” – “Drunk customers that come in to pick a fight” – “Stopped a shoplifter, got hit.” – “Customer confronted me outside of the shop.” – “Called a f***ing idiot.”

Suffolk: “Verbal customers snapping and getting angry” – “The incidents of abuse are mostly about things we have no control over like queueing, prices etc.” – “People don’t like being refused service of scratch cards when child has said number to buy.”

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from

East of England shopworkers who deserve far more respect than they receive. Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by retail staff.

“It is shocking that two-thirds of our members working in retail stores are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Seven in ten of these incidents were triggered by customers being frustrated with stock shortages, lack of staff or problems with self-service checkouts.

“All of these problems are largely outside the control of retail staff, but they are the people who bear the brunt of shoppers’ anger. Our members tell us that incidents of verbal abuse are much worse in the run up to Christmas, when shops are busy, customers are stressed and things can boil over. That is why we are asking customers to ‘keep your cool’ and respect shopworkers, to make the Christmas shopping experience better for everyone.”
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