“A frozen gammon was thrown at me” – voices from the retail frontline

Usdaw has an annual survey of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, published during Respect for Shopworkers Week.

The interim results of this year’s survey show during 2018: 60% of shopworkers experienced verbal abuse, 37% were threatened by a customer, with more than 230 assaulted every day.

Here are some of the replies received by the union:

Theft: “Black eye, as a result of detaining a shoplifter who was violent when stopped for the theft.” – “Shoplifter, told me to get out of the way or get stabbed with a syringe.” – “Shoplifter broke my wrist.”

Throwing goods: “Customer throwing card machines.” – “Didn’t have enough money, threw product at me and stormed off.” – “Customer chucked a chicken bake at me.”

Christmas: “Customer not being happy about Christmas congestion and took it out on me.” – “A frozen gammon was thrown at me by an irate customer at Xmas.” – “On the customer service desk I was told to ‘cheer up it’s nearly Christmas, you miserable bitch’ in a nasty tone.”

Weapons: “Held up 3 times. Hammer-blade-scissors.” – “Racist and sexist comments and drunks threatening to beat people up with a bat!” – “Threatened with a needle, threatened to be punched in the face and pushed into a wall.”

Age Restricted Sales: “Always to do with Think 25. It had calmed down but now that the energy drinks are Think 25, people are getting annoyed with being asked for ID” – “I was called a cow because I refused to serve alcohol to a customer who had no ID.” – “I refused to sell a tin of spray glue to a man I believed to be under 18 years old so he threw it at me.”

Alcohol: “Called names and swore at by a customer whom I’d just refused a sale because they were intoxicated. Pointing her finger in my face and making threats.” –  “Didn’t have enough money, wanted alcohol. I refused sale and the customer was abusive.” – “Ranting when refused alcohol sale when drunk and after 10pm.”

Assaults: “I have had a customer ram a trolley into my leg as he said I was in the way!” – “Punched in the face by shoplifter I was stopping from leaving the store with stolen goods.” – “Aggressive customers thinking it’s okay to shout, scream and use inappropriate hitting of arms etc.”

Verbal Abuse: “Customer came to checkout and was in a rush. Told me to f***ing hurry up.” – “Customers can be really rude, whistling for attention or clicking fingers” – “Customer told me to stick receipt up my arse. I just ignored him.”

Threats: “A guy threatened to smash my face in with a bottle of alcohol.” – “Angry customers ranting. One man threatened to wait outside for me.” – “I had lasses waiting for me outside the shop and lads following me to my house”.

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