‘Nine out of 10 retail workers target of abusive behaviour’

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One in three shop workers are shouted at, spat on, threatened or hit every week, states a leading charity citing its recent survey, calling on shoppers to think again about how they behave towards retail. 

According to The Retail Trust’s survey of more than 1,000 workers, it found nine out of ten had been the target of abusive behaviour from customers, and more than two thirds said verbal and physical assaults had increased in the last two years. 

Eight in ten had been verbally assaulted and nearly a third threatened with violence, the survey found. 

Part of the reason behind this rising tide of aggression towards retail workers may be the increased pressure on people from the cost of living, the Retail Trust suggests. 

“We’re hearing daily from retail workers who are being shouted at, spat on, threatened and hit at work. One shopworker was told by a customer that they hoped they got cancer and died,” Chris Brook Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust says. 

“This is having a devastating and long-lasting impact on real people’s lives. Many are extremely anxious about going into work and having to take time off or even quitting.” 

The charity is running Let’s Respect Retail campaign which aims to highlight the “intolerance epidemic” and send a message to shoppers to change their behaviour. 

It is also encouraging workers to report abuse, and use the Retail Trust’s free helpline. 

The Usdaw union, which represents shop workers and delivery drivers, has welcomed the campaign. General Secretary Paddy Lillis served to highlight “the significant issues faced by retail workers simply as a result of going to work. We are saying loud and clear that abuse is not a part of the job”. 

A separate YouGov poll of 2,000 UK adults commissioned by the trust found nearly half admitted to getting annoyed with a shop worker, delivery driver or somebody working in customer services in the last year. Of these, 19 per cent – or nearly one in five – said they raised their voice or lost their temper. 

When asked for the cause of their frustration 62 per cent of the total polled – more than six in ten – cited rising prices, while 63 per cent blamed their behaviour on the lack of staff in store generally and at checkouts. More than half also blamed items being out of stock, BBC reported.