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Shopworkers speak out about violence, threats and abuse - Usdaw asks customers to ‘keep your cool’ at Christmas

Date: 13 December 2023 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.
  • 72% of verbal abuse was caused by customer frustration. 
Voices from the frontline: These are some of the comments shopworkers shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:
  • “Aggressive and confrontational customers. Seen shoplifters run out of the door. Customers blame us for lack of stock on shelves.”
  • “Called an “ignoramus woman” for (correctly) printing the requested lottery tickets.”
  • "Bad language, threatening to stab people. Customer told me to shut up and f**k myself.”
  • “Customer was unhappy about being charged for a plastic bag, became very verbally abusive and followed me, threatening physical violence.
  • “Drunk people not happy when refused to serve them, threatening and banging on the screen.”
  • “I've been screamed at and verbally abused by so many customers and so often. I have anxiety and nightmares about going to work.” 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from 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.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
Interim results of the Usdaw’s 2023 survey, based on 3,082 responses, show that: 65.44% were verbally abused, 42.74% were threatened. 17.52% shopworkers had been assaulted during their career. 4.81% had been assaulted this year. Of those who were verbally abused, 71.8% said that customer frustration with stock shortages, lack of staff or problems with self-service checkouts was the trigger. The final results of the survey will be published in 2024.
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers