Monthly Moan: Stop Abusing Retail Workers!!


So this post is pretty much self explanatory; in that it is simply not ok to be rude to anybody who is simply trying to do their job! These are people who are running up and down aisles just so you have a choice of foods, cleaning the high-street so that you can be in a safer and cleaner environment and being glued to a desk where they can sort out the issues that you have with a particular product! Just so that they can make enough money to feed themselves and their families. So just why do people think that it is acceptable to give people who work in these sectors a thundering of abuse? Anyway, hopefully after reading this, anybody will realise that these people are dealing with enough as it is therefore it is simply unacceptable to throw any kind of mistreatment toward retail workers!

You might initially think that it is unusual for someone working in these types of job to encounter any more abuse than anyone else, just because you don’t witness a shop worker being persecuted every time that you walk into tesco. Therefore surely this is something that someone working in retail may only experience once or twice throughout their whole time working, and even when this does happen, it is “not even that bad.” However in reality the numbers are far higher than what you might think, meaning that the risk of being subject to this kind of maltreatment is just something they just have to carry with them while at work.

A survey recently conducted by the USDAW (union of shop, distributive and allied workers, which stands up for those who stand up people in occupations like retail, call centres and packing) shows just this; with “62% of shop workers had been verbally abused, 29% had been threatened and 4% had reported a physical assult.” And this had been within the last 34 days! This had clearly taken a toll on the mental health of many workers saying that customer attitudes were “getting worse” with one saying that they “had never cried at work until the first week of lockdown.” Reports have also backed up this claim, with one published by the University of London showing that a rise in threats, abuse and asult has resulted in “long lasting anxiety and PTSD” and “severe mental health consequences”. How on earth could this be considered merely acceptable? That on top of the stresses of being within often a very fast paced and demanding environment, which on it’s own would be enough to impact the mental health of many, those who they are serving are also voluntarily choosing to make their job even more straining and, well, simply unpleasent!

Now although I said that we don’t exactly witness this abuse every time we take foot into a shop, I am sure that now we can all recall many occassions where we have witnessed a customer being aggressive in some form toward a worker. This might even be coming from a relative or parent… A time which sticks out for me was when a man in his say late thirties, early fourties was hurling insults, and if I remember rightly, swearing, at a man much younger than himself in the confines of a mobile phone shop. Obviously he was having some kind of trouble with his phone but he was clearly well out of his depth to be speaking in this way! Because for a start the worker he was “speaking to” would have no involvement with the manufacture of the product, no one likes being sworn at by someone who they are trying to help and additionally how could anyone in this age group, wearing a tottenham shirt be guaranteed to know everything about the way in which mobile phones should work? Thus there is no way that well thought through and rational reasoning could lead to the belief that abusing workers in this manner is acceptable!

Another far more recent example was back in March/April which was obviously during the lockdown. Here a “respectable, middle class, middle aged” couple decided that they would not comply with some of the regulations which were in place at the time, by refusing to quew in order to be directed to where to pay. Now when asked nicely, they showed a strong hostility to the young shop worker. Subsequently, after many attempts plus intervention from other staff members, they finally managed to cruel to the right place. But this excercise was far more strenuous than what it should have been and is a typical example of sheer arrogance and lack of respect during a time when shop workers were working harder than ever. Putting themselves at immense risk, in order to protect the rest of the population… Now you may think this sounds rather petty, but imagine going to work throughout the worst of the pandemic knowing that there is a real chance of someone being very unpleasent towards you. Only about an imperfect but effective attempt in place to keep everyone safe, which requires such little effort from those using the service. This is more of a piss take, and experiencing this every day must feel incredibly dehumanizing. Now can this ever be classed as acceptable? My immediate reaction would be absolutely not!

Ok, so now we are more aware about just how common it is for workers to be treated in a poor mannerism, it isn’t really such a great deal is it? Thinking that it is only a little bit of verbal, which is something which the workers should surely have the capacity to cope with and cannot really affect them much. Well wrong and wrong. Nobody should accept bullying behaviour to apart of their day to day work, and actually it is pretty common for workers to experience genuine physical abuse. Just as an example, In Barnsley, north east of Manchester, A coop shop worker was attacked by a knife during a robbery, just last week. While in 2017/2018, 374,000 adults experienced physical violence or threats at work, whereby over half of these had been done by a stranger. Therefore not only is it the case that most people are bound to experience some kind of verbal abuse during many points during their working life, however they also stand a very significant chance of being physically hurt or threatened. When work place conditions are often dangerous as they are, would it not be nice if the customer could make tiny efforts to not make this any worse for them by trying not to be rude?

But surely in order to tackle the issue of retail abuse, we ought to understand more about why some customers are so abusive in the first place? While if customers are not happy about the service they’re recieving then surely they should be able to express their disatisfaction and make those who are serving them aware? I know that often people come into these places while they are in a rush and don’t want to be waiting for the person who is meant to be serving them, to finish potching about with the coat hangers. Meanwhile we all have our bad days, and if someone has been keeping their feelings hunched up all day, then at some point they are going to need to relieve tham somehow. Well for a start often these places are short staffed, under no fault of the worker. Therefore someone is not always going to be able to rush up to the customer and help them immediatly, if they have someone else to deal with first. Not how on earth could it be their fault, when they are in there working, and chances are the place is either not wishing to take on more staff, or even that the staff are poorly paid and poorly treated therefore it is more difficult to get more people to join… Now as we might have a little sympathy for someone who is having a bad day, think about how the workers are finding their day. Therefore it is compleatly disrespectful to take out your anger on those working! Finally those people who have to serve and sometimes deal with the customer are often going to be rather young, under 18 in many cases. Therefore would it not be considerate to think about how taking out your anger and annoyance is going to affect other younger workers?

Therefore it would be impossibe to draw any other conclusion from this apart from that the act of abusing or mistreating any kind of worker simply needs to stop. Because chances are if you are young, then you either do work in this a similar kind of environment to this, or you will do in due course, and even if you aren’t going to experience this, I am sure that many of your friends will. Therefore you know what it is like to be subject to this kind of behaviour, so next time you are slightly annoyed at someone who is working, please think about the effect of what you say. This could be something as small as when someone filling the shelves is bypassing your way, and when they clearly feel like they are a burden by pathetically apologising to you. Be polite and tell them that it is fine, and surpress your annoyance, as these things need to be done. While if you are older, please remember that once upon a time you were young and chances are you have worked in an environment like this, so remember how you would have felt if yourself and your friends experienced such unpleasent behaviour. As the more of us who become conscious as to how we behave, the less likely we are to slip. Therefore being rude to workers will become decreasingly socially normalised.

Published by victoriarose002

Hiya, I am an 18 year old blogger from the UK. I generally post about topics surrounding social, cultural and political commentary although I also aim to write some personal posts too... I am currently studying A levels, and as well as writing I like music, complaining and going to cool places. I encourage any comments, constructive criticism or any blog post suggestions. While don't hesitate to contact me at vickyyrose.02@gmail.com for anything blog related :)

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