Leeds shop worker says daily abuse from customers is “mentally exhausting”

Shoppers walking in Leeds city centreShoppers in Leeds are bullying retail workers several times a day over aspects they have no control over.

Mihai, a tech store employee in Leeds city centre, says that he experiences abusive behaviour from angry shoppers at least twice a day.

People usually get upset about prices or long queues, which are aspects “we have no control over,” the 21 year-old said.

“Most often we call our supervisors to give us a hand, because they have more authority,” he added.

“They explain the situation and sometimes that works. It depends if it takes long enough to call the police”.

According to Mihai, who does not want his surname to be used, lack of security and the pressure of daily tasks make it difficult for staff to deal with bullying from customers.

“I don’t think I’ve had a single day without one of these customers”

He described how such occurrences affect his workday: “It makes you feel bad, even though you have no control over prices of products, for example. But somehow, we feel guilty about that and by the end of the day you’re just exhausted, physically and mentally as well”.

A study published by Usdaw, the Trade Union for shop workers, in June of this year showing that nearly two thirds of store employees find that shoppers becoming aggressive is “not a police matter”.

Other reasons why workers do not report such incidents are “that management said they would deal with the matter, and that they were aware of the limitations on police resources”.

The study explains that factors such as growing financial hardships as well as cuts to benefits and support services to vulnerable members of the public “contribute to the growing level of crime in and around the shops which is itself a major factor in the increased violence”.

All data courtesy of USDAW RESPONSE TO THE HOME OFFICE CALL FOR EVIDENCE (2019)

A more recent publication by Usdaw told the Home Office that “80% of shopworkers believe violence and abuse [towards retail staff] are getting worse”.

A spokeswoman for Usdaw said: “Some of our members have said that they don’t bother phoning police when there is an incident, because they do not feel like the police will do anything”.

About the Author

Eliza Lita and Kieran Owen
Second year Journalism students at LBU. Leeds Now reporters.

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