No One Deserves a Serve this Festive Season

December 20, 2022 News Newsletters

By Chris Gazenbeek,

SDA Secretary

The SDA recently conducted a survey of members working in retail and fast food in Queensland and unfortunately the findings were no surprise with 58% of repsondants experiencing abuse from a customer in the past 12 months with 89% of this being verbal abuse, and 11% being both verbal and physical abuse.

Customer violence and abuse against retail and fast food workers has been a problem for many years, and the SDA’s No One Deserves a Serve campaign has successfully managed to implement many preventative measures including messaging, signage, specialised training and body cams.

However, it seems that recently, much of the abuse has been centered around cost of living and stock shortage issues being blamed on workers – with members telling stories such as:

  • “Price of fuel is to high so it was my fault, got yelled at but the customer and called me names”
  • “Yelling at me because I have no control over what is not on the shelf. And no I don’t know when it will be in.”
  • “The customers abuse me cause when his card declined he rage on me saying that I stole his money and that he is going to call the police, get me fired and try to kill me.”

This constant exposure to violence and abuse by customers is taking its’ toll on retail and fast food workers with 88% of respondents indicating the abuse is causing ongoing mental health concerns:

  • “Really disillusioned for a few weeks, as I always try really hard to provide a positive experience for every customer. It really knocked my confidence in my ability to handle difficult customers effectively. This was exacerbated by the lack of a physical barrier between us.”
  • “I was anxious she would come back. Just try to get on with my job. I told my manager, he said he knew who she was.”
  • “Cut my hours so I didn’t have to work on registers.”

When asked what solutions respondents thought would help fix the issue, 72% stated offenders should be banned from stores; 42% said offenders should be fined or face jail time and 66% said more policy and security presence was required.

If one thing is clear after over five years of campaigning, surveys and research on customer abuse and violence – it’s that solving the issue will take a combined effort of team members, employers, government bodies, and of course, the SDA.

The SDA is currently engaging with companies to ensure they have appropriate policies in place to deal with customer abuse and violence, and that these are actually followed at store level.

Many employers have implemented measures after consultation with the SDA, and as a result of the No One Deserves a Serve campaign, including body cam trials, duress alarms, push to talk headsets, de-escalation training, in-store messaging and signage.

In a submission to the 2022 Work Health and Safety act review, the SDA has pressed the government to implement penalties for perpetrators such as fines and potential jail time for serious offenders.

Team members need to report every instance of customer abuse and violence that occurs. Don’t accept excuses from management about not having time, even if it means emailing the details to management after a shift and/or to the SDA. If instances of abuse do not get reported, your employer can claim it isn’t an issue.

By being persistent with this campaign, and working together to create change, we can help make work happier and safer for everyone.