“He told me he would change my face for me” - Shop workers see rise in abuse in lockdown

Shop workers have reported incidents of abuse are on the rise in lockdown. Pic: EDP

Shop workers have reported incidents of abuse are on the rise in lockdown. Pic: EDP - Credit: Archant

Shop staff in Norfolk have described the verbal and physical abuse from customers because of Covid.

Shop workers have reported incidents of abuse are on the rise in lockdown. Pic: EDP

Shop workers have reported incidents of abuse are on the rise in lockdown. Pic: EDP - Credit: Archant

More than 1,000 store workers across the eastern region have been physically threated by shoppers in lockdown. One in Suffolk said: “I politely informed a customer who was trying to take 24 tins of tomatoes that he could only have two and he told me he would ‘change my face for me.’”

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Many are reporting customers not adhering to Covid restrictions – putting them at risk of catching the virus.

One Norfolk shop worker said: “I have had several customers lean over me when I’ve been replenishing shelves. They do not seem to realise that us shop floor workers are putting our health (and lives) at risk just to provide them with a service. It is terrifying.”

Another in Suffolk said: “A customer handed me a newspaper coupon which he’d been holding in his mouth.”


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The reports come as retail trade union Usdaw, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, backed ‘Respect for Shopworkers Week’ this week to raise public awareness of violence, threats and abuse against retail staff.

Results from its ‘Freedom from Fear’ survey of more than 2,000 retail staff showed so far this year:

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*76pc say abuse has been worse than normal during the Covid-19 pandemic

*85pc have experienced verbal abuse

*57pc were threatened by a customer

*9pc were assaulted

Other reports from workers from other regions include being punched in the face, being intentionally coughed on, spat at and having a ’trolley overturned on me.’

The campaign is backed by the Co-op which recorded 279 crimes and 10 major incidents nationwide since July. These ranged from colleagues being slashed or threatened with knives to others being hospitalised after being attacked by shoplifters.

Overall, this year, verbal abuse has jumped by 175%, assaults by 34% and threats by 12% compared to 2019, it stated.

Recently a shop worker in a Norfolk Central England Co-op punched a protective plastic screen because restrictions had been placed on lottery ticket purchases.

Co-op staff at a Norfolk shop were also spat at while marshalling social distancing queues because of the length of time it was taking to get inside.

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