We have been trading for over seven years now and in that time we have seen a lot of abuse aimed at our staff by members of the public. It’s interesting that this abuse is mainly aimed at female members of staff, which I suppose says something about the type of person who behaves in this way. When it is aimed at me it is normally as the person is retreating out the door of the shop, again enough said really.
This abuse takes many forms. It ranges from just plain rudeness, for example where a customer carries on a conversation on their phone (or even carries on playing a game whilst being served) and between sentences throws the money at the assistant and barks “hurry up,” all the way through to, rather more seriously, threats to kill.
Here are a few examples of what staff have had to deal with, sadly there are many more:-
- Calling my wife the C word for not changing a 20p (we were low on change at the time). Not a customer, just some woman who walked in demanding change for some reason. This is quite common.
- Swearing at my daughter because she asked someone not to block the door with his bicycle. He did also swear at me but only after he had cycled off up the road.
- Swearing and being generally abusive to staff because we have been unable to satisfy their demands in some way. For instance, an assistant being unable to give a refund when there was nothing wrong with the product and the person has no proof of purchase from us. If an item has been sold by one person, another member of staff will have no way of telling if the item was bought from us a couple of days later without a receipt. People that have not worked in retail often think that it is unlikely anyone would try to get a refund on a product they didn’t buy in that outlet but actually it happens quite frequently. We have had people demand refunds for products we have never sold in the shop.
- Attempts to con staff out of change with the old “Actually give me that tenner back, I’ll give you twenty, actually no I’ll use the tenner etc.” and then threatening them when the staff member refused to accept they had given the wrong change (we have techniques to combat this common scam, it never works).
- Threats of violence when we have refused to take someone’s unwanted animal or take animals that people have bred and want to sell to us.
- Threats of violence when we have refused to sell animals to people when it is clear that the person has no knowledge of that animal, desire to learn anything about its care or purchase equipment essential to its welfare or even, in some cases, actually tell us beforehand that they intend to give it to their dog to play with!
- Threats of violence when we have refused to sell an animal to people the worse for wear with alcohol. Another common one unfortunately.
- Threats of arson when it became clear that verbal abuse wasn’t having the desired effect.
- Threats to kill (using a knife) when caught in an area they shouldn’t have been in.
- Threats to kill when we refused demands for money.
As normal people can imagine, after a while this sort of behaviour becomes a little wearing so we have a policy of zero tolerance for abuse in all its forms. If someone has an issue with the service or products they have received from us we will of course do our utmost to sort out any problems to our customer’s satisfaction and in fact have a very good record for customer service and rarely have any issues. However, as soon as someone becomes abusive, either verbally or physically, the conversation will be at an end and we will cease to provide any further assistance. The person will also be escorted from the premises (or the phone will be put down – we get abusive calls too) and the police called if threats are made.
It seems a bit redundant to state this policy here as the vast majority of our customers are normal, decent people who would not dream of behaving in this way and the sort of people who would are unlikely to read this post but it needs to be stated for the record.