Kirsty, 34, is a customer advisor for a hardware store in Essex. Kirsty had to step down from a management role temporarily as regular customer abuse caused damage to Kirsty’s mental health.
“In-store abuse happens to us daily on the customer services desk. I used to be a manager, but the customer aggression got so bad that my mental health declined, so I stepped down and had to take three months off work. It started during Covid due to customer frustrations over the enforcement of masks, and it’s got steadily worse. People think they’re entitled to treat you like dirt.
“One customer wanted to return two tools without a receipt, including one item that we don’t even sell in our store. I declined because it’s store policy and he started threatening me saying, ‘give me what I want or I will slam your face through the desk.’ Then he punched me in the face and said, ‘what about now?’ I called the manager, and he didn’t back down either, so the customer threw the tool at the manager and left the store. We didn’t report it to head office because we know from experience that nothing changes.
“We once had a 17-year-old pull a knife on a member of staff, we called the police and they didn’t even make him leave the car park, saying there’s no point because he’s under 18.
“Another guy threatened to wait for me after my shift finished and he sat in the car park for five hours. We called the police and he’s no longer allowed in the area, and I won’t go outside my work building alone.
“More recently, I had a damaged wrist in a cast with a splint and a customer grabbed it and twisted it because I wasn’t helping them as I was with another customer.
People on my team are physically hurt on a weekly basis. I am currently looking to leave retail because it doesn’t seem worth it.
“I suffer with panic attacks, and I often need to leave the shop floor because I can’t function. Unfortunately, customers have learned that if they yell, scream or get abusive, they often get exactly what they want. If we employed a zero-aggression policy it might help, but police need to take assault seriously because that’s what physical abuse is.”
Would you put up with this?
*Image posed by a model