'They said they would shoot me in the car park' - Derbyshire retail workers report increase in abuse with swearing, threats and being rammed into trolleys by shoppers

Shopworkers in Derbyshire have spoken out about the increase in abuse they have received from customers in the last year, following a renewed a call for legislation to protect retail staff.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 10:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 3:17 pm

Retail trade union Usdaw’s released new statistics showing that 79 per cent of shopworkers say abuse was worse in 2020.

Usdaw’s survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK also found that 88 per cent of members had experienced verbal abuse, 60 per cent admitted they had been threatened by a customer and nine per cent were assaulted while doing their job.

Comments from Derbyshire frontline workers detailed the types of abuse they suffered.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A recent union report has documented an increase in shopworkers being abused during the pandemic. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

One worker was told she’d be ‘shot in a car park.’

She added: “I was shouted and sworn at, told I needed more sex and he was going to do it.

“A man who is banned due to his abusive nature told me that "I'm a marked man". He has also made veiled threats to damage our cars. Whilst it is always reported to the police, nothing has been done by them to challenge his behaviour.”

Others described being ‘pushed into baskets” and added: “Stopping shoplifters always annoys them and they say cruel things which hurt my feelings.

“Mainly verbal abuse in response to refusal of alcohol/tobacco sales, but during the panic-buying levels rose hugely.”

Fran Clare, a supermarket worker from Long Eaton, said threats and abuse has risen while the nation has been in lockdown.

The 48-year-old said: "I've been rammed with trolleys, sworn at, shouted at.

"It's been for silly things as well like when we had the panic buying and you had to say to people 'I'm really sorry but that item is limited'.

"People would obviously just kick off and get quite abusive.

"It's very strange at a time when everyone should be pulling together really."

Fran admitted the majority of abuse levelled at her was due to asking shoppers to abide by social distancing rules and wear a face covering – in line with the current legal restrictions.

"They just get angry and start swearing. I wouldn't expect my family and friends to speak to me the way I've been spoken to at times over the last year or so”, she said.

"I consider myself a really strong person to be honest and I'd come home and sob and sob some days.

"You feel on edge all the time and everybody is anxious around you and everybody is talking about the virus.

"You can't account for people's behaviour and you don't know who you are going to deal with in the day."

Usdaw is calling on the government to pass the Alex Norris protection of shopworkers bill, despite previous opposition and support key workers across the retail sector.

Last year, the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the issue the day after the union secured over 100,000 signatures on a ‘protect shopworkers’ petition.

A total of 66 senior retail leaders wrote to the Prime Minister in February, urging the Government to create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening, or abusing a retail worker.

A message from Phil Bramley, Derbyshire Times Editor

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper.