'I will rip your head off' - Scale of abuse shop staff face revealed

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

The scale of abuse shop staff face in Norfolk has been revealed - Credit: Archant

Staff in Norfolk shops and stores are being routinely abused and threatened by customers, a retail trade union has said.

In one case a shop worker was told their head would be ripped off by an angry customer.

As part of its Respect for Shopkeepers Week campaign, USDAW has compiled comments from shop workers across Norfolk to highlight the abuse and threats they face.

The comments included: “Lots of abuse due to asking for ID”, “Asking if they would mind wearing a mask, going berserk asking if I was a doctor?”,  “Customer threw shopping at me as she didn’t like self-checkouts.” and “Threats to 'rip head off', find out where we live".

USDAW says a survey of 3,500 shop staff nationally shows 89pc have experienced verbal abuse, 64pc were threatened by a customer and 11pc were assaulted over the course of the last 12 months.

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

While most shoppers act responsibly a small minority do abuse and threaten staff - Credit: Archant

Brandie Lamont, USDAW area organiser for this region, said shop staff were bearing the brunt of people's frustrations during the pandemic, such as shoppers getting annoyed at being told to don face masks or finding empty shelves due to supply problems.

She added: "There has always been this problem, but it has grown exponentially during the pandemic.

"People are feeling scared and frightened and frustrated and they take it out on people who are just there to help them.

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"It is totally unacceptable to abuse or threaten shop workers."

The survey also showed that 46pc of staff taking part said they were not confident that reporting abuse and threats would make a difference.

Paddy Lillis, USDAW's general secretary, said: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from shopworkers in Norfolk who deserve far more respect than they receive.

"Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers and demonstrate the need for a protection of shopworkers law.

“It is shocking that nine in 10 of our members working in retail are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence."

Are you a shop owner or staff member who has been threatened and abused? Email anthony.carroll@archant.co.uk