National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb has joined the Australian Booksellers Association to call on the Victorian Government to step up on customer abuse.
Lamb said that threatening behaviour toward retail staff in Victoria had grown 85 per cent throughout the year.
“It simply must end,” Lamb said. “Our members have had a gutful. No one deserves a serve of abuse. These are high-schoolers, university students, or simply young people looking to make an honest living doing nothing other than doing their job.”
The comments come after a Dymocks employee was knocked unconscious and pushed down an escalator last week, and a Vinnies in Melbourne was defaced with human faeces after staff enforced the Government’s vaccine rules.
“Retail workers are not the police or trained security personnel. A 19-year-old part-time worker in a book shop or a grocery store doesn’t have it in their job description to deal with physical confrontation – and nor should they,” Lamb said.
ABA CEO Robbie Egan called on the state government to give a greater level of support to the workers being asked to confront the frustrated shoppers who, under health orders, are not currently allowed to enter stores.
“The fact that it’s occurring in places such as Dymocks is an indicator of how widespread it is has become. Victorian retailers are currently being asked to police the vaccine economy and it’s not something they’re equipped to do,” said Egan.
“Greater support is urgently needed, particularly as we’re about to be flooded with crowds throughout the holiday season.”
The incidents follow the mandated vaccine checks at store entrances, with retail staff being asked to turn customers away who can’t or won’t provide proof of vaccination.
Since the rule came into place, retail workers have been physically assaulted and had shopping trolleys “thrown” at them, according to the ARA, while at least one has had a boiling cup of coffee poured on them.
“As you can appreciate, not only does this pose serious mental health risks, it also makes it extremely difficult for retailers to operate during the busiest shopping season of the year,” said ARA chief executive Paul Zahra.
“Many of these challenges could have been minimised or avoided entirely with appropriate consultation and planning with the retail community.”
Lamb added that if the Government will continue to leave it up to retailers to enforce the rule, they should following NSW’s lead and scrap it entirely.